OAKLAND -- Stafford Buckley brings a lot of baggage with him into his recently started business, all of it good.

Throughout his life, he's had a passion for gardening and collecting information on architecture and garden design. Now he's put these interests together to create Garden Restoration, a business that offers garden design with a nod to a home's style, historical background and its neighborhood, combining time-tested traditional charm with contemporary concerns of sustainability and conservation. Buckley spent his early years in Piedmont, already collecting pieces of his hometown's architectural history and gardening.

"I've been a gardener forever. My first memory of gardening is dividing hens and chickens with my mother," he said. "Through college and after, I did gardening for clients in San Francisco."

After 20 years in San Francisco, Buckley returned to the East Bay, and in 2005, he moved to Oakland's Rockridge-Temescal area. During this time, he began searching out old gardens, training as a docent for Mountain View Cemetery on Piedmont Avenue and joining the Piedmont Historical Society. In 2008, as his career in event planning was coming to an end, the question arose about what to do next.

"It came to me that what I really like to do is clean up gardens, so garden restoration just seemed like the deal," he said. "That way, I could couple my interest and knowledge of history and architecture with my gardening skills."

A series of courses in planning and garden design at Merritt College provided the basics, and Buckley set out his garden game plan, ideally to go into a garden and be hired over a period of time to transform it, working with its' framework to return it back to its essence and work forward from there.

"I try to make the initial imprint on the land relevant," Buckley said.

With a nod toward water conservation, the garden restorer doesn't remove established plants and enjoys working with drought-tolerant varieties. For garden structures and accents, he prefers to use recycled materials, often already on the property.

"I see what's there and what we can use," he said. "I think things with a little age, patina lend the style and add tone to the garden."

With his background in reading a lot about architecture, Buckley's intent is to create a match between the home's architecture and its' garden. For one of his projects, a Spanish Moorish home in the Berkeley hills that hadn't been taken care of for years, he turned to cactuses, succulents and California natives, leaving in place large plantings of azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons, established plants requiring less water.

While garden restoration is his avid interest, Buckley also enjoys working with clients to design and install new gardens; develop master, planting and concept plans for garden structures and do consultations. He's also a popular speaker choice with local garden clubs.

Buckley believes that it requires a rotation of seasons to firmly establish a garden and takes several things into account when planning a restoration, including the neighborhood context, the sun, wind, exposure and microclimates.

"All of those things taken together create the sense of place, and that is really important to me," he said.

Taking into account the client's needs and preferences in terms of how they plan to use the garden and creating an outdoor space more sustainable than it was before, thus reducing the carbon footprint, are two of Buckley's goals.

"We have to go out into a world that's increasingly rough-and-tumble, and I want people to have something to come back to," he said. "The garden should be a thing of beauty."

FYI
Stafford Buckley's Garden Restoration: www.garden-restoration.com, 510-547-5175.