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Gift of Persia: Exotic Gardens for California

July 15, 2011 8:30 am - July 15, 2011 5:30 pm
The Gardens at Heather Farm: Walnut Creek, CA

Post-seminar information:  To share the Gift of Persia seminar’s wealth of information more broadly, we are attaching here the detailed program for the day and additional materials provided by the speakers after the event.


Attached are PDFs of the following materials:

The Gift of Persia seminar program
Ed Laivo’s cultivar list
Persian Paradise Gardens article by Patrick Hunt
Christy O’Hara’s lecture notes
Zahid Sardar’s garden image list


A horticultural and design history seminar, Friday, July 15, on the Moorish, Mughal, and Mediterranean influence on California gardens



Many cultures have borrowed garden design ideas from Persia and, over the centuries, have shared an amazingly broad palette of plants for drier climates. This full-day seminar in the 2011 Ruth Bancroft Horticultural Series is presented by the Garden Conservancy and the Ruth Bancroft Garden, and brings together a design writer, an historian, two landscape architects, an interior/garden designer, and several horticulturists. A reception with wine and plants at the Ruth Bancroft Garden will follow the talks.


Speakers (see bios below)
Inspiration for Private Paradises

Zahid Sardar, design writer and author of New Garden Design, San Francisco


Persian Gardens on the Move!  

Patrick N. Hunt, PhD, archaeologist/art historian, Stanford University

The Rain in Spain… 

Christy Edstrom O’Hara, landscape architect, San Luis Obispo


Romance Plants for Northern California

Davis Dalbok, garden designer, San Francisco


California’s Getty Villa  

Michael DeHart, horticulturist, Getty Villa, Malibu


A Contemporary Classical Garden

Todd R. Cole, landscape architect, San Francisco


More Plants and Reception

Following the talks at the Gardens at Heather Farm, we will drive to the Ruth Bancroft Garden and relax in the shade for an hour of plant discussion with Brian Kemble, RBG Curator, and Ed Laivo, fruit tree specialist from Devil Mountain Nursery.



$85       Members of Garden Conservancy, Ruth Bancroft Garden, and Gardens at Heather Farm

$95       Pacific Horticulture subscribers and members of  the Association of Professional Landscape Designers

$105     General admission


Registration includes buffet picnic lunch and morning and afternoon refreshments.


Student rates available. Please call Karen Armstrong at 415.441.4300 for further information.


Cancellation policy: refund of registration fee less 20% if requested 7 business days prior to the tour. Fees are not refundandable after the grace period.

To register, please call Karen Armstrong at telephone 415.441.4300 in the Garden Conservancy's San Francisco office. Online registration has been closed.




8:30 a.m. Registration

The Gardens at Heather Farm, Walnut Creek


8:45 a.m.                

Talks by Zahid Sardar, Patrick Hunt, Christy O’Hara, Todd Cole, Davis Dalbok, Michael DeHart


3:45 p.m. More Plants and Reception

The Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek

Brian Kemble, succulents from the Mediterranean

Ed Laivo, plants from Devil Mountain Nursery



Gift of Persia: Exotic Gardens for California is presented by the Garden Conservancy and Ruth Bancroft Garden and cosponsored by Pacific Horticulture magazine and the Gardens at Heather Farm. Additional support from Monrovia Growers.


pac hort logo title bw converted


Speaker Bios:


zahid mugshot_web2_108x142Inspiration for Private Paradises

Zahid Sardar, design writer and author of New Garden Design, San Francisco

Zahid Sardar is a San Francisco writer, editor and designer specializing in gardens, interiors, architecture and design. Zahid speaks eloquently to the idea that garden ideas spring from many sources and new gardens today—abstract in design and with seemingly no connection to the formalities of a paradise garden or its Persian, Indian, or Graeco-Roman and Mediterranean antecedents—echo them all. Zahid Sardar’s book, New Garden Design: Inspiring Private Paradises (Gibbs Smith, 2008, photography by Marion Brenner), aims to show how many ancient lessons haven't been forgotten.


hunt_patrick_web108x135Persian Gardens on the Move!
History of the movement of the Persian garden to other cultures

Patrick N. Hunt, PhD, archaeologist/art historian, Stanford University


Patrick Hunt received his PhD at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, University of London, in 1991 and is an archaeologist, art historian, poet, and biographer. He has been teaching humanities, archaeology, mythology and the arts at Stanford University since 1993. Hunt has published on the hanging gardens of antiquity and has written a forthcoming book on Gardens of the Ancient World. He has published eleven other books on art, archeology, and myth.


ohara_web108x109The Rain in Spain…
Moorish lessons in planting design and water use

Christy Edstrom O’Hara, landscape architect, San Luis Obispo


Christy Edstrom O’Hara holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in English and art history and a master's from the University of Washington in landscape architecture and preservation planning. Her current research focuses on the California work of the Olmsted firm, especially the Olmsted Brothers, and its approach to regionalism. In addition to research and teaching, Christy practices landscape architecture and historic landscape restoration. She is a principal of m + o landscape architecture, which concentrates on contemporary design in sustainable and green infrastructure solutions. O’Hara views history and contemporary design as companion ideas where history provides the framework for understanding the direction of landscape architecture.


davis-mug_web108x135Romance Plants for Northern California

Lavish plants and design borrowed from East and West of the Mediterranean

Davis Dalbok, garden designer, San Francisco


Davis Dalbok formed his company, Living Green, in the 1980s. His showroom in the San Francisco Design Center specializes in rare and unusual plant material, chic decorative containers, and world elements for the garden and home. He has created gardens in Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Hawaii, and all over the Bay Area, where he resides when he’s not working in his 24-acre garden paradise on the Big Island in Hawaii. Davis cites Thomas Church, Roberto Burle Marx, and Madame Ganna Walska as the garden luminaries who have lighted his design path. Davis and designer Tim O’ Shea are working on Seven Mandala Peace Gardens in the province of Bihar, India, under the auspices of the Light of the Buddhadharma Foundation International.


mdehart_web108x133California’s Getty Villa
Roman architecture with an Italian sensitivity of planting

Michael DeHart, horticulturist, Getty Villa, Malibu


Michael DeHart was raised on a Mennonite farm in Lancaster County, PA. He majored in ornamental horticulture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. For the past twenty-one years, Michael has been in charge of both Getty museum gardens, in Brentwood and Malibu. He has traveled to Italy and France with the Getty Trust to explore ancient sites and look at native flora in preparation for the major garden renovation at the Getty Villa in Malibu. He is coauthor, along with historian Patrick Bowe, of the Gardens and Plants of the Getty Villa (Getty Publications, 2011). The book explores the design, planting, and uses of the ancient Roman garden and provides detailed horticultural information about the plants. Michael is Superintendent of Grounds and Gardens at the Getty Villa.


todd cole_web108x151A Contemporary Classical Garden

Translation of classical garden in a contemporary design in Hillsborough

Todd R. Cole, landscape architect, San Francisco


For the last thirteen years, Todd R. Cole has focused his landscape architectural practice on the design of residential gardens with projects across the continental U.S. and Hawaii. Each project differs in scale, complexity, and style and addresses different ecologic, climatic, and topographic challenges. His focus has been on the technical competency and craftsmanship of unique garden spaces and he pays particular attention to the suitability of the garden architecture to that of the residence and the plant material to the theme of the residence and local environment. Todd also has considerable experience in urban design, community planning, housing, and institutional design and worked for prominent firms in Denver, New York, Philadelphia, and Santa Barbara. He is a principal in Suzman & Cole Design Associates Landscape Architecture, San Francisco.


More Plants and Reception

Relax in the shade at the Ruth Bancroft Garden for an hour of plant discussion with Brian Kemble, RBG Curator, and Ed Laivo, fruit tree specialist from Devil Mountain Nursery. Cool drinks and white wine (and grapes!) will be served. Plan for a walk in the garden following the discussion.


briankemble_web108x141Succulents from the Mediterranean

Brian Kemble, horticulturist, Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek


Brian Kemble is the Curator for the Ruth Bancroft Garden and has been involved with the garden since 1980. He is highly regarded in the horticultural world and has lectured widely on the agave, aloe, and bromeliad families. Kemble has a BA in philosophy from Antioch College in Ohio and has worked in horticulture since 1976. At the Ruth Bancroft Garden his work has included hybridizing of aloes, agaves, and some South American cacti. Brian has traveled extensively in Mexico and South Africa, studying and photographing plants in their native habitats.


ed laivo_web108x137The delicious fig and other luscious fruit trees

Ed Laivo, horticulturist/wholesale sales, Devil Mountain Nursery, San Ramon


Ed Laivo has 33 years of diverse experience in landscaping, nursery production and retail and wholesale sales and marketing. His areas of interest include sustainable and edible landscapes, market development, and the cultivation and selection of fruit trees. After eighteen years in Modesto with the Dave Wilson Nursery, one of the largest growers of deciduous fruit, nut, and shade trees in California, Ed has joined the staff at Devil Mountain and continues to be passionate about plants.

Headquarters: The Garden Conservancy, Post Office Box 219, Cold Spring, NY 10516. Telephone: 845.424.6500 Fax: 845.424.6501