Look! Garden Ballroom on a Houseboat Roof

Houseboat-dwellers can often provide helpful inspiration for those of us dealing with unusual design challenges. Landscape designer Maria Finn, who recently moved to Sausalito from Brooklyn, has been exploring ways to plant an edible, beautiful garden in her available outdoor space; on a houseboat, of course, this consists of the roof and the dock. Since she is also a tango dancer, she wanted to incorporate a dance floor too...Despite a total lack of actual space on the ground, Maria plans to grow a good deal of her own food. So far, as you can see in these photos of the garden-in-progress, her container garden includes fruit trees, clumping raspberries, artichokes, lettuces, and herbs, among other edible plantings. She incorporates native flowers and grasses to add a little color to the containers as well. We like the contrast between the sleek steel containers and the wild, chaotic nature of the plantings.

The rooftop garden design leaves an open space in the center of the deck for a tango dance floor. With this layout, vines and espalier trees are a good choice for trailing along the rails; Maria is tending to baby grapes, hoping to cultivate a miniature vineyard.

Maria's landscape company, Prospect and Refuge, specializes in environmentally responsible garden design. Given the economic state of things, she's focusing now on building edible gardens, teaching people to grow their own food in both the Bay Area and New York. Currently her company is running the kitchen garden for CHEFS, a program that helps the homeless transition off the streets into culinary jobs.

Bay Area residents and visitors have two chances to learn from Maria Finn in person in the month of April...

April 18th, Noe Valley Farmers Market, she'll be demonstrating how to construct edible plantings that look pretty, too.

April 25th, Ferry Building Farmers Market, she'll be teaching a hands-on class for kids. They'll learn to worm compost, mix soil, and plant strawberries.

Photos: Maria Finn

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