Changing Times, Changing Gardens: Summit 2016

Shaping a New Garden in a Challenging Environment

A designed plant community in Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park in London. Design and photo: Sarah Price

A designed plant community in Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park in London. Design and photo: Sarah Price

As our climate changes, so must our gardens. Luckily, we can look to nature for inspiration. Join Pacific Horticulture for a weekend in Sonoma County, where nature and design come together in public and private gardens both intimate and immense, one-of-a-kind nurseries, and spectacular wineries. A half-dozen of the most forward-thinking horticulturists in the West and beyond will share their ideas about creating resilient landscapes that support the surrounding environment while expressing a distinctive aesthetic.

Saturday begins with a talk by Thomas Rainer, landscape architect and co-author of Planting in a Post-Wild World (Timber Press, 2015). Based in Washington D.C., Thomas has designed landscapes for the U.S. Capitol grounds and New York Botanical Garden and is guided by design principles focusing on climate-appropriate plant communities. Michelle Sullivan, principal at Mia Lehrer + Associates, will show how public spaces in Los Angeles are being transformed into multi-use landscape systems while knitting nature into the urban fabric. Portland, Oregon, garden designer and horticultural consultant Bob Hyland has worked stints at Longwood Gardens and Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and his container plantings have been featured in The New York Times and Martha Stewart TV. He will share his ideas about making a big impact in small spaces. Tom Fischer, senior acquisitions editor at Timber Press, preeminent publisher of gardening and horticulture books, will lead a discussion among the day’s speakers.

Next we’ll head to tucked-away Glen Ellen to visit Quarryhill Botanical Garden, renowned worldwide for its large collection of wild-collected Asian plants representing the ancestors of roses, camellias, maples, dogwoods and many other garden favorites. Our October visit will ensure a fiery display of fall color. To close the day we’ll gather on Saturday evening for a reception at Shone Farm, an environmental education laboratory operated by Santa Rosa Junior College. Offering sprawling views of the farm and surrounding hillsides, Shone Farm also makes award-winning wines.

Sunday’s first speaker, Phil Van Soelen, is co-owner of California Flora Nursery. His photo presentation will show how to effectively use native and summer-dry plants for year-round interest. As president of Urban Water Group, our final speaker, Marilee Kuhlmann, is committed to designing and creating water-conserving landscapes in Southern California. She will discuss the methods and benefits of rainwater harvesting and how to create a watershed-sensitive garden.

Sunday’s self-guided tour will view Sonoma County through a lens both horticultural and ecological. Among the public garden highlights will be a private opening of the landmark Western Hills Garden, founded in 1959 by Lester Hawkins and Marshall Olbrich in rural Occidental. Located at the intersection of three watersheds, the naturalistic garden became a national treasure over its more than 50-year history.

A plant community in the shade garden of the New York Botanical Garden designed by Oehme, van Sweden Landscape Architects artfully interprets a forest floor composition. Photo: JR Palmer

A plant community in the shade garden of the New York Botanical Garden designed by Oehme, van Sweden Landscape Architects artfully interprets a forest floor composition. Photo: JR Palmer

Just down the road we’ll visit the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center, with its organic nursery of culinary and medicinal herbs and perennial food crops. The 80-acre research, demonstration, education, advocacy, and community-organizing center develops strategies for regional-scale community resilience and the restoration of biological and cultural diversity.

Another highlight will be the new Sunset Test Gardens at Cornerstone Sonoma. Garden Editor Johanna Silver and garden designer Stefani Bittner of Homestead Design Collective will be on hand to show us the themed gardens: Farm, Backyard Orchard, Flower Room, Cocktail Garden, and Gathering Space.

Numerous private gardens will be open to us, including the stunning 2.5-acre Sebastopol garden of designer Mary Reid and her husband Lew, an avid propagator. Famed Bay Area horticulturist and partner in Planet Horticulture Roger Raiche will open his enchanting garden in the Russian River hamlet of Guerneville. Roger was in charge of the California Native Plant Collection at the UC Botanical Garden and has an encyclopedic knowledge of plants from around the world.

Nurseries are prolific in Sonoma County, and we will direct you to several including California Flora, Cottage Gardens of Petaluma, Emerisa and Peacock Horticultural Nursery.

We’ve selected several wineries known not only for their sustainable grape-growing practices, but for their edible or ornamental gardens, their native habitat restoration, and of course their spectacular settings. Among our recommendations are Benziger Family Winery, DaVero Farms and Winery, Dry Creek Vineyard, Iron Horse Vineyard, and Quivira Vineyards.


Thank you to our sponsors: Blanche Thebom Trust, The Left Coast Fund, and the Miller Charitable Foundation. Program details and registration information at www.pachort.org/Summit.