Menlo Park gardens

Dan Dieguez grew up in the Menlo Park home he lives in currently. But it’s his personal stamp that’s transformed the large backyard into what he calls a “wildlife garden.”

“My friends call it ‘organized chaos,'” he explained during a recent visit accompanied by Menlo Park-based photographer Frances Freyberg, whose photos of the garden are featured here.

Dan_full garden view

“I landscaped it with the view from the kitchen window in mind. There are many gardens within the garden, and it’s all a little wild. I like jungle parts of the world.

“When I planted the palm trees they were two or three feet tall. I thought at the time, ‘This will be an exotic forest when I’m an old man.’ Guess that time has come!”

Dan_red flowers

Some of what is in the backyard Dan inherited from his parents, like the Mulberry tree, boysenberry vines and roses. Other plants he scavenged from “Steve the garbage man” who once lived next door and brought home clippings of one kind or another.

One impetus for the garden was the fact that he’s around the house a lot. He works as a personal trainer and one of the out buildings is filled with equipment and weights. Another building houses tools and a whimsical display of license plates.


“I’m constantly changing things around,” he said. “I dug the Koi pond in 1999 and have let it grow over to discourage herons and egrets from eating the fish.

“I view the garden as a giant art project, a mix of painting and sculpture. This is a wild forest that I keep barely civilized.”

Dan_butterfly cocoon

Around every corner is a surprise. Dan has transformed one Redwood tree into a kind of Bonzai Redwood forest that’s never higher than 25 feet. A Century plant acquired from Steve the garbage man is currently flowering. Dragon flies buzz over the pond, and a Gulf Fritillary butterfly cocoon is attached to a plant near the large viewing deck. Pathways lead to sitting areas with different sun exposure.

“What is so satisfying about the garden is that thanks to all the shapes and the variety of foliage it looks good even in the bleakest winter,” Dan said. “I also love all the big trees off in the distance. I keep my trees short enough so I can also see those trees, too.”

Dan_skinny hori shot

Photos by Frances Freyberg


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