Happy Earth Day 2011

Greetings from Quarrryhill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen, CA.

We spent the morning in this 20-acre Asian woodland garden just north of Sonoma, where species trees, shrubs and plants from all over Asia flourish in a semi-wild habitat that is culturally and visually similar to their native China, Japan, India, Nepal and Cambodia.  A series of paths in the rocky, steep property wind along a stream, which opens into ponds and waterfalls. “The mission of Quarryhill Botanical Garden is to advance the conservation, study and cultivation of the temperate flora of Asia,” reads the brochure, which explains that the garden was begun in 1987, when local resident Jane Davenport Jansen started sending expeditions to Asia to bring back seedlings to plant on the rocky, steep hillsides above her home.

This beautiful tree with lilac flowers is Paulowinia fortunei

It was lovely to walk to the top and arrive at the “prayer flag tent,” which might have been decorated extra nicely for their Earth Day celebration. At base camp, vendors were selling herbal teas and remedies and demonstrating beekeeping and how to plant seedlings in pots made from recycled newspaper.

We admired the pink and yellow buds of Campanula punctata

It was impossible not to notice that almost every plant in Quarryhill (Zone 8-B) also flourishes in Westchester County, NY (Zone 6-B): dogwoods, maples, magnolias, viburnums, rhododendrons, wild roses. The understory is populated with cotoneaster, ferns, irises, wild ginger—everything just beginning to burst into bloom. What are not there are the Mediterranean plants usually associated with Northern California, which are everywhere else around here: eucalyptus, palms, olive trees, grape vines, agave, cacti.

The garden, which is maintained by a staff of horticulturists and volunteers, is open every day of the year from 9 to 4, and there is a full schedule of lectures, workshops and tours. Next time you’re in the area for a wine tour, make a point of stopping here, too.

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint, Salon.com, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
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