A Watercolorist’s Spirit Lives on at Elliott and Anna Branwene’s Garden in Sebastopol



A Watercolorist’s Spirit Lives on at Elliott and Anna Branwene’s Garden in Sebastopol

Seldom do you find a garden whose intricate composition reads so clearly as an ode to the wider landscape and whose beauty and complexity responds so directly to the wide-open sky and vast landscape of Northern California. In 2015 when Elliott and Anna Brandwene discovered such a garden in Sebastopol, they instantly recognized its unique qualities, even though it was much larger than anything they had ever imagined caring for. They weren’t at all sure they could take it on, but when they heard from the real estate agent that a prospective buyer planned to turn it back into a horse pasture, they knew they had to act. As Elliott remembers, “To come in and attempt to be caretakers to what had been started was an honor—quite a bit of a chore as well, but it’s a very special place.”

For thirty years this property had been the home of Jun and Noriko Hasegawa. They had bought the eight acres in 1986 and designed a house facing northeast toward the panoramic view of Mount St. Helena and the lights of Santa Rosa. Before retiring to Sebastopol, the Hasegawas, both born in Japan, had lived in Plattsburgh, New York, where Noriko had a garden that was greatly admired and she became a master in the Ikebana style of flower arranging. She also began painting in 1981 and, over time, became locally renowned for her watercolors. The Hasegawas worked on the Sebastopol garden together, with Jun on the tractor sculpting the earth and Noriko, arranging the rocks, young trees, and shrubs. Rather than the intimate scale of a traditional Japanese garden, here they created a landscape with traditional elements but one that was large enough to match the scale of its surroundings.

A Watercolorist’s Spirit Lives on at Elliott and Anna Branwene’s Garden in Sebastopol

The garden is an unusual combination of a landscape garden to be viewed and a hill garden to stroll through. Originally, Jun had hoped for a pond garden with water but, given the exposed site and the quality of the soil, Noriko designed a dry pond garden instead. The expanse of gravel, with different sizes of river rock delineating the shoreline and streambed, and the two classic bridges linking the paths are the centerpiece. The visitor is meant to walk through counterclockwise so that the zig-zag plank bridge with its plantings of calla lilies and Japanese iris is crossed facing the house. Creeping juniper follows the contours of the land and trees are used as punctuation points. As in traditional stroll gardens, there are several vantage points along the way that make the most of the changes in elevation.

The Brandwenes have willingly embraced the challenge of keeping the garden up to the level that they imagine the Hasegawas would have expected. They have studied old photographs and replanted within the original plant palette, even though, as in the case of heaths and heathers, some of those plants are difficult to come by and maintain. They prune to keep the shapes in control and carefully set the irrigation so that the mostly drought-tolerant garden will get the water it needs but no more. The garden is not frozen in time. It changes subtly with the seasons and years, and the guiding spirit of Noriko Hasegawa continues to echo in this remarkable landscape.

A version of this article appeared in the October 2017 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: The Painted Garden.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags

Landscape Spotlight

Edit Module
Rosalia Sanni
Rosalia Sanni is an award-winning landscape designer whose approach strikes a balance between architecture, nature and people. Comprehensive services include master planning, construction, administration, furniture souring, and an open dialogue that often continues after completion. Rosalia believes that good design enhances people's lives profoundly, and should offer more than a collection of beautiful pictures. Landscapes should suit the people who inhabit them in a meaningful, fun and deeply personal way.

Rosalia Sanni Design

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

Consiglio Builders
Consiglio Builders is a luxury residential construction company located on the East End of Long Island. We have developed a unique method of residential construction in the Hamptons—we call it "The Considered Approach." It stems from our experience which demonstrates that meticulous planning and transparency throughout the process, combined with our expertise and emphasis on perfection, enable us to deliver consistently the best-constructed homes on time and within budget to our discerning clientele.


 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

James Merrell Architects 
From our perspective in the 21st century, all styles are historical. Even Modernism is now a century old. So, we are free to interpret, and interweave the minimal with the decorative to find new expressions for our own era. Our house celebrates this new design freedom. It brings a contemporary sensibility to the architectural covenants of this otherwise traditional neighborhood. Floor to ceiling glass on the ground floor, for instance, yields modern interior spaces. While above, divided windows sit comfortably in second floor dormers. And the style that results is both unique and timeless.


Bates Masi + Architects
Bates Masi + Architects LLC, a full-service architectural firm with roots in New York City and the East End of Long Island for over 50 years, responds to each project with extensive research in related architectural fields, material, craft and environment for unique solutions as varied as the individuals for whom they are designed. The focus is neither the size nor the type of project but the opportunity to enrich lives and enhance the environment.

Bates+Masi Architects
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags