Quirky Berkeley walk, Part III

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Even if you don’t have any interest in starting a succulent garden yourself, you should visit Dry Garden Nursery at 6556 Shattuck to look at the amazing plants and the fun artwork that’s all around. Besides selling every kind of drought-tolerant plant around, they also have a huge selection of cool tiles that you could put in your garden or in your house. And if you’re not looking up, you might miss the huge metal sun that watches over the garden.


I have no idea what this flower is, but I was mesmerized by its complicated bloom.
Marcia in front of her house where she’s adorned trees with huge ceramic beads.
From the ground of Marcia’s garden these mosaic eyes look up at passersby.







It would take several leisurely hours to see everything in Marcia Donahue’s garden behind her house at 3017 Wheeler.  Luckily, if you live in Berkeley, you can visit her garden on Sunday afternoons, when she opens it to the public. Marcia is a prolific ceramicist, and you can see some of her creations in front of her house too. She was there to greet us and answer our questions, which is how I was able to find out that the gorgeous white tree in her front yard is called a snow manzanita.

Cathaus, an anarchist collective on Ashby that has a gate covered in dead cell phones.

When we were walking along Ashby toward College Avenue, a woman with a toddler and a bullhorn called to us from across the street. A dozen or so made the dangerous dash across Ashby–without bothering to backtrack to a crosswalk–to get a better view of a fence that looks like a cat. (A car was parked in front of it, so those of us on the south side of the street only saw the ear tips peek out.) A member of the anarchist collective that resides at Cathaus, she had heard we were coming and was bearing gifts in the form of limes from their tree, packets of lettuce seeds, copies of the newspaper they produce called the Slingshot, and envelopes stuffed with lovely little examples of letter-press. Even though our group had dwindled somewhat, there were still too many of us to cross Ashby, so she came to us. I want to go back some time to see the cat-shaped fence up close. I hadn’t brought a bag with me, so I resisted her offer of limes, but I got a copy of the Slingshot to send to my daughter.

At 2526 Webster, we found a yard full of ceramic critters. Tom is not acquainted with the occupants there, so he didn’t know any stories connected to them. Unfortunately, it is around this time that my phone died, which means I was no longer able to take pictures. It was a bad technology day for me for sure.

huge feet in Marcia’s garden

The highlight of the day was Julie Partos’s house, where she’s set up a little outdoor art display that she changes periodically. Her son and granddaughter were there playing the parts of the Mad Hatter and Alice, having tea as part of the Wonderland themed-display. Julie is an artist who works in many media–a collagist who makes gorgeous hats and bags too. She’s also created the most spectacularly bejeweled fly-swatters. I’m so sorry I don’t have pictures of them!

You really should check out the Quirky Berkeley website (which I’ve now subscribed to) so you can see some great photos from that day.

By the time we reached our final stop to see a giant aqua poodle in the window of McGuire Real Estate on College Avenue, there were only about twenty of us. From there we all found our own way back to our starting point 1.3 miles west. We had wandered for almost three hours, but it only took me a half hour to get back to my car back by Flaco’s parking lot. Of course if I’d still had my Jawbone fitness tracker, I’d know exactly how many miles I’d walked. But I’m going to guess it was between 2.5 and 3 miles.

I’m already planning a return trip with my husband so he can see Marcia’s garden and Julie’s pop-up art tent. I’m so grateful to Tom Dalzell for sharing all his quirky finds. God, I love Berkeley!