Helping Hands

Harland Hand [1922-1998], inspired by the principles of fine art and rock formations in the High Sierra, designed this hillside garden with breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay.

Using concrete, curving lines and dramatic color combinations, Hand created an emotionally evocative space that houses an extraordinary plant collection.

Folktales tell of little creatures such as elves and fairies who inhabit the garden and work wonders while the owner is away. Such is not our experience.... More likely, we find evidence of gopher infestation, snails eating away at rare treasures, and the like. And the weeds! The wonderful weather in El Cerrito encourages aggressive and undesirable plants to grow and grow and grow. While the garden is only half an acre, it is full of nooks and crannies, winding paths, rockeries, little rooms, and thousands of plants. It is the kind of garden that requires a lot of hands-on work, and much as we enjoy the presence of elves (disguised as pets, birds and tree frogs), we cannot rely on their efforts alone.

While Marjory Harris took care of the garden from 2000-2008, she had a lot of help from many knowledgeable people.  Before she met him in early 1982, Ms. Harris had read Mr. Hand’s "The Color Garden" (Pacific Horticulture, Spring 1978) many times, seeking guidance and inspiration as she developed her first garden on a steep hillside in San Francisco. In 1988, Mr. Hand designed Ms. Harris’s second garden. She was honored to have as her third garden the horticultural masterpiece of her dear friend and mentor.

Martin Grantham

Martin Grantham was the garden curator for seven years. An expert propagator, he studied botany at UC Davis and mycology at UC Berkeley. He has worked for many Bay Area institutions, including 10 years with the University of California Botanical Garden (UCBG) at Berkeley. Currently Greenhouse Manager for the Biology Department at San Francisco State University and active in the International Plant Propagators Society, he teaches propagation workshops and horticulture classes for East Bay Parks Botanic Garden and City College of San Francisco as well as writing articles for horticultural journals. He added many unusual plants to the Harland Hand Memorial Garden collection.

Kerry Harvey

Originally from Australia, Kerry Harvey was trained and mentored in the San Francisco Bay Area by master pruner Dennis Makishima, the garden's Chief Consultant.

A Certified Horticulturalist (Merritt College) and winner of the Merritt College Pruning Award, Kerry was principal gardener and aesthetic pruner at the Harland Hand Memorial Garden, where she introduced many drought-tolerant species from her native Australia. See Kerry Harvey's Photo Gallery

Jonathan Wright

In the summer of 2002, Chanticleer Garden in Pennsylvania sent Jonathan Wright to work in the garden. A talented horticulturist and designer who was completing his two-year Chanticleer Fellowship, Jonathan trained at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania and worked during his fellowship at Denver Botanic Gardens, The National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai, Hawaii, The John Fairey Garden in Hempstead, Texas, and Lotusland in Montecito, California.

Dennis Makishima

We were honored to have Dennis Makishima, internationally known bonsai teacher, artist, and sensei, as the garden's Chief Consultant. His aesthetic guidance and pruning as well as his practical knowledge will preserve and increase the magic of the garden. Dennis is active in local and international bonsai organizations, teaches all over the country, and is a mentor to many of today's bonsai artists.  

Andy Robbins

Andy Robbins has been a landscape contractor since 1981. His company, A. Robbins Landscape Contractors, installs, repairs and retrofits all aspects of landscape construction for clients throughout the Bay Area. Andy accepted and fulfilled the daunting task of installing an entirely new, comprehensive irrigation system in this finished, lush garden, without disturbing any of the existing paths, fountains or plant materials. Three different types of irrigation were integrated to complete the system. Design and installation of landscape lighting for the garden is ongoing.

Christopher W. Bowen

Certified Arborist and horticulturist, Chris is known for aesthetic pruning, scientific sensibility, and careful removal of trees and shrubs. He kept the live oaks and other rare trees in the Harland Hand Memorial Garden in tip-top shape.