Late Summer in Occidental California

A trip to Occidental is high on many weekend travel lists of northern Californians, whether just a short jaunt for those living in Sonoma county or a destination for those living further away.  The area boasts gorgeous scenery, good eats, and precious time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The added appeal to gardeners this August is a chance to stock your fall and winter garden with an incredible collection of seedlings and also visit one the best loved ornamental plant collections in northern California.

A major fundraiser for the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, this is where you want to be as you get ready to grow one of your most delicious and diverse winter gardens ever.  The sale takes place Saturday and Sunday, August 18th and 19th, just a half mile from downtown Occidental.

Volunteers tending the gardens at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. Photo: OAEC

Your purchases also help support a wonderful organization that curates and propagates a diverse plant and seed collection of over 3,000 varieties. of heirloom, open-pollinated annuals, and over 1,000 varieties of edible, medicinal, and ornamental perennials and educates, donates, and generally spreads the word about the value of small-scale and human-powered organic gardening.

Your second stop is Western Hills Gardens just a few minutes drive from your vegetable shopping expedition.  Once a nursery, it is now being renovated to showcase the collection of rare plants in a spectacular setting. Established by Lester Hawkins and Marshall Olbrich in 1960, Western Hills was a mecca for plant aficionados both local and from around the world. Under new owners Christine and Tim Szybalski, a major milestone in the restoration Western Hills has been accomplished, and you’ll find a tranquil space with plants and trees of all types along meandering paths. Note that the garden is open only on Saturday (there is a $9 admission fee) so plan your trip accordingly.

The Pond at Western Hills Garden. Photo: WHG

Occidental is a mecca for wonderful food of all types.  See the recommendations the folks at Western Hills Garden make. A stop for food and drink  for breakfast after your drive to Occidental or lunch/dinner after your shopping trip is the perfect accompaniment to this outing.