Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens: Colorful perennial and heather gardens


I was not expecting this. None of us were. As we made our way up Highway 1 along the coast of Northern California in early August, naturally I’d planned a few garden stops, including a visit to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg, expecting little more than an hour or two of pleasant diversion from the road.


Had I paid better attention to the garden’s tagline on its website — “47 acres of botanical bliss fronting the Pacific Ocean” — I would have been better prepared to be blown away by the gorgeous displays.


Botanical bliss indeed


On this summer afternoon, with the usual fog rolling in off the Pacific Ocean just half a mile distant, the light was perfect for photographing the rich hues of the perennial garden, which greets you as you enter.


My family membership to the Wildflower Center in Austin got us a big discount on our admission tickets, which was nice. When I asked the staff member what she recommended we see, she urged us to close our eyes and pass quickly through the perennial garden and head straight for the ocean trail. “Most people never get that far,” she said. “Why close our eyes?” I asked. “Because otherwise you’ll get dazzled,” she said.


Well, I’ve never been able to shut my eyes to botanical beauty, and I wasn’t about to pass up perfect light for photography, so we wandered through the perennial garden two or three times, all of us dazzled. I especially love this combo of smoke tree, ‘Mardi Gras’ helenium, and tall verbena.


An ornamental grass and black-eyed Susans


I tried to find the name of this sculpture online but came up empty. What is she doing — dribbling two invisible basketballs?


Alstroemeria and poppies


Hypericum androsaemum ‘Albury Purple’


The perennial garden was designed by Gary Ratway, whose own remarkable garden I’d just visited at his and his wife Deborah’s Digging Dog Nursery, so I should have realized it would be spectacular.


As the garden’s website explains, “Our mild coastal climate allows herbaceous plants from all over the world to thrive….Frequent fog acts as a cooling and humidifying blanket, reducing the intensity of the full sun, while trees shield the perennials from strong ocean winds and form an attractive backdrop.”


European weeping purple beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea Pendula’) and, I think, a purple geranium


Mounded beds mitigate wet soil from a high water table, ensuring that even dry-loving plants like thyme and sedum thrive.


‘Elfin’ thyme, ‘Red Carpet’ sedum, and Scleranthus biflorus Scotch moss (Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’). (Thanks for the correct ID, Evan and Loree.)


Sedum, Scotch moss, and other low groundcovers make a colorful tapestry.


Weeping beech leaf and Scotch moss


Rich color contrasts


The bigger picture


Wonderful foliage


Stone herons fish at a small pond with pitcher plants.


Herons and fairy wand flower (Dierama pulcherrimum)


Cordyline ‘Jurred’ and Salvia transsilvanica, with a smoke tree echoing the cordyline’s rich color.


A wider view shows tall verbena and a coppery red yarrow.


Salvia transsilvanica and New Zealand burr (Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’)


Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear’


Anyone know this one? Update: It’s Angelica stricta ‘Purpurea’. (Thanks to everyone who commented on it!)


Yarrow echoes a golden conifer in the distance.


Pink yarrow too


Lovely color echoes and contrasts


Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ and Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Irene Paterson’


Red tussock grass (Chionochloa rubra)


Persicaria and amsonia Spirea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ (thanks for the ID, Evan and Lynn!)


I love this long view of twisted tree trunks and mounds of low foliage.


With fuchsia


Pink anemone


Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)


A stunning Dacrydium cupressinum (Rimu) from New Zealand


Here is where the garden’s acclaimed Heath and Heather Collection begins. “Heaths and heathers are beautiful, undemanding plants that require full sun, and cool soil with perfect drainage. Our mild maritime climate and sandy, acidic soils create an ideal environment for them,” the website explains.


“Heaths (Erica) have needle-like foliage blooming early winter through the summer. Heathers (Calluna) have tighter, overlapping scale-like foliage blooming late summer through the fall.”


‘Pat’s Gold’ heather (Calluna vulgaris) is on the right.


Set amid the mounding plants, Phoenix Tree, a welded-steel tree-like sculpture by Diego Harris, was for sale for $6,000. I saw another of his works on this trip, Time Killer at Sonoma Cornerstone.


‘Sister Anne’ heather (Calluna vulgaris) in the foreground


Moving on…


Green santolina (Santolina virens)


Gray New Zealand tea tree (Leptospermum brevipes)


Giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea) and an unknown but beautiful dark-leaved tree — anyone know it?. Update: It’s peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa ‘Jervis Bay Afterdark’) from Australia. (Thanks for the ID, Evan and Kris!)

Up next: Part 2 of my visit to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, including the stunning Dahlia Garden. For a look back at dramatic coastal views along Highway 1 in Northern California, 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.

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.

Datura’s morning glow


The datura (Datura wrightii) I planted in the front garden a few years ago has petered out and needs replacing. But this volunteer that self-seeded in the back garden is growing beautifully. Moreover, it asks nothing from me except an occasional pinching back of stems that threaten to overpower nearby plants.


Almost every evening it unfurls white, fragrant trumpets that glow all night and into the next morning.


Such a heady fragrance! And aren’t the spurs on the folded-linen flowers interesting?


A beauty, but all parts are deadly if ingested, so be cautious about planting it if you have pets or children that like to graze.

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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