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2019  - The Art of Pruning Garden Tour - East Bay Gardens

The 4th biennial garden tour was held on Sunday, October 6th.  Gardens of the East Bay were featured, all beautifully and expertly pruned by APA Certified Aesthetic Pruners Dina Blackwell, Peter Bowyer, Jocelyn Cohen, Grant Foerster, Melissa Hyams, and Randall Lee. This year’s garden tour included an inspiring mix of gardens whose design and plant material range from Mediterranean dry summer and California natives to tropical palms to temperate climate deciduous trees and cottage style perennials. These gardens showcased the universality of aesthetic pruning’s basic principles. 

A percentage of the garden tour ticket proceeds went to the APA Sachiko Umehara memorial scholarship fund. As owner of Momiji Nursery in Santa Rosa in partnership with her husband, Mike Umehara, Sachiko was a great advocate of the Aesthetic Pruners Association and had special relationships with many of its pruners.  Her spirit lives on in the beautiful maples she grew and nurtured, and are now treasured by many people. 

APA Certified Aesthetic Pruner, Eric King, demonstrated his pruning technique twice during the tour day on two container trees at the Fairchild garden.  Free raffle tickets for the pruned specimens give-away were handed out during the demonstrations.

Eric King demonstrating his pruning techniques on a Acer palmatum 'Katsura' and a Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Wells Special':


Peter’s garden combines tropical plant species, arid succulent species and summer dry Mediterranean species. Textures abound and the way the light plays in his garden, especially at sunset, is a defining feature. The original garden was designed by Planet Horticulture.  

APA Certified Aesthetic Pruner, founding member, and past President Grant Foerster has been pruning in Peter’s garden for 6 years, offering him an unusual pruning opportunity. As Grant says, “Peter has several plants that are the only ones of that variety that I work on. I enjoy the fresh challenges the unique material provides me.” In aesthetic pruning, bringing out the essence of a tree, that element that makes the tree unique and of interest, is part of a process made even more special working with something new and unfamiliar. In the front garden, Grant prunes bottle brush, she oak, pineapple guava, redbud, acacia, and the Persian ironwood.  And, in the back garden, he prunes the citrus and acacia, espaliers a magnolia grandiflora and a camellia, and has skillfully pruned a Japanese maple to accent a small space in the garden.  Grant is a teacher of pruning and bonsai, and specializes in pruning Japanese pines, maples, and small plants in containers.

Interesting specimens in this garden are Chinese banana, beschorneria, aloes, echeveria, bromeliads, leucospermum, grevillea and cussonia, to name a few.  For several years now, Grand Lake Ace Garden Center has suggested and supplied many of the plants, and Eduardo Roman and his crew have moved them back and forth around the garden. Along with Grant, they deserve, we are told, full credit for how everything looks today. 


Melissa is the owner, designer and pruner of her California native/Mediterranean garden. Because most of her prior experience was gardening in temperate climates, including England where she didn’t even own a hose, her challenge for this garden was to create a summer dry garden to conserve water, learn about native and Mediterranean plants and still indulge her plant addiction. 

Melissa is also among the newest of the APA’s Certified Aesthetic Pruners and her garden has given her an opportunity to prune California natives and train young trees. With the exception of the flannelbush ‘tree’ in the front garden, the back garden mayten tree which is pruned by APA Certified Aesthetic Pruner, Eric King, the climbing roses and Japanese weeping maple, the garden’s plantings are only 4 years old. Aesthetic pruning necessitates considering the garden context and ‘reading’ a garden. This garden was designed and is pruned to frame the natural environment of hills and open sky and screen the surrounding built environment. Melissa regularly prunes the various manzanita, ceanothus, coffeeberry, and silk tassel, among others. And the “dreadful” flannelbush which, as she explains, “I spend weeks working up the enthusiasm each year to prune the flannelbush. With its nasty fuzz it can only be approached in a hazmat suit and face mask.” Her favorite native plants, California buckwheat, need no pruning.  

Take notice of the depression in the middle of the back garden. It is a rain garden. The depression and surrounding small berms allowed for a bit of topography in this otherwise flat landscape, but its purpose is to receive rain water from the garage roof gutter where it is absorbed by the soil and percolated back down into the ground water. 


Jim is a lifelong gardener and has had lots of opportunities and challenges since moving here two years ago. The Arts and Crafts house architecture has inspired Jim to maintain formal gardens on part of the property while taking up the challenge of cultivating an English cottage perennial garden in a summer dry Mediterranean setting. Many of the trees, shrubs and vines have been under the care of APA Certified Aesthetic Pruners Peter Bowyer and Katrine Thomas for many years. Peter is now the sole pruner. Landscape designer, Robert Trachtenberg contributed structure, hardscape, and, notably, transitions from core Mediterranean to peripheral California native plantings, to the garden design.

Peter has more than 30 years of experience as a pruner, climbing arborist and landscape designer. Peter built three wire trellises and trained upon them a Lady Banks’ Rose and two wisteria. The three-story tall wisteria is a masterpiece, showcasing Peter’s aesthetic and technical pruning skills; a vine’s verticality is an essential quality which pruners often have to fight against but here Peter has let it flourish. Opposite the wisteria, on the eastern side of the terrace garden, Peter has achieved a layering effect suggesting foothill, cliff and mountain topography using three ranks of plants. They include the rose gate, lemon, hornbeam, English laurel, and three Tobira pittosporum, in clockwise order, enclosing the courtyard. Peter prunes two persimmon trees for short, tapered, scaffold branches, and thins fruit to ensure against breakage. He handles the east courtyard bougainvillea, west courtyard orange, olive and other large hedges in the garden. 

The back garden is set in the borrowed landscape of eucalyptus trees and live oak. The foreground floral meadow, centered on the focal point fountain, showcases Jim’s flair with full value primary colors. While strolling around Jim and Karen’s gardens, sit and enjoy the gardens from any of the many seating areas and benches tucked away here and there.   

P.O. Box 5163, Berkeley, CA 94705


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