Sitting on five lushly-forested acres bordered by vineyards in northern Sonoma Valley, Wildwood Nursery showcases more than 250 varieties of Japanese maples, many of them rare. Other plants include many species of dogwoods, ginkgos, and conifers, along with edible plant starts and bonsai-style beech, maple, and evergreen trees.
But that’s not all. Scattered throughout the grounds are outdoor sculptures created by both established and emerging local artists, works of steel, ceramic, coated resin, and other weather-proof materials. Owners Ric and Sara Monte chose a perfect tagline for their nursery: “Where art and nature meet.” The whole place is actually a work of art, with gates made of welded metal or ancient barn wood, an old potting table covered with massive hand-made ceramic bowls, a whimsical recycled-wood creature peeking at you from behind a fern, one-of-a-kind fountains surprising you at a sudden turn.
But the most amazing thing here is the maple trees. There are hundreds. There are green, red, and “other” dissectums, with varieties ranging from the Baldsmith (red) to the Waterfall (green). There are upright growers covering the alphabet from the variegated-leaf Aka shigitatsu sawa to the crimson-foliaged Yugure.
And the plentiful number of dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties start with the Abigail Rose (“a charming dwarf maple with green leaves”) and run all the way to the Yuri hime (“one of the most dwarf Japanese maples”).
It usually takes first-time visitors a few minutes to understand just how many maples — most in containers, by the way — are in Wildwood Nursery’s garden. When you walk past the inviting cottage that serves as an office and turn right, entering what should be called “the maple zone,” you see quite a few organized rows of maples and other plants. That’s a good starting point for exploration.
But then, as you begin working your way to the left, the color, number, variety, and size of the trees increases in what seems an exponential proportion. At some point you’ll inevitably realize that you’ve probably never been surrounded by so many examples of Acer palmatum in your life.
Which raises the question: Could there be another few acres anywhere on the planet containing more of these graceful and gorgeous trees? Maybe, but it doesn’t seem likely.
Wildwood Nursery, 10300 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-833-1161; Wildwood ships anywhere in the US.