An impeccable Marin garden fit for royalty

When San Francisco Opera Guild board member Mary Poland wanted to re-create the glory of a French country chateau for her stunning, Andrew Skurman-designed Marin residence 10 years ago, she paid particular attention to French neoclassic landscaping.

Working with landscape designer Mike Yandle, she achieved the perfect nexus of formality and joie de vivre, effusiveness and grandeur. Her gardens sing in harmony and reflect the tranquility of her extensive property.

The front gardens, in classic French tradition, are planted in white, producing a duet of single-note flowers against the green foliage.

The back and side gardens open with a medley of tones. The soft pinks, lilacs and blues nestle with the whites, primarily iceberg roses. The chorus of color and textures works in a multi-level series of gardens that focus on entertaining. 

Poland, who travels extensively, gleans additional inspiration, she says, from decorator houses and friends in the Hamptons.

The property’s keystone, set on a plateau, is the pristine, majestic, Mediterranean-blue, rectangular pool with fountains. It is bordered by a formally-patterned expanse of lawn.

Rising along the perimeter on another level is a gracious, shaded, winding stone pathway that overlooks the entire property. Herbs, orchids, hydrangeas and waves of purple lilac flourish under olive trees and Italian cypress.

Off to one side, the charming pergola, prevalent in Alhambra in southern Spain — the site of some of the oldest gardens in the world and home to Moorish castles — features a traditional confluence of climbing roses and grapes.  Giant magnolias, cedars, birch, along with blue gum and eucalyptus trees punctuate the gardens. Orange and lemon trees, especially in the sun-filled plateau, work in tandem with accents of bright pink geraniums in classic urns.

A charming bust of Poland’s son, Stratton, at 11, matching his height at the time, is a focal point in the far gardens.

The outdoor fireplaces make a nice fire-and-water juxtaposition to the other elements in the back gardens.

The total effect of the property defines halcyon. Poland, who has a busy schedule and is chair of the Guild’s nominating committee, says, “It’s so soothing to me. I come out here in the summer a lot and read.”

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