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.

Potted patio where succulents rule


Shaded by a big live oak, our back patio stays relatively cool, even on hot days. That shade also makes it a good spot for a variety of potted plants, especially succulents that prefer bright shade in our blistering climate.


Agave parryi var. truncata is one of my favorite small agaves, with those striking black spines and round blue leaves. It cozies up in a galvanized tub with a Texas tuberose (Manfreda maculosa) and Artemisia stelleriana ‘Quicksilver’.


Another blue beauty, but much bigger, is my new whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), which replaced Moby after he bloomed last year. Skirted by silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea), it’s a cool, silvery vision of agave loveliness.


‘Macho Mocha’ mangave and datura grow in the lower level, adding some green along with a glass gazing ball.


For fun — a Tentacle Wall. Wiggly-legged pots from Tentacle Arts hold wavy-armed Xerographica tillandsias spring through fall; in winter they live indoors. Metal octopuses add a few more tentacles to the mix.


Steps leading up the back door host a colorful array of pots containing purple oxalis along with more succulents.


And of course the cinderblock succulent wall is here too. (Here’s how I made it, including how I kept the soil from falling out of the holes — everyone asks!)


So how about you? Are you into potted plants on your patio?

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.

Brookside Gardens and a Dougherty twig sculpture: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


One of our stops on the Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling was Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, where I was smitten by a stand of Verbena bonariensis along a formal path.


I didn’t end up taking many pictures at this garden but rather just strolled through it until I happened upon the Purple.


How pretty is that verbena, standing tall over tufts of grass?


A few more random scenes, including this cobalt fountain backed by the burgundy leaves of several Japanese maples…


…and this Big Bird-sized sculpture.


It also functions as a birdhouse! Half of its beak is open, and birds had nested in there.


Speaking of big birds, this twiggy sculpture by Patrick Dougherty is big enough to house a pair of them.


While strolling around Reston Town Center, where the Fling hotel was located, I immediately recognized the nest-like structure as a Dougherty sculpture, having seen another at McKee Botanical Garden in Florida.


A Bird in the Hand consists of ash, red maple, hickory, willow, and other saplings and was woven on-site. As we explored its curved passages, we were nearly deafened by a chorus of chirping birds living inside the man-made hedgerow. The artist titled it well!


And here’s our group, all smiles as we prepare to start Flinging the next day: Laura and Diana, who are my co-planners for the upcoming Austin Fling 2018 (woot!); Diana of Garden With Diana; and Julie of Garden Delights. Delightful blogging friends!

Up next: My visit to Hillwood Estate and its lovely Japanese garden. For a look back at the stunning hillside garden of Barbara Katz, 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

Book Giveaway! I’m giving away a copy of a fun new book, Potted, that’ll inspire you to DIY your own uniquely cool garden planters for porch, patio, or deck. Just leave a comment on my giveaway blog post to enter (click the link and comment there), and good luck! The giveaway ends Friday, July 14, 2017.

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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