3 Sonoma County Gardens to Visit
An astonishing diversity of gardens fourish in Sonoma County, thanks to the region's Mediterranean climate and rich soil. Even in the dead of winter, something beautiful blooms here. Of course, just like anywhere else, spring and summer boast the greatest proliferation of colorful blossoms.
Here are three gorgeous gardens to view at their prime during spring and early summer:
Located on a former cattle ranch, Garden Valley Ranch (498 Pepper Road, Petaluma, 707-795-0919) contains more than 10,000 rose bushes (of 60-plus varieties) on its nine beautiful acres. The ranch produces field-grown cut garden roses, selling and shipping them to the floral trade around the nation. On a tour you'll get to see the stunning rose fields and much more.
One major garden feature is a Gertrude Jekyll-type display border measuring 220 feet long by 14 feet wide. Containing roses, perennials, shrubs, and annuals arranged in color sequence, it's edged in beautiful local stone.
Then there's the Pond Garden (koi pond, 100 varieties of hydrangeas, 30 of magnolia); the Fragrance Garden; and the nursery, which has more than 400 varieties of roses in stock.
Several 1880s ranch buildings have earned National Historical Landmark status. The vintage cottage, with 10-foot ceilings and a claw-foot bathtub, is available for a two-night minimum stay.
Self-guided tours are $5 a person; and docent-led tours are $10 a person (reservations required). The ranch is open for touring 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays, events permitting (please call ahead).
There are tea roses dating from the 1800s, cluster-flowered Polyanthus, ultra-sweet-smelling Noisettes, and miniature roses. There's also a wonderful butterfly garden and a gorgeous Rose Allee - a series of eight 12-foot by 12-foot iron arches set on a path through a vineyard and rose fields. Each arch is covered with a different 'theme' of rambling roses.
The "Perfume Harvest Tours" in April and May typically provide an unforgettable fragrant experience, and other special weekend classes, workshops, and events are held year round; check their events calendar for details.
The extensive outdoor nursery specializes in rare and specialty roses, focusing on those that grow well in Northern California. The nursery is also brimming with irises and hummingbird- and butterfly-attracing annuals and perennials.
Take a self-guided tour for the price of the garden map ($2) or enjoy a tour led by owner Jan Talmasoff for $4.50 per person (reservations required). On May 18 and 19, the deluxe gourmet perfume rose harvest tour (reservations required) is $75 per person, which includes the perfume tour; a rose-infused tea menu; a rose champagne toast; a presentation by the perfumer on the secrets of the rosewater distilling process and a brief history of perfume, rose oil, and rose fragrance; exclusive viewing of rare perfumes and atomizers; and entry to the display garden.
The Russian River Rose Company's show garden and nursery are open to the public on Saturday and Sundays in April and May, for special events in the fall, and by apppointment year-round.
With the spring streams running, you'll also see enormous numbers of ferns and wildflowers. Other plants include California huckleberry, which also carries pink flowers in spring and purple berries in summer, and flowering shrubs such as Pacific wax myrtle and various salal evergreens.
To get an overview, take the 2.25-mile round-trip loop trail. You can download a loop trail map as well as a park brochure with map for Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve and the adjacent Salt Point State Park.
Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset (dogs and bicycles are not allowed on the trails). The parking area is about a mile drive in on a rustic, one-lane road (no large trucks or RVs). Entry is free, but the restrooms are closed due to service/budget cuts.
Just the Beginning
These are only three of the many gorgeous gardens available for viewing in Sonoma County. For more ideas, look through our listing of Sonoma County gardens.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.