Quick, See It Before It Melts!

Grow Melt at The Late Gardens in Sonoma

"Grow Melt" at The Late Show Gardens in Sonoma

At The Late Show Gardens, visitors were reminded that one of the temporary installations at this new garden show in Wine Country was, in fact, extremely temporary. A representation of global warming,  the six-foot-high wall of ice was designed by a group that included Berkeley’s Peter Walker and Partners. In the 90-degree heat of  a September day in Sonoma, the wall dramatically collapsed shortly before 3pm. The luminous ice was juxtaposed with thin green columns of cactus reflected in a pool of water–a startling and otherworldly image that could have come straight out of a Hayao Miyazaki movie.

Temperature extremes.

Before the fall.

With its strong conceptual bent–climate change and its discontents–The Late Show Gardens is more of a living art exhibit. It’s deliberately sidestepped the mix in the typical garden show, where the kitsch factor (think watering-can earrings for sale) tends to overwhelm the landscaping.  This is a show truly geared towards modern garden design, both in the display gardens and in its choice selection of  progressive nurseries, many offering rare native flora. West Coast plant fanatics will recognize names like San Marcos Growers from Santa Barbara and Portland’s Cistus Nursery. Not a single impatiens in sight here.

While the ice wall was like the martini that kicked off the party, another garden was the real feast.  Slow food has never looked so good: Susanne Biaggi and Patrick Picard created an immense table with a vegetable garden built right in. The idea, said Biaggi, is that people can eat right off the table–lettuces in one season, strawberries the next.

Future Feast in the Garden of Flow by Suzanne Biaggi and Patrick Picard

"Future Feast in the Garden of Flow" by Suzanne Biaggi and Patrick Picard

Since the horsetail growing at the head of the table acts as a natural water filter, before you literally dig into your salad course, you could presumably help yourself to a glass of fresh fountain water.

The show continues through the weekend, with lectures on both days and a party on Saturday evening from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. If you haven’t yet stopped by Cornerstone, which is modeled after the celebrated Chaumont gardens in France, this is a great excuse to go.

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