Display gardens at Sunset Publishing headquarters: San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling


Our 2nd stop on the 2nd day of the San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling was the low-slung headquarters of Sunset Publishing Corp. in Menlo Park, where we toured Sunset’s display gardens.

While central Texas is just east of the western U.S. region covered by Sunset magazine, the monthly publication is widely available on newsstands here, and I pick up a copy from time to time to admire the stylish gardens it features. So I was interested to see what the gardens at its headquarters would be like. I was not disappointed. A 3,000-square-foot test area with edible beds, colorful seating areas, and trial plants from their Western Garden Collection greets you.


I loved this orange, metal arbor — a contemporary moon gate! — from TerraTrellis, which serves as entry to a colorful flower garden. But at $840, this garden structure is, ahem, just beyond my reach.


This wooden arbor with an orange fabric shade, recycled windows, and comfortable, cushioned benches is also fabulous, and I like how the arbor is partially enclosed by a low stone wall that supports a raised bed.


Under the arbor, a charming, orange-flowered bouquet in an orange watering can on an orange side table — orange, it seems, is the hot garden color these days.


Around the corner, a sunny, patchwork patio constructed of various materials provides space for a mod, white plastic chair and table surrounded by red- and orange-flowering perennials and bronze phormium. While I like the zigzag design of the patio, I’m not a fan of the mixed materials in this case; they make the small space seem even smaller, and the white glares in the sunlight.


I do like those potted carex though.


Its sunny foliage looks great paired with orange helenium…


…which looks fine paired with ‘Blonde Ambition’ grama.


I lusted after this pistachio-colored, woven-metal side table.


It matches this green patio set and umbrella.


A sweet bouquet of nasturtiums, a little wilted in the unseasonable heat that San Francisco was experiencing while we were there


Hollyhocks and blue sky — a gorgeous combo


And who could resist colorful nasturtiums tumbling along a low, split-rail fence? Not me.


Following a path around the corner of a building, you leave the test plot and enter a more-expansive display garden, with beds representing various regions of the U.S. West surrounding a central lawn studded with a few majestic live oaks. For the most part, these gardens are more rugged and drier, more shrubby and less colorful, than the intensively cultivated test plot. A small rock placed on a boulder caressed by golden grasses caught my eye.


As did a swath of pincushiony Agave stricta in the desert garden.


Appealingly shady on this hot day, a path running through a planting of tall cactus and tree yuccas — part of the Southwest Desert and Southern California section — beckoned for cool exploration.


In the Northwest section, with Japanese maples, ferns, and other woodland plants, a trickling fountain constructed of stacked concrete troughs was attracting thirsty birds. I love the look of this fountain.


Circling back to the entry patio, I found several of my friends enjoying a shady rest: Dee of Red Dirt Ramblings in Oklahoma; Andrea (one of the Fling planners) of Grow Where You’re Planted in College Station, Texas; Susan of The Bicycle Garden in Lubbock, Texas; and Layanee of Ledge and Gardens in Rhode Island. I feel so privileged to know these wonderful women and all the other garden bloggers I’ve met thanks to the annual Fling.


Just a couple more images from the test garden — vertical frames from Plantasy – to close…


…and then it was time to jump back on the buses and head to grand Filoli.

Up next: The formal estate gardens of Filoli. For a look back at the photo workshop with Saxon Holt at San Francisco Botanical Garden, click here.

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

14 Responses

  1. Shirley says:

    Pretty garden with plant combinations we can use in Texas. Orange does seem like a trending color but that won’t keep me from using it more in my own garden.

    The planted frames using bright annuals are an interesting switch from succulents though I think they would be too hard to maintain in our heat.

    I love orange in the garden too, Shirley — and red too for that matter. Yes, those vertically framed plants would bake to a crisp here. Better to use succulents and place them in a shady spot. —Pam

  2. Alison says:

    This was an excellent look at the Sunset garden. I walked around the big green grassy area, but then didn’t explore the test area much. Thanks for giving me a close look at it.

    It was so colorful — how could you resist, Alison? :-) —Pam

  3. ALLA says:

    A wonderful garden! Thank you!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the tour, Alla. —Pam

  4. Very playful garden – love all the color. I can totally see that table in your garden – don’t you have a cool modern chair already to match it? ;) thanks for the tour!

    I can totally see that table in my garden too, Heather. If only! —Pam

  5. commonweeder says:

    Looks like there was a lot to learn in that garden. Wish I could have been there. I am enjoying the Fling tours.

    I missed you this year, Pat. Hope to see you again at the Portland Fling next year. —Pam

  6. Thanks for another great tour summary! I love that round metal arbor too – I looked at it when I saw it earlier (probably in Sunset) but also balked when I saw the price…

    The shape is unusual, and the bright color is so fun, but I suspect there’s a way to replicate the look for a lot less. We’ll have to get creative, Kris! —Pam

  7. ricki says:

    I never get too much orange, as proven by my love of the orange-on-orange bouquet and its setting. After all that, the cool of the cactus and tree yucca walk was just what the doctor ordered.

    I loved all that orange too. In fact, the hot day and bright sunshine called for blazing hot colors. But after admiring them for a bit, that walk in the shade was needed! —Pam

  8. Ally says:

    So much wonderful color! What a great looking garden. I especially like that very cool arbor! Is that attached to a building?

    No, it was freestanding, Ally, and very nicely laid out within the low walls. —Pam

  9. The arbor with the shade cloth was one of my favorite things. Liked the pizza ovens, too.

    I missed the pizza ovens! —Pam

  10. kathy says:

    Very nice report Pam, I sure wish my camera had been operational here . I am a 30 year plus subscriber to Sunset, and though it has always slanted towards the upscale I have appreciated the design ideas that are so much more relevant to the west than what you see in magazines published in the east and midwest. I’ve lived in Norcal for over 25 years and this was my first visit to Sunset !

    It must have been a special treat to visit the gardens after reading the magazine for so many years. Even though Austin is not officially in Sunset’s “realm,” many people here read it for more-relevant design and planting ideas as well. —Pam

  11. Heather says:

    I love that moon gate and that fountain . . . And of course all those hot colors. Delicious!

    Yummy, I agree! —Pam

  12. A very mod looking garden w/ plenty of good ideas. Like you, I particularly admire the stone wall with the wooden arbor. Are the windows glass, or are they just a frame? Excellent pics in hot sun. Like the curves and grid on the wilted bouquet photo.

    The recycled windows still had the glass panes, Marian. —Pam

  13. Love the tiny, electric-blue blooms (lobelia?) and hot orange against the lime-green Plantasy frame. And the carex with the helenium. Thanks for the tour!

    My pleasure, Lisa. —Pam

  14. Sunset gardens had some really great ideas of plant pairing, and is egging me on to plant Nasturtiums next year. This was quite a colorful garden.

    I love nasturtiums and tried them in my garden one year — unfortunately an early heat wave knocked them out before they really got going. Here in Austin they bloom in late winter/early spring. How about in S.C., Janet? —Pam