Awards Program Past Honorees

Within the public and community spaces in Oakland, The Plant Exchange wishes to acknowledge a cluster of organized efforts that strengthen planting on our public streets and spaces.


Pablo and Maria Rodriguez



Pablo and Maria have taken a modest concrete covered front yard and largely with the use of recycled containers, clustered them together and filled them with an inspiring array of roses, hedge and accent evergreens. This floral display is also enriched with benches, seats and a fountain.

Pablo, a landscape gardner by profession has created a striking family home which demonstrates tremendous design skill in its concept and execution.

This garden and historian house stand on one of the major pedestrian thoroughfares for pedestrians walking to BART and is the major landscape statement in the neighborhood.

Hayward Blake Jr.



Hayward, both individually and as a part of wider community projects, has been a driving force behind the volunteer engagement and development of resources to beautify the City of Oakland’s public landscapes.

Highlights of his work include: Park Boulevard median strip, landscaping at Glenview School and Edna Brewer School, landscape renovation at various locations within Dimond Park, public median landscape development at 25th St. and San Pablo Ave.

Hayward is known for his infectious enthusiasm and commitment to volunteering, both which have inspired others to get involved themselves.


Mark Ramirez

The 9 year old garden at 54 Linda Street emerged from a desire to have a lawn free yard. Mark Ramirez used knowledge from his training as a docent at the Ruth Bancroft Garden to transform his front and back yards into a rich plant palette of varying textures and shapes. The garden is maintained with precision and unusual attention to detail.

The tremendous success of this garden is that it complements the overall landscape setting in a scale appropriate for the shingle-style craftsman house, yet it simultaneously features miniature detailing which enlarges the garden concept beyond its physical boundaries.

The act of creating this garden has led Mark into consulting and implementing other gardens in the Bay area.

Victoria Rocha


Tora is a plant lover and promoter who uses innovative strategies in an age of diminished resources. She energized and expanded Earth Day and Martin Luther King Day to bring in hundreds of volunteers and support from organizations like Google and Apple into the Lake Merritt Gardens, which was recently featured in the 2014 summer issue of Pacific Horticulture magazine. She started the Pollinator Posse of Oakland which includes a program to give butterfly eggs and host plants from the Lake Merritt butterfly garden to individuals to strengthen the migratory patterns of the butterfly population. Tora’s weeks are filled with near-heroic park management with continuous challenges.


Ann Nicols
DSCN3371Off the upper portion of Grand Avenue, in a neighborhood like many older Oakland streets, is the house and garden of Ann (and Greg) Nichols. Over the years Ann has created a residential garden which is stunning in concept and execution.

This private garden is an extraordinary collection of plant materials within a beautifully crafted garden framework, which create a profoundly enriching and masterful setting. Ann’s empathy, love and knowledge of plants has allowed her to create richly colored groupings and areas of plants. Ann’s artistic sensibilities have allowed her to juxtapose contrasting textures into rich, textural vignettes. Ann’s love of all plants has allowed her to select the commonplace and the exotic into highly personal but resonant contrasting combinations which challenge how we think about plants. Ann’s vision has also allowed her to construct a garden incorporating non-plant pieces of the garden harmoniously together.

The structure of the garden is a brilliant sequence of areas flowing together, yet distinct in their character. These spaces miraculously incorporate honored garden space concepts from centuries old American gardens transcending many of the more regionally based northern California counterparts. Ann has a very keen sense of the distinct environmental conditions around the property and the plant materials are perfectly adapted to these conditions.

The plantings at the property frame the house and garage with grace, integrating the structures in their setting in a balanced way, enhancing the residential experience of the property and creating a seamless continuity between the structures and the garden.

At this site, there is much to learn and experience about plant materials, design, horticulture and above all how to honor even the most common plant and recognize that every plant has qualities that can be engaging and worthwhile. Such a perspective is life-enhancing, and the completeness and vigor with which Ann has carried out her philosophy is truly awe-inspiring.

The West Oakland Greening Initiative
DSCN3744Alex Miller Cole
Ray Kidd
Christopher Buckley

The West Oakland Greening Initiative is a group of largely volunteers who plant trees in West Oakland. This on-going effort, with help from other sister organizations is gradually greening our neighborhood streets. This kind of effort softens our urban landscape with a number of ecological and cultural benefits. Alex Miller Cole manages and promotes The West Oakland Greening Initiative.

Many individuals all over Oakland take it upon themselves to share their gifts of good will and time in efforts to support the efforts of greening our city streets.
Ray Kidd, one of these many givers, is regularly seen lugging water to recently planted trees to help them through the trees’ first summers of no rain. Ray is one of the hundreds of individuals who give their time out on our streets.

Finally, Christopher Buckley, another independent player, has undertaken to work at the administrative levels (and on the streets) to enlarge tree selections allowable in public plantings,.This unique set of skills has involved, among other things, education of city staff, advocacy and sustained advocacy until public policy changes. Chris has donated trees for planting in a benefactor’s role, and ultimately hopes to coalesce his passion for greener public streets into an urban design plan for planting on the city streets. Christopher’s work is an on-going project of noteworthy proportions.