A Photographer Looks at Tilden

Through the Lens

By: Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt is a professional garden photographer who contributes regularly to Pacific Horticulture and is widely published in books such as Hardy Succulents, The…

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Vanilla leaf and redwood sorrel knit together and thrive in the shade beneath the giant redwoods. Photo: Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic


East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden
South Park Drive and Wildcat Canyon Road in the Berkeley Hills
The garden is open every day of the year except major holidays
admission is free.

East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden, known affectionately as the Tilden Park Native Plant Garden, in Berkeley, California, has never failed to inspire me. I am almost afraid to return lest it finally be less than superb.

A trail through the redwood section of Regional Parks Botanic Garden. Photo: Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic

The redwood grove is always cool and quiet. While not quite the overwhelming awesomeness one gets from the tree cathedral in Muir Woods, the grove is a wonderful reminder of the power of these magnificent giants. NOTE: as a further reminder, these enormous trees are inappropriate in the confine of most gardens.

During a spring visit I discovered the remarkable foliage of a plant called vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla). This spreading perennial groundcover loves the shade of a redwood forest. And when paired with the smaller foliage of redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana), the combination is worthy of a garden photo.

Tip: To get the photo at the top of this page and make the foliage seem especially big, I lowered my tripod right down to the ground and used a wide angle lens about 12 inches away from the foreground and an f:stop of 22 to insure great depth of field.