Berkeley is a city world famous for its eccentricities and liberal politics, as well as for its scientific and academic achievement, and promotion of free speech and the arts. Berkeley’s broadmindedness is often reflected in its residential gardens, which tend towards wilder more naturalistic garden designs than may be seen in other, more controlled garden settings. The city’s residential gardens are also heavily influenced by its Mediterranean climate, which calls for plants that tolerate summer drought.
When creating a landscape design in Berkeley, consider its two parts: the flatlands and the foothills. The low flatlands present a combination of thick clay soil in need of heavy amendment, along with foggy and overcast summers, and longer seasons of temperate weather. Fog rolls in from the Coast through the Golden Gate, and settles along Albany, Berkeley, and Emeryville flatlands, generally stopping short of the foothills. Special consideration must be taken for growing edibles in Berkeley, as the flatlands do not provide enough summer heat or winter chill for many fruit tree varieties and several heat-loving vegetables. Apples, Fuyu persimmons, and Pomegranates bear well here. Additionally, drainage problems can emerge due to the level terrain and clay soil.
When considering a landscape design in the Berkeley foothill regions, know that plants can suffer from heavier winds and aggressive deer; but they also benefit from generally almost no frost year-round, the highest rainfall levels in the bay area, and thus a wider plant palette to choose from. Because many people’s outdoor properties are on hillsides in Berkeley, this must be addressed in the design of a residential garden, with appropriate and safe structures to hold soil in place, and proper planting to prevent erosion control. Additionally, drainage problems can present themselves when water is naturally flowing downhill into a house or basement.