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This property was purchased to create a family compound for children, grandchildren and dogs.  The land was the former dairy farm of the William H. Crocker estate, and was covered in a thicket of mature eucalyptus trees which had taken over the entire property.  After the eucalyptus were removed, the lot was empty - a blank slate with no garden. The stone house was built in the style of Greywalls, the Scottish country house by English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.  The garden was designed by Stephen Suzman, following Maryellie’s vision, and is 16 years old.

As Maryellie, a longtime member of the Garden Club, writes:

“The aim was to create varied, casual plantings within structured spaces.  The hilly site required terracing and retaining walls, which evolved into multiple ‘garden rooms’ with different character and plants.  For example, the shady woodland path provides the trail for my husband to hide the Easter eggs for our grandchildren. Two Chihuly outdoor sculptures, purchased after critters had eaten all the real flowers, bloom along the path. 

The Japanese garden is a “secret” garden, and is meant to be a surprise for the garden stroller.  Both of us lived briefly in Japan, and admire the aesthetic. The antique Japanese lanterns were originally installed by John McClaren (who designed Golden Gate Park) in the California Mid Winter Fair of 1894.  The modern, granite water basin came from Japan. The koi are our friends, some now over 30 years old, and were brought to our new pond from our last home.

My favorite part of the garden is the lower drive with the old and modern roses.  Using the book “100 Old Roses for the American Garden” as a guide, I purchased most of them in 4 inch pots from specialty catalogs.  Many died, but others now exceed 15 feet, and I have let them climb into the surrounding trees.

I am still in awe of the great variety of plants we can grow in Hillsborough, from peonies to hibiscus, succulents, hydrangeas…I never get tired of trying new plants, although I often don’t succeed!  Reflecting our East Coast childhoods, we have tried to achieve the most fall color possible in a northern California garden as well as my nostalgic, beloved signs of spring: forsythias, deciduous magnolias, “snowball viburnum”, and dogwoods.  Fall color comes from Boston ivy, euonymus alata, maples, Chinese pistache, and gingkos.

My favorite plants come from the Hillsborough Garden Club’s annual plant exchange and other members’ gardens.

Recently, we were fortunate to acquire a strip of land from the neighbors, which has created two new contemporary areas in the garden.  Both have been designed by the talented Thomas Klope. The new entrance driveway planting is drought tolerant with its gravel diamonds and low water plants.  Trees flanking the driveway are hornbeams. The latest addition is the new bee, bird, and butterfly friendly garden accessed from English style grass steps. It is also drought tolerant.  The beehives are new.

Years ago, my daughter next door urged me to go 100% organic.  Although the decaying leaves in the beds look messy, we are very happy with more birds than ever.  Even the quail have come back.

Thank you for coming to visit our garden!”

Click on map for detail.

Click on map for detail.



Rosa ‘Cocktail’

“I like single roses and I also like ‘Cocktail’s’ happy color.”


‘Cocktail’ has healthy foliage and a magnificent, abundant, repeat flowering blossom.  The flowers have a mildly spicy fragrance. Ideally grown on a trellis or pergola.


Mature Size:      Up to 12’ tall, 5’ wide
Bloom:               Single blooms, geranium-red with yellow centers all summer   
Water:                Average
Sun/Shade:       Full sun
Zones:               4-9

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Rosa 'Eden'

“To our happy surprise, both Eden and Polka loved the warmth of the stone wall and clambered up rapidly.”

Eden was named the World’s Best Rose in 2006 by the World Federation of Rose Societies.  Its large, pink and cream blended blooms are striking against its glossy green leaves. One of the premiere roses produced by the House of Meilland in France, Eden blooms all season and is resistant to black spot and mildew.

Mature Size:       8’-12’ tall; 5’ wide   
Bloom:                Pink and cream cupped blooms all spring and summer   
Water:                 Average
Sun/Shade:        Full sun
Zones:                5-9

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Rosa 'Polka'

Hybridized by Meilland International in 1991, Polka is a vigorous climber that combines old rose fashion with repeat flowering, disease tolerance and winter hardiness.  Polka has a lovely spice and pepper fragrance. The apricot color will turn more peachy during warm weather.

Mature Size:        Up to 12’ tall; 5-6’ wide   
Bloom:                 Large, full, ruffled apricot blooms; spring through summer   
Water:                  Average
Sun/Shade:         Full sun
Zones:                 5-9


Rosa 'Altissimo'

“This can grow 12’ the first year.”

A super easy, disease free climbing rose for training on a fence or espaliering against a wall.  Mega floriferous with fainly fragrant 4-5” wide velvety red roses that bloom almost all season. Dark green leaves that feature attractive red veining on new growth.  Much loved for bringing bold, beautiful color to the garden while being totally forgiving of neglect.

Mature Size:       9’ tall
Bloom:                Orange-red blooms, spring through summer       
Water:                 Average
Sun/Shade:        Full sun
Zones:                5-9

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Rosa ‘Sunset Celebration’

“I can count on this rose from early spring through summer.”


Introduced in 1998, this hybrid tea rose is named in honor of the 100th anniversary of Sunset Magazine.  It is sought after for its large (4-5”), luminous peach-apricot and pink blooms. It has good disease resistance and a tall reaching habit.


A truly international rose, it has won AARS, Gold Medals at The Hague, Belfast and La Roeiux, Silver Medals at Genoa and Monza, plus the RINZ winner in New Zealand.

Other names:  Chantoli Rose, Warm Wishes Rose

Mature Size:      4-6' tall
Bloom:               Apricot, apricot-blend, large blooms early summer through fall   
Water:                Average
Sun/Shade:       Full sun
Zones:               7-10

            On structure near berry cage

            On structure near berry cage

Rosa 'Maman Cochet' combined with Clematis ‘Montana’

“The orchard, with the English berry cage and pillar roses, is the dogs’ delight.”

‘Maman Cochet’, introduced in 1893, is the epitome of the classic long-budded Tea.  Her fine shape, strong stems and true orris odor all recommend her for southern and western gardens.  Flowers are soft, creamy pink with dark green foliage.


Mature Size:        6-8' tall
Bloom:                 Soft, creamy pink, spring through summer       
Water:                  Average
Sun/Shade:         Full sun
Zones:                 7-11

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Rosa ‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’

“I’ve always loved this rose.  Look how it grew for me.”

Introduced in 1844, this is one of the roses discovered by Robert Fortune in his exploration of Chinese gardens.  When Fortune found it, it was said to be of considerable antiquity even then. It has been suggested it is likely related to Rosa gigantea.

Seen up close the double flowers are a rich apricot-yellow with a blush of rose or crimson on the outer petals. It can get to be a huge shrub or climber, is disease free, with very fragrant blooms.  It blooms profusely in spring only, but the display is spectacular.

Mature Size:        12-25' tall
Bloom:                 Apricot-yellow blooms in late spring to early summer   
Water:                  Average
Sun/Shade:         Full sun
Zones:                 8-10


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Dwarf Magnolia - Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’

“So gratifyingly healthy.”

A dwarf southern magnolia with smaller dark green foliage and a very compact narrow form. The large, glossy, evergreen leaves have rusty-brown undersides. Very attractive, large, white, fragrant blooms. A naturally small tree or large shrub perfect for small gardens. Truly captivating when trained as espalier against a wall or fence.

Mature Size:         20-25’ tall, 10-15’ wide
Bloom:                  Large white fragrant flowers, spring through summer
Growth Rate:        Moderate           
Water:                   Regular weekly watering, more often in extreme heat
Sun/Shade:          Full sun
Zones:                  7-9

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Weeping Katsura tree – Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendulum’

“Will McGowan says this is my best plant.”

An eye-catching specimen; its weeping branches form an attractive dense crown.  Beautiful blue-green foliage turns bright yellow in fall. Deciduous.

Mature Size:       15-20’ tall; 10-15’ wide
Bloom:                Inconspicuous
Growth Rate:      Slow grower           
Water:                 Regular weekly watering; more often in extreme heat
Sun/Shade:        Full sun
Zones:                4-8


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Holly Oak hedge – Quercus ilex

“Planted to hide the roof of the neighboring school when they painted it white!”

Quercus ilex is a variety of evergreen oak, growing 65-80 feet tall.  Its tolerance of many growing conditions and pollution make it a very versatile plant, often used in urban and coastal settings.  Alternatively, it can be used for hedging, windbreaks and topiary. Left to grow on its own, it will become a large, structural tree with a rounded crown.

Mature Size:         65-80’ tall           
Bloom:                  Drooping catkins in spring
Growth Rate:        Medium, 12-24” per year           
Water:                   Tolerates drought and salt
Sun/Shade:          Full sun   
Zones:                  7-11


Deutzio Nikko – Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko'

“My favorite plant.”

‘Nikko’ is a dwarf, dense, rounded cultivar which forms a graceful, spreading mound typically reaching 2’ in height.  Tiny white flowers in small, upright panicles cover the shrub in early spring. Medium green leaves turn an attractive deep burgundy in fall.  Nikko is a more compact form than the species. Deciduous. Relatively disease free.

Mature Size:         1-2’ tall; 2-5’ wide
Bloom:                  Showy white blooms in spring       
Water:                   Average
Sun/Shade:          Full sun to part shade
Zones:                  5-8

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Australian tree fern –  Cyathea cooperi

“I think they’re elegant.”

C. cooperi has a slender trunk with distinctive “coin spots” where old fronds have broken off the trunk.  Fronds are bright green and lacy. Tree-ferns grow best in high humidity and high soil moisture conditions - must mulch as this will not only keep the soil moist but also provide nutrients to the shallow root system.

C. cooperi is one of the most popular tree ferns due to its rapid growth, hardiness and aesthetic appeal.

Mature Size:         15-20’ tall; 8-12’ wide   
Bloom:                  Not significant
Growth Rate:        Fast, young plants can grow up to 1’ per year           
Water:                   Average
Sun/Shade:          Full shade to partial shade/sun   
Zones:                  10-11


Sago Palm – Cycas revolute

“This is the first time it has bloomed in 16 years.”

Native to southern Japan, the Sago is a much-loved evergreen that develops a stout trunk topped by a whorl of dark green fronds. Although the Sago Palm is not a true palm, the stiff foliage forms a stunning open rosette that adds a splendid tropical palm tree-like element to smaller landscapes and patio gardens.

Partial shade allows the leaves to grow larger, resulting in a bigger plant. 

Mature Size:        10’ tall, 8’ wide with 3-6’ long fronds       
Bloom:                 Only when mature, 15-20 years old
                             Female flowers: round, fuzzy mass with orange seeds
                             Male flowers: tall, golden cone
Growth Rate:       Slow           
Water:                 Average; drought tolerant once established
Sun/Shade:        Partial shade to full sun   
Zones:                9-10

Maryellie ClimgingHydrangea.jpg

Climbing hydrangea – Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris

“Took it forever to get started, and suddenly it spurted to 20 feet.”

A vigorous climbing vine that clings to surfaces by aerial rootlets.  It has a slow growing, shrubby habit until established, then becomes quite vigorous, producing long, fast growing stems.  Lush green foliage is blanketed with magnificent, white lacecap blooms in summer. Deciduous.

Mature Size:        50-80’ tall       
Bloom:                 White lacecap blooms in summer
Growth Rate:       Vigorous once established           
Water:                  Average; more often in extreme heat
Sun/Shade:         Full shade to full sun   
Zones:                 5-9


Baby Cyclamen –  Cyclamen hederifolium

“This was started from seed with my ‘father-in-law’ Bob Gotcher.”

This is a hardy cyclamen that blooms profusely late summer to fall.  Extremely attractive, ivy-shaped, mottled leaves are variably colored by usually gray-green with silver and white marbling.  Foliage persists through winter and goes dormant in late spring. This cyclamen thrives in the dry conditions and shade under oak trees.

Mature Size:         4-6” tall       
Bloom:                  White flowers in late summer/fall           
Water:                   Dry to average
Sun/Shade:          Part shade   
Zones:                  5-9

Henry Lauder’s Walking Stick – Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’

‘Contorta’ was discovered growing in an English hedgerow in the mid-1800s by Victorian gardener Canon Ellacombe.  This plant was subsequently given the name of Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick in the early 1900’s in honor of the Scottish entertainer.  It is a deciduous, rounded, multi-trunked shrub with twisted and spiraling branches, twigs and leaves, best seen in winter. This wonderful plant has no serious disease or insect pest problems.

Mature Size:         8-10’ tall, 8-10’ wide       
Bloom:                  Yellowish brown bloom in spring               
Water:                   Average
Sun/Shade:          Full sun to part shade   
Zones:                 4-8

Azores Buttercup Ranunculus - Ranunculus cortusifolius

“It all spread from 2 plants purchased at the plant sale of the Woodside Garden Club a few years ago.”

Also known as yellow enamel ranunculus. A great, perennial plant for lighting up a shady area and with its large floral display does not need to be kept in the foreground to be noticed.  The plant goes dormant in the summer with new leaves emerging with the winter rains.

Mature Size:         3-4’ tall; 2-4’ wide           
Bloom:                  Bright yellow flowers with shiny petals in spring
Water:                   Low
Sun/Shade:          Full sun to partial shade       
Zones:                  9-11


Biocovo Cranesbill - Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’

“The most useful, pretty, trouble-free ground cover.”

Dainty pink-flushed white flowers grace this hardy geranium from late spring into summer. Fragrant foliage becomes red-tinged in fall. Dwarf, ground-hugging form spreads gently by underground stems. Remains neat all season with little care. Thrives in cool summer climates. 2015 Perennial Plant of the Year. Semi-evergreen.

Mature Size:         10” tall; 3’ wide           
Bloom:                  Pink-flushed white flowers early spring through summer
Water:                   Regular
Sun/Shade:          Partial to full sun       
Zones:                  4-8


Giant geranium - Geranium maderense

"The huge flower is such a fun surprise. Never mind that it dies back soon after ." 

The largest geranium species and regarded by many as the most spectacular, award-winning Geranium maderense is a perennial or biennial forming a mound of dark green leaves up to 8” long.  In spring, a huge bouquet of showy purplish pink flowers rise well above the foliage. Although this plant dies after flowering, it self sows profusely and remains in the garden.

Mature Size:      4-5’ tall and wide               
Bloom:               Purplish-pink bouquet once in late winter to late summer
Water:                Average
Sun/Shade:       Full sun/part shade       
Zones:               9-11

??? Do you know this Mystery Plant ???
Maryellie Mystery Plant.jpeg

“I purchased this from Annie’s Annuals - however, when I wanted to identify it and sent them a photo, they were stumped.”

This bushy green plant loves dry shade, spreads naturally and has a lavender blue flower in spring and summer.  It propagates easily.

Mature Size:      3-4’ tall and wide               
Bloom:               Lavender blue flowers
Water:                Low
Sun/Shade:       Full to part shade   

Can you identify this plant?