In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2006
Regional Report

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The Cornerstone Festival of Gardens in Sonoma is one of many public gardens worth a visit.

Public Gardens Worth a Visit

Summer is such a wonderful time -- the fruit is ripening, vegetables are beginning to bear, and flower gardens are joyous. With the exception of watering and weeding, there's not much to do except enjoy. If you have the opportunity, may I suggest that you pay a visit to one of our many beautiful public gardens to see what other gardeners have been accomplishing. Here are my top eight destinations.

1. If you have not yet been to the newly refurbished Conservatory in Golden Gate Park, put that first on your list. The plants have settled back into their beautiful home, and the grand old glass house looks as if it has always been there. You would never know that it is all new, from the basement to the finial on top of the dome. While you are there, see if you can spot the concrete "trees" that support the orchids in the tropical lowlands room. The Conservatory is a perfect place to take out-of-town visitors.

While you are in Golden Gate Park, don't forget to stop by the Japanese Tea Garden. If, like me, it has been years since you have been there, plan to spend at least an hour wandering the paths and bridges. It's located right across from the San Francisco Botanical Garden and next door to the new DeYoung Museum. The Tea Garden was featured in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. Don't forget to visit the gift shop and tea house where you can sip green tea and nibble almond cookies. Both are still located inside the Japanese Tea garden.

2. Filoli on the peninsula is another exquisite public garden well worth an afternoon. You may need reservations to tour the house and grounds, but the effort is well worth it. Filoli is a formal garden, and the work is mostly done by volunteer labor. Filoli also has an excellent gift shop and a tea house where you can enjoy exquisite pastries. Call for reservations at (650) 364-2880.

3. Sunset Magazine and the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park are both open to the public, and both are reminiscent of old-style Spanish architecture that is famous in California. Both places use native oak and olive trees extensively throughout the grounds. Kudos to Sunset for going organic! Their grounds have been updated to inspire the Western gardener toward conservation. Allied Arts Guild is home to various sculptors and painters, and they also serve lunch. Allied Arts Guild: (650) 325-3259; Sunset Magazine: (650) 321-3600.

4. The Rosicrucian Park in San Jose is more like an old Egyptian movie set than a garden, but their roses are exquisite. The garden is part of a museum where you can see Egyptian antiquities, a science museum, and a planetarium. There is also a bookstore on site. For info, call (408) 287-9171.

5. Just south of San Jose, Hakone Gardens in Saratoga is another beautiful Asian garden well worth a visit. They have a magnificent collection of bamboo varieties. A stroll through the shady paths that meander past the pond and along the hillside makes Hakone a perfect destination for a summer afternoon. For info, call (408) 867-3438.

6. Across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County in the quiet hamlet of Sebastopol is one of my very favorite nurseries -- California Carnivores. It's on the same site as Vintage Roses and Apple Art Espalier. Further north on Highway 101 is the magnificent Luther Burbank Garden in Santa Rosa. Visiting all of these places would make an easy one-day outing for a visiting out-of-town gardener. Make sure to call before you make the trip. California Carnivores: (707) 824-0433.

7. On the way there, you can make a short side trip to the interesting Cornerstone Festival of Gardens in Sonoma. Landscape architects from around the world have small display gardens on site. It is more like a sculpture gallery than a garden, but worth the visit. They also have a gift shop where you can purchase garden art. Cornerstone Festival of Gardens: (707) 933-3010.

8. On the other side of the bay is the incredible University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, and Tilden Botanic Garden. Of the three, Ruth Bancroft is my favorite because it is a private home. Ruth has a passion for cacti and succulents, and her collection is vast. Ruth Bancroft's garden may be viewed by appointment only. Call (925) 210-9663.

The Berkeley garden covers 33 acres and is located on a hillside. The rocky terrain is home to plants from around the world that thrive in our climate. If you want to know what grows here in the Bay area, plan a visit. I love the Mather redwood grove inside the botanical garden. After a hot trek around the rocky paths, the quiet shade of the redwoods is a welcome respite. UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley: (510) 642-3343.

Take a break from your gardening chores to make a visit to any one of these magnificent gardens and I promise you will come away refreshed and inspired.


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