Who Knew ? A World Class Private Garden in Petaluma

 Either Sara Malones' extraordinary garden is an unknown, or I am not hanging out with the right crowd. Maybe combinations thereof. Back in June my friend Denise of A Growing Obsession arranged for a visit to Saras' garden at the tail end of a mini garden-blogger get together in Mendocino County. Sarah generously agreed to our Monday morning visit and escorted us enthusiastically through the garden. You can read Denises post here- .

  I wasn't really sure what to expect-my understanding was that Sarah collected conifers (how I would love to collect conifers) but the reality is that Sara collects everything-trees, shrubs, perennials and succulents. For me what defined the garden was the trees. I am a admitted tree-ignoramus-it's my weakest link in horticultural knowledge. I have no room for trees in my own garden so I don't concentrate my hort education efforts in that direction. It's not that I don't know any, but I don't know many.

 I am probably a broken record when it comes to complaining about strong contrasty light on garden visits, and of course we arrived at Circle Oaks Ranch on a sunny, cloudless, beautiful late morning . I fiddled with these photos the best I could in Lightroom, and I hope they at least convey some idea of the depth and breadth of the plant inventory in this garden. I really regret that I was not more diligent in writing down plant names and some of the history of the garden that Sarah shared with us. I will tell you, she is an absolute encyclopedia.

 This fantastic pond-waterfall feature greeted us early in the tour.

In this entry area you can see a few non-everyday plants. Cussonia in the lower left. Is the tree a Palo Verde ? I don't know, but I feel good about the ID of the palm as a Bismarkia.

 This scene feels positively Oregonian.  No idea what those fabulous conifers on the right are.

And speaking of conifers..

 Lets combine Restios with an impressive speciman of Yucca 'Bright Star' and a few more conifers as a backdrop.

 There was talk of setting up a wedding venue here, as I recall this area of the property was its' future home.

 I wish I had taken some notes when Sara was explaining the development of this rock-garden /desert garden area.The rock work was fantastic and  I didn't get enough photos.

The trees !  And I am so clueless. Is this fabulous or what ?

The variegation on these leaves with the red stems.

 Maybe Denise will help me out here-I think this is a conifer from New Zealand. Pretty sure we gawked at this for some time.

 Here are a few images from the garden at the front of the house.

 The best looking variegated Acanthus I have ever seen anywhere hands down. Should have taken some close-ups.  I think my Acanthus phobia came into play.

 Saras garden is open from time to time on various Sonoma County garden tours . I hope to keep track of the openings and am hopeful for a nice cloudy morning .


  1. Wow, what a garden. I'm impressed with the variegated acanthus as it's the first I've seen of such size and vigor. Gorgeous combinations everywhere!

    1. Right there with you Peter on that Acanthus. Kind of shocking !

  2. I remember drooling over this garden when Denise published her post on it and now I've had an opportunity to drool all over again. Oh, to have that kind of space! Like you, I'm also terrible with tree IDs - if I don't grow it, I don't know it.

    1. We've all seen lots of private gardens , but how often do we see one with a collection of trees?

  3. A visit to Sara's garden really needs one person to take notes and another photos -- next time we'll know! So glad you got these photos. Can't help ID that New Zealander, but the variegated leaf above that photo I think belongs to Acer pseduoplatanus ‘Esk Sunset,' I do see the three Acacia stenophyllas she recently planted near the house. Yes, let me know if/when the garden is open again!

    1. Wouldn't it be great to visit in fall ? I'm gong to monitor open gardens in Sonoma County diligently next summer.


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