For the 2018 Autumn Lights Festival program click here.

Thanks for supporting Autumn Lights 2017, all 10,000 of you!  

You helped raise funds to replace our entrance plaza and fence.  

This three year fundraising effort is finally going into production at the garden gates, stop by to see the progress!

Many of us wander bewitched though the Autumn Lights Festival each fall, without knowing that each ticket purchased has gone to help fund the redesign of the entrance plaza for The Gardens at Lake Merritt in Lakeside Park. This plan, six years in unfolding, was created by the Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt. It includes a new iron gate, designed by Alameda ironwork artist Shawn Lovell. She is a blacksmith of national stature andwas the cover story for the March/February 2013 issue of American Craft magazine. The gate, which will be next to the Garden Center plaza is separately funded by Measure DD.

The Autumn Lights funds go toward improved fencing in the gate areas, new plant landscaping and hardscaping – that means the concrete pathway entryways, and also proceeding into the garden itself with new gardens.  The current entrance will become a service entry.

Volunteer Emily Geagan has been an important part of the entrance landscape redesign committee – working countless hours over a period of several years, and her architecture and landscape architecture expertise is shining through.   She did the horticulture design, which emphasizes pollinator and bay-friendly plants.

Emily directed and watched last week as over 1000 new plants were settled into fresh soil, many of them planted by yet more volunteers.  The Garden staff helped with the planting and did much of the irrigation installation a few days later. It’s all snuggled in for the winter rains under heaps of fresh mulch.

Bruce Cobbledick

As always, much of the credit for pushing the plan to execution goes to Park Supervisor Tora Rocha.  As she retires at the end of November, this will be one off her many legacies. Also to be noted is the role of volunteer Dick Austin in this gate project. Aside from the formidable task of attending countless Measure DD meetings with the city on this effort, he was president of OEBGC and the Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt for many years . He and Bill Castellon raised money and renovated the Japanese Garden when it fell in to disrepair, and have been taking care of it ever since.

Speaking of legacies, full and final credit goes to Bruce Cobbledick. Bruce served for years as an officer of Oakland East Bay Garden Center Inc. and provided the organizational and practical foundation for what we now know as the Gardens at Lake Merritt. He was the first President of the Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt and he spearheaded this gate redesign project during his presidency and afterward. Bruce was instrumental in having the design of the gate included for Measure DD funding. The entry gate area will be named in his honor.

Bruce did the original design for the front gardens, working with Landscape Architects to get the Measure DD funds.  Emily did the landscaping plan which is focused on a pollinator theme.

Oakland’s two beautiful public gardens are the direct legacy of the Cobbledick family. Bruce’s father, Arthur Cobbledick, designed landscaping for the Morcom Amphitheater of Roses, constructed in 1932  as a project of the Works Progress Administration.

The good news and bad news: Our secret gardens won’t be so secret any more!

Our Pollinator and Monarch Program

The Pollinator garden is a big focus of The Gardens at Lake Merritt. While there are many beautiful more formal themed gardens ringing our seven acre space, the center of the garden holds a big area for a wild and crazy pollinator garden. Our park director Tora Rocha founded The Pollinator Posse a few years back, and it has taken flight with local and national attention! With attention to the alarming declines in the population of the Monarch butterfly, we plant native and a little tropical milkweed as habitat for the butterflies, their eggs and caterpillars.

The first year of the Pollinator Posse project we had just a few butterflies – six by our count. Last year there were about 1000 buterflies released in the garden, thanks to our fostering program. We are now partnering with Children’s Fairyland, our neighbor up the road, to provide sterilized conditions for our eggs and catepillars, which can be subject to a fatal disease.

And fostering – what is that anyway? We find lots of Monarch caterpillars in the garden. To protect them from their many predators, we gather them, and volunteers take them home in mesh cages, feed them milkweed for a few weeks till their go into chrysalis, then wait patiently for the exciting emersion when the butterflies “eclose” from the chrysalis.

But here’s the thing: habitat gardens are inherently messy! Seedlings are growing underfoot, and more important there might be a chrysalis for a beautiful butterfly hidden in the debris. So conventional weeding and mulching have to be handled with special care.

We grow a lot of milkweed.  The Monarch caterpillars chomp through the milkweed leaves – in a normal garden this would be an unsightly cause for alarm, but for us it’s a sign of success! If they eat here, they lay their eggs here […]

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Welcome to The Sensory Garden

The Sensory Garden at Lakeside Park has been redesigned to utilize drought tolerant Mediterranean and native plants that  provide fragrance, sound and color for the senses. The garden is organized to offer the visitor a succession of experiences. […]

Welcome to the Gardens at Lake Merritt. Come join us to see seven acres of unique and beautiful themed gardens. Free general admission to Gardens daily.

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Our Edible Gardens

Edible Gardens Along the verdant south edge of The Gardens at Lake Merritt!

Growing organic produce is an enriching and dynamic process that offers lots of benefits to gardeners and to the community. Oakland’s Office of Parks and Recreation is underscoring these benefits with a new demonstration program at its Lakeside […]