Scenic coastal views along Highway 1 in Northern California


A road trip gives you the freedom to explore along the way, to make detours or just stop at an overlook to enjoy a view. In early August we made a family road trip up the coast of Northern California, a region we’d never seen beyond Stinson Beach just north of San Francisco. Driving up Highway 1, which hugs the dramatic coastline, gave us many opportunities to get out of the car and gaze at the wild Pacific Ocean.

Goat Rock Beach


One of our stops along the way was Goat Rock Beach near Jenner. We carried a sack of bread, cheese, and apples to a wave-smoothed log (high up and away from the water), sat in a row, and enjoyed one of the best-tasting meals on the trip. There’s just something about eating outdoors amid beautiful scenery. Out past the surf, Arched Rock invited views through its wave-carved peephole into the great beyond.


Artfully stacked beach stones defied gravity all along Blind Beach (on the north side of Goat Rock). Someone had been busy! I understand there’s controversy over these Zen-like cairns, since it disturbs the natural ecosystem and is a constant reminder of human presence. But we hadn’t seen many and were charmed.


Numerous painted rocks were placed for discovery along the beach too, including this face added to a driftwood log.


Flipping a stone over, we found a message:

Post on FB
WCPR
Keep or rehide

Searching on Facebook later, I learned there’s a group called West Coast Painted Rocks that encourages people to paint rocks and hide them outdoors for people to discover to “promote random acts of kindness.” We found a couple of hidden ones and many out in the open, and we debated keeping one but decided to leave them for someone else to discover.

Along Highway 1, somewhere between Goat Rock and Mendocino


After Goat Rock, we spent the night in charming Healdsburg, then picked up Highway 1 after lunch the next day. A highway overlook tempted us to stop, and we were rewarded with this view.


So different from the flat, sugar-sand beaches I grew up visiting in South Carolina.

Mendocino


We spent two nights in Mendocino, a tiny town of charming 1800s-era buildings perched atop a headland overlooking the ocean.


Located 3-1/2 hours north of San Francisco, it may as well be in a different time zone, so different is its slow pace and old-fashioned charm.


Along the edge of the headland, just across from town, walking trails wind through grasses and coastal scrub…


…offering dramatic vistas of sheer, crumbly cliffs and roiling surf.


A beach below was littered with water-smoothed, sun-bleached trunks of trees, many of which had been stacked by beach-goers into shelters and low-slung forts. What is it with West Coasters and their stacking mania?


Only 894 people live in Mendocino, and among the houses we saw this colorful, fenced garden. I believe the tall building may be a water tower.


Notice the driftwood flowers? I wonder if the homeowner made them.

Russian Gulch State Park


Heading out of town we stopped at nearby Russian Gulch State Park and admired the view of an arched bridge we had just crossed. The fog had rolled in, softening the light and creating a feeling of autumnal melancholy that was emphasized by tawny grasses.


We followed a trail along the cliff’s edge…


…and I stopped to admire wildflowers (California buckwheat?) clinging to the crumbling soil.


Below the cliff, a sea cave led into the bluff. See the paddock-like fence in the distance?


It encircles the Devil’s Punchbowl, a blowhole formed when the interior of the sea cave collapsed.


The tide was low, so we didn’t get to see much of the frothing and blowing that occurs during high tide, but it was an impressive sight nonetheless.


The Pacific Coast has a windswept, lonely beauty to it, and also a sense of danger. Numerous signs near beaches warn about sneaker waves, steep drop-offs, rip currents, hypothermia-inducing water, and tsunamis. These are not swimming beaches (although we saw plenty of people playing in the surf and taking their chances). As you drive Highway 1, you’re constantly entering and leaving tsunami danger zones, as indicated by signs at low points along the coast. It was all a strange and beautiful world, an unstable landscape but a majestic one.

Up next: Perennials, heaths, and heathers at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. For a look back at the garden of Gary Ratway and Deborah Whigham, owners of Digging Dog Nursery, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Cactus & Succulent Society hosts its Fall Show and Sale on September 2 & 3, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, at Zilker Botanical Garden (2220 Barton Springs Road). Come see rare and beautiful cacti and succulents and shop for plants and handcrafted pottery. Admission is free with paid entry to Zilker Botanical Garden ($2 adults, $1 children and seniors).

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Garden of Gary Ratway and Deborah Whigham and their Digging Dog Nursery


Stepping through a dark-leaved doorway in a beech hedge into the display gardens at Digging Dog Nursery, located in Albion, California, you feel a bit like Alice falling into the rabbit hole. What awaits on the other side? A potted boxwood draws you through the hedge…


…and then wow! A ribbon of emerald lawn leads you past a deep bed of flowering perennials, shrubs, and trees, set off by a mist of blue catmint in front.


Owners Deborah Whigham and Gary Ratway, the husband-and-wife team who founded Digging Dog 35 years ago and operate it as a mail-order nursery of unusual and hard-to-find plants, kindly allowed me to stop by earlier this month, on a day the nursery was closed. I was passing through on a family road trip up the Northern California coast, and I was thrilled to visit the nursery’s display gardens that I’ve heard so much about over the years.


Fog was settling over the gardens on that late August afternoon, softening the light and making foliage and flowers, like these eryngium, seem to glow.


I didn’t recognize most of the plants, so I can’t ID them for you. You cool-climate gardeners may know them anyway, and we hot-climate gardeners probably can’t grow them. So let’s just soak in the beauty, shall we?


Flowers the color of crushed peppermints


Looking back along the path


Steely blue eryngium


At the end of that long grassy path, steps are planted with geranium and other low growers.


From the steps you get a view of another long path, and an unusual sight…


…weeping silver pears (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) trained on vertical arcs of rusty steel along the path. They remind me of leaping dolphins, or the crests of large waves.


A tidy pot of horsetail reed acts as a focal point and marks a crossroads where another path leads off to the right.


Past the horsetail pot, the path terminates at a wooden bench. But let’s turn right at the intersecting path, where you see…


…a raised circular pond, taller than any stock-tank ponds I’ve seen, encircled by perforated steel panels. Very cool!


Waterlilies float on the surface, including coral-pink ‘Colorado’, which I grow in my own pond. Beyond the pond, hornbeam columns and a wavy, Oudolf-inspired hedge add geometry and architecture to a meadowy garden. Pointy conifers make a sawtoothed frame in the distance.


I stepped around the pond and then looked back to admire those striking weeping pears, silver against a dark-green hedge, with the early-turning foliage of some other trees (I forget the name) beyond the hedge. In the foreground, small burgundy-leaved shrubs add yet more foliage color.


Here’s Gary, the designer of this beautiful garden. He’s also a landscape architect and founder/owner of Integrated Design, and a delight to talk with.


Tall grasses and flowering perennials mingle in harmony.


Great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), one of my favorites here.


Another view


Rattlesnake master rising tall and pale


Vivid crocosmia against a backdrop of tawny ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass


All these vivid colors, not to mention the cool weather (around 60F), made it feel like late October or early November to this Texan.


Hydrangea and grasses


My daughter took this picture of a globe thistle (Echinops) and shared it with me. I wish I could grow these!


One of many handcrafted benches in the garden


This small overlook offers a view of the hornbeam columns and wavy hedge.


Fuchsia dangling alongside the path. These were blooming everywhere in the Mendocino area.


Another lovely path with a bench at the end


Jerusalem sage (Phlomis) and red hot poker (Kniphofia)


Such beautiful scenes, everywhere I looked


Even the non-gardeners were enjoying the visit.


A small orchard and vegetable garden, sited where there’s enough sunlight amid all the tall redwoods on the property.


The walls and columns that provide architecture and create garden rooms are Gary’s creation, made of rammed earth, and blend in nicely with the plants and gravel paving.


A clematis scrambles up a column.


Inviting paths to explore, everywhere you turn. I could spend hours here.


More fuchsia


A nearly black shrub makes a perfect foil for bright-green fern and hot-pink anemone.


Anemone closeup


The peeling ginger trunks of paperbark maple glowed in the late afternoon light. (Thanks for the ID, Evan.)


At its base, a shining white anemone


A closer look


Gary and Deborah’s home is located on the property, behind the nursery. I’m not sure how much of the gardens is their personal space versus nursery display gardens. It seemed to blend seamlessly as Gary led us through. This, however, is their own back patio, where a sunset-hued succulent wreath hanging on a metal chair frame caught my eye.


Lovely


A grotto-like pond filled with waterlilies is accented with potted plants including a stunning Stachys ‘Bello Grigio’. On a back ledge sits a toy VW Bus, a reminder of one Gary once drove.


More glowing succulents and grasses (sedges?) on a dining table


And more unique pots and plants by the back door, including a giraffe-necked, nearly black aeonium.


I adore that pinched pot on the right.


One of Digging Dog’s many four-footed ambassadors


At the front of the house, you walk through a sparkler-like tunnel of giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea).


Grasses and rammed-earth wall panels


Huge thanks to Digging Dog owners Deborah and Gary for welcoming us into their home and garden and showing us all the beauty they’ve made there! It was a delight to meet them.


If you’re not familiar with Digging Dog Nursery, check out their online catalog and see what treasures you can find. If you’re in the area and want to visit, they do also sell retail, but check their hours, as they’re off the beaten path and not open to visitors every day. Their website lists their summer hours currently as Tuesday by appointment only; Wednesday-Saturday 10 am to 4 pm.

Up next: Dramatic coastal views at Goat Rock Beach, Mendocino, and Russian Gulch State Park. For a look back at the beautiful Sunset Test Gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Cactus & Succulent Society hosts its Fall Show and Sale on September 2 & 3, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, at Zilker Botanical Garden (2220 Barton Springs Road). Come see rare and beautiful cacti and succulents and shop for plants and handcrafted pottery. Admission is free with paid entry to Zilker Botanical Garden ($2 adults, $1 children and seniors).

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Edibles, outdoor living, and more at Sunset Gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma


While touring the Cornerstone Sonoma gardens in Sonoma, California, a couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a two-fer. Sunset’s Test Gardens relocated to Cornerstone in 2016, and after a year of growth they’re already looking amazing. A glowing vertical garden of sempervivums, planted in the orange Sunset logo, greets you as you enter.


Sunset, publisher of Sunset Magazine, sold its longtime Menlo Park location in 2014, leaving behind its beloved display gardens, which I toured during the San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling in 2013.


Sunset’s new gardens at Cornerstone were designed by Homestead Design Collective, whose co-founder Stefani Bittner is a fellow Ten Speed Press author. She’s co-author of The Beautiful Edible Garden, a terrific book about designing edible gardens that not only taste good but look good year-round.


The Sunset gardens consist of 5 distinct spaces: Flower Room, Farm, Cocktail Garden, Gathering Space, and Backyard Orchard. I explored the Farm garden first, drawn in along a basil-lined path through round trellis arbors by TerraTrellis. A wood-framed greenhouse stands at the end of the path, with meadowy plants visible through its glass walls.


Inside, a few simple pots of succulents adorn the airy space.


Along the path, sour gherkins dangle enticingly from one trellis.


A double axis means that when you look back, you enjoy an enticing view that way as well. This way the path leads to…


…the ready-for-lounging Cocktail Garden: “In this drinkable garden, everything growing can be mixed, muddled, or blended into tasty libations. Culinary bay, pineapple guava, pomegranates, and lavender make the foundation plantings, and a hop vine (whose dried flowers add the bitter note to beer) makes a beautiful, robust trellis climber. Potted specialty citrus and mints show our readers who are short on space that they can still grow a bounty in containers.”


Pomegranate against blue sky


Leaving the edible gardens, I admired prairie-like flowerbeds of grasses and pollinator favorites like Echinacea purpurea (this cultivar is ‘White Swan’) and Verbena bonariensis.


‘White Swan’ echinacea and tall verbena. The grass looks like bamboo muhly, but I’m not sure.


A burgundy-leaved crepe myrtle stands out against bright greens and yellows.


A classic and crowd-pleasing combo of purple coneflower and tall verbena.


A serpentine decomposed-granite path leads through the flowers and grasses to the Backyard Orchard garden, where a beautiful galvanized-wire sculpture of a tree makes a striking and appropriate focal point.


Tree of Life, the creation of New Zealand sculptor Regan Gentry, represents a California chestnut and was originally the centerpiece of a Cornerstone garden called Ecology of Place.


When that garden was removed to make way for the new Sunset gardens, the sculpture was left in place, glinting in the sunlight above verbena and surrounded by the orchard’s new fruit trees.


There’s a sense of movement in those swirling silver wires.


Next is an easy-care foliage garden in Gathering Space, “an updated take on an outdoor living room, inspiring us to move the party outside.”


This looks like a distinctively California garden to my eyes: upscale picnic table on a golden decomposed-granite patio, olive trees, and silvery and chartreuse low-water plants. ‘Platinum Beauty’ lomandra (I’m planning to trial this one soon!) edges the bed behind the picnic table. I think that’s ‘Beyond Blue’ fescue around the olive tree.


I wonder if this could possibly hold up in our climate. Our unrelenting hothouse summer is often the deal-breaker for those dry-loving and high-country plants I covet.


Here’s a pretty touch: star-shaped Aloe striata (hybrid) planted amid the blue fescue.


This, however, could be an autumn scene in Austin: Gulf muhly in flower with purple coneflower and tall verbena. Beautiful! We won’t see flowering like this in Austin for at least another month, starting in early October, so it was a treat to enjoy it in August.

Up next: Gary and Deborah Ratway’s garden and acclaimed nursery Digging Dog in Albion, CA. For a look back at the remarkable conceptual gardens of Cornerstone Sonoma, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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