A white picket fence surrounds a rose garden
Garden Valley Ranch

3 Sonoma County Gardens to Visit

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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:

Garden Valley Ranch

A red rose is in the foreground, a small shed in the background at Garden Valley Ranch
Garden Valley Ranch

Located on a former cattle ranch, Garden Valley Ranch 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.

Russian River Rose Company

Pink roses crawl up a trellis at Russian River Rose Company
Russian River Rose Company

Nestled in Healdsburg's Dry Creek Valley on stunning acreage surrounded by mountains and just a quarter-mile walk from the Russian River, the Russian River Rose Company features 650 varieties of roses, and more than 2,000 individual plants ranging from ancient Species roses to 21st century hybrids.

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 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-attracting annuals and perennials. 

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. Take a self-guided tour for the price of the garden map or enjoy a tour led by owner Jan Talmasoff (reservations required). 

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 appointment year-round. 

Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve

A person stands on a bridge surrounded by ferns at Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve
Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

Tucked away on Sonoma County's northern coast a few miles south of Gualala, Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve offers one of the prettiest walks you'll ever find - especially from early spring to mid-June, when the 317-acre reserve's enormous number of spectacular rhododendrons burst into bloom. What a sight to take in, all that pink vibrancy nestled into the elegant green forest of second-growth redwoods, Douglas fir, and tanbark oak.

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). 

Just the Beginning

These are only three of the many gorgeous gardens available for viewing in Sonoma County. For more ideas, read Visit Sonoma Botanical Garden, Explore Sonoma Flowers and Winery Gardens, and 10 Sonoma Wineries with Gorgeous Gardens, or check our listings of Outdoor Activities in Sonoma County and click on Parks/Gardens

Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.