Magazine article Sunset

Personal Refuge

Magazine article Sunset

Personal Refuge

Article excerpt

"MY garden is this tiny, controlled environment," says Flora Grubb. With confident strides and expansive hand gestures, the muchlauded owner of Flora Grubb Gardens (floragrubb.com), the groundbreaking nursery in San Francisco's Bay view neighborhood, moves through the grounds of her Berkeley home, pointing out missteps one minute (alas, the blighted boxwood she had to replace) and highlighting successes the next (a rare Acacia spectabilis that's grown to 16 feet in two years). "I'm able to create and maintain something bea_168.tiful through hard work and force of will. Psychologically, that's really gr_168.tifying when everything seems out of control."

The chance to organize chaos was a big motivation for Grubb when she moved into her cottage home four years ago with her son Greyson. She was recently divorced and grieving the death of her father, her first plant mentor while growing up in Austin, Texas. To cope, she turned to the simple lawn and concrete that covered her front yard (the back would come later). "My life was in a lot of upheaval. All I wanted was an antidote to the intense stress I was feeling," says the self-taught nurserywoman, whom many credit with the rise in popularity of succulents, air plants, and artful vessels that have inspired homeowners and apartment dwellers.

Grubb's plot begins at the front with a courtyard entry that gives a sense of enclosure and privacy. Within its confines are layered, subtle gradations of green foliage, including mounds of Buxus 'Green Mountain' poking through feathery groupings of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'. …

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