Seeing the recent photos on the Internet of Lombard Street being transformed into a Candyland replica really brought back memories. Most of my early career in horticulture-related activities took place in Northern California. The City was just across the water and weekend trips to explore San Francisco were always fun. The city is so expansive and has so many different neighborhoods, there was always something new to find.
On one trip we decided to walk down Lombard Street rather than join the train of cars that descend the one-way street. What a different perspective you get when you walk rather than drive. I believe that the city parks crews do the planting and maintenance and they really do a wonderful job. The boxwood hedges (Buxus japonica) looked like they were plastic, they were clipped so perfectly. The English Ivy (Hedera helix) was allowed just enough room to look natural and was trimmed so that the edges showed no bare stems. The only way to achieve this effect is to hand-trim each branch with a pair of hand clippers. Power sheers or even hand held sheers leave an edge where all the undergrowth and clipped stems show until the new foliage covers the ends. Hand clipping is beautiful but very labor intensive.
The planners of the Lombard garden do a great job of staggering flower blooming cycles so that there is always something colorful to see. The Azaleas are spectacular and the prolific blooms of the Hydrangeas are fabulous. Annual color is rotated seasonally and the Impatiens in Spring are breathtaking.
If you are there in the fall, one of the coolest things you will see on Lombard Street is the pollarded Sycamore Trees (Platanus racemosa). I’m normally hate hard pruning, and when I see done I figure the gardener is a control freak, but not in this case. The statement and elegance of a correctly pollard bosk of Sycamores if really pretty cool. Don’t get me wrong, a full grown, properly pruned Sycamore is awesome, but here the trees line both sides of the street and frame the garden perfectly.
What most tourists who drive down Lombard Street (Candyland) may not realize is that the buildings along the sides are actually people’s homes. How cool would that be, to actually live on Lombard Street, AKA Candyland?
One note of advice: If you decide to walk Lombard Street I suggest you start at the bottom and walk up. The return trip will be more enjoyable.