Home & Garden Columns
So I dropped by Omega Too on San Pablo Avenue to see what Jana had for gardens. The answer was: Not quite so much as she used to, but what’s there is nifty. Of course; her sensibility is one I’ve always liked.
I met Jana Olsen years ago, when I took her garden-construction class at Merritt. She’s a good teacher, relaxed but focused—an apt combination when you’re learning to enjoy the mighty power of the Sawzall without losing any body parts or mutilating any classmates. I liked that. I wonder how many of the problems I have right now could be solved by buying a Sawzall.
Probably not enough to justify the purchase. Just wait till I get into politics. Might’ve been handy to have one outside the City Council meeting the other night when I was being gut-thwacked by a bunch of eager young jocks whose handlers had for some reason thought it a good idea for everybody to bring his big clunky gym duffel to the crowded lobby.
Somebody almost went home with a bag of used dinner for a souvenir. Manners, kids, manners! Some of us old coots are not only grouchy; we’re unpredictably leaky when prodded. And we vote.
Might tools aside, I doubtless got much of my own garden sensibility from Jana, because her approach appeals to me. I remember seeing a photo of a garden she’s collaborated on, with a retaining wall that was a sort of geological cartoon, including one layer of winebottles no doubt from the early Vinaceous Age.
She’s smart and funny and shows it in her own garden, which I got a long look at before the Park Day School Tour a couple of years ago. That work actually has a recognizable and relevant narrative structure, without being all pedantic. Great fun.
So what you can buy from her for your own garden is, on one hand, mostly salvage or faux-salvage items. The little space behind the store had a couple of fountains and birdbaths whose aesthetics run to the Gothic and older—one’s labeled “Green Man Ruin” and features faces of that archetype.
There’s a ceramic tortoise I covet myself, and assorted things to hang on walls and/or get plumbed for fountains, and several wreaths and crossed festooned with painted terra-cotta flowers that made me think of old Italian cemeteries back East.
Actual salvage items I saw included a length of distressed, painted iron fencing or gate material, maybe head-tall, and a pair of the wrought-iron brackets that supported those old-fashioned school desks—the seats attached to the table part behind, so if you wiggled enough you could screw up your annoying neighbor’s handwriting. Yes, I am an old coot.
Garden and porch lights, door or gate hardware, doormats, doorknockers including a trowel and a woodpecker, and stained glass and craft tiles for use in sheltered places are mostly inside the store.
It’s an interesting succession, from old house-parts to things made to mimic old house-parts to handmade items that carry the same art traditions forward, always more interestingly than mass-produced imitations. Makes you think that apprenticeship has more than private effects.
2204 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
Monday-Saturday 10 a.m–6 p.m.
Sunday noon–5 p.m.
Ron Sullivan is a former professional gardener and arborist. Her “Garden Variety” column appears every Friday in East Bay Home & Real Estate. Her column on East Bay trees appears every other Tuesday in the Berkeley Daily Planet.