Sunday, May 25, 2014

Return to Western Hills


I couldn't tell you when the last time was that I walked through this gate , into what was our Northern California version of Heronswood--the bohemian iteration without the mail order, but with a palette of plants otherwise unknown to commerce. Like Heronswood it had fallen into neglect and disarray much to the dismay of west coast gardeners. You can read about the history , decline, fall and rescue of Western Hills Nursery here .

 Now reborn as Western Hills Garden, the restoration efforts have been fruitful . I visited on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago, which was unfortunately too sunny for decent photos ...an excuse to return.!

 

 Look! It's the same sign, with a few modifications. Unlike the 'old days' there is an entry fee of 10.00, which I was happy to pay if it helps ensure the survival of this garden. Back in the early  80's when I first visited , the plants in the display gardens seemed incredibly exotic. There was not a Restio or a Cotinus to be found in any garden center I knew of. In fact I would venture to say I had no clue what 90% of the plants in this garden were . I know I bought plants here , but don't recall what they were for the most part --except for  Phlox divaricata -unknown in local garden centers at the time.

  The plants here were selected for for our Mediterranean winter-wet, summer-dry climate. Back in the 70's gardeners here were still trying to duplicate the classic herbaceous border  or worse Victorian bedding-out , and the likes of Salvias, grasses, Kniphofias , and Phormiums were rarely seen.





  The ponds were beautifully restored, the bridges repaired .









 The layering of the now mature trees was splendid to behold. Did Lester and Marshal plan this ? Was it a happy accident?  Here the trees provide a backdrop to a meadow planting.






 A small pond near the rock garden.






Gigantic person-height Callas.









 I felt good about the progress of the garden , and the owners commitment to it's survival. It is not however a non-profit (nor was it in the glory days) and will be dependent on the support of the gardening community and the willingness of the current owners to stay the course with what is likely to be a low or no profit operation. Thank goodness for volunteers.

 For more information , you can visit Western Hills' website here .