Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Satchel's Pizza Garden

Here in Gainesville, Florida is a great little garden surrounding a place called Satchel's Pizza. The garden is an impressive mixture of landscape and art that has been under construction since 2003.
The property is filled with an amazing assortment of plants and decorations including hubcaps, bottle caps, floppy discs and just about any other castoff thing you can imagine. Everywhere you look there are interesting details: murals, tile benches, and huge mixing pots filled with plants. Even the trash cans are decorated.

The restaurant is owned and operated by artist and restaurateur Satchel Raye.  Raye created much of the art on the site, though it's been supplemented by the work of employees and talented folks just passing through.

Plantings enliven the entire site, but  the main garden is the area immediately in front of the restaurant. Lying along busy 23rd Avenue, it does an great job of buffering the traffic and creating a sense of other-worldliness, especially at night. The garden is a relaxed organic design of plants and winding paths boldly edged in cast-off concrete columns (I wonder what they were originally designed for...) and anchored by an old Ford Falcon van now used for seating small groups.

Sculptures are scattered here and there throughout the garden. One touch I found especially intriguing was the use of bald cypress knees as a decorative element. I never would have thought of that myself, but when I saw them it seemed like an obvious and undiscovered use for them.  Not sure where you'd get them though.

The garden was started several years ago under the care of Jeff Zicheck, who brought in loads of organic mushroom compost to create the basis for the garden. Since then it's grown into a lush oasis. I've only been in Florida less than a year so I'm not really familiar with most of the plants growing here. Raye said he had things  like figs, sugar cane, tangerine, guava, cherries, crazy cactus and sago palm, some of which are used in their delicious food. The garden is irrigated with rain runoff from the roof, which is stored in two big tanks behind the kitchen.

The warm climate in Gainesville allows for a nice variety of maze-like spaces on the property, ranging from  completely indoors, through screened porches and a covered patio, and out to the open air seating. There's also a custom-built children's playground, bocce court, and a space for live music. And in the very back corner is a long-narrow greenhouse where they nurse plants. It's really great how the site invites people to hang out and explore before or after their dinner.

With its assemblage of recycled materials, the garden reminds me quite a bit of the Houston Beer Can House and Garden, though it's more sophisticated in execution. It also reminds me in a way of  Chanticleer, another garden that fuses landscape and art (as opposed to what I might call 'design', as in most cutting-edge gardens). As with Chanticleer, the  landscape is not just a setting for art, but part of it. Satchel's garden though, is much rawer and funkier than Chanticleer, and denser with art.

The main thing that ties all this wackiness together is a skillful use of color. The palette of the garden is dominated by the rich oranges, reds and golds used on the buildings and repeated on assorted sculptures. The colors nicely complement the darker greens of the plants, and unifying the space. 

Unfortunately, Satchel's was hit by a fire in February, and has been closed for repairs. But I'm looking to the  reopening scheduled for this month.  Check out their website: http://www.satchelspizza.com. You can also browse my photos on flickr.


Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Sorry to hear that cool spot was hit by fire. What a fun place to have to eat and peruse the garden. Funny how many new plants there are in a relatively close zone. (sort of). Look forward to seeing more of Florida.

Les said...

I am glad you took the time to blog again. This garden reminds of a place in Charleston which was always on my tour for friends and family while I lived there. The garden was surrounded by a chainlink fence, and the fence was the garden. The lady who lived there attached everything she found to that fence. It was so organic, so messy and so wonderful.