Last weekend, I attended the Pacific Horticulture Society’s Summit 2016 held at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, CA. Under the motto “Changing Times, Changing Charges: Shaping a New Environment,” the two-day event featured a series of diverse presentations exploring “how gardens are evolving in the face of climate change, with inspiration coming from our natural surroundings as well as from innovations in water conservation and land management.” The speakers ranged from landscape architects with experience in private and public projects (Thomas Rainer, Michelle Sullivan) to garden designers (Bob Hyland, Marilee Kuhlmann) to nursery owner and plantsman extraordinaire Phil Van Soelen, owner of Cal Flora Nursery in Sonoma County.
Roger Raiche’s house: subtle clues notwithstanding, it’s often difficult to know what treasures might be hiding behind fences and gates
Sunday’s program included a self-guided driving tour of Sonoma County with more than 30 stops—everything from private gardens, public gardens and spaces, nurseries, wineries, and even “on the road” attractions such as bakeries, cheese and ice cream shops. Knowing that the public places are open and accessible year round, my partner-in-crime Kathy Stoner of GardenBook and I decided to focus on the private gardens. Sonoma County is large (1,576 square miles, 4,080 km²) and driving between the gardens took time. In the end, Kathy and I managed to visit three of the five private gardens. As is so often the case, we underestimated how engaging gardens can be and how easy it is to lose track of time when you get lost in plant-related reveries.