Friday, November 14, 2014

Quarryhill Botanical Garden

I’ve been to most botanical gardens in Northern California but one had eluded me until this week: Quarryhill Botanical Garden. It is located outside the small town of Glen Ellen, best known as the home of writer Jack London (he lived there on a 1,000 acre ranch until his death in 1916). While less than an hour and a half from my house, Quarryhill is tucked away in rural Sonoma County where I rarely go. Not sure why, it’s beautiful there.

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I almost missed the entrance, tucked away as it is between cabernet sauvignon vineyards

I knew that Quarryhill is world-renowned for its collection of Asian plants, many of them endangered in their native habitats. What I didn’t know is that the garden is only 27 years old. It’s the brainchild of restaurant heiress Jane Davenport Jansen who donated the site (25 acres) and financed 15 plant collection expeditions to Asia until her untimely death in 2000 at the age of 60. Read this very interesting article from Pacific Horticulture Magazine for more on the garden history.

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Parking area and gift shop

As I was parking the car in this bucolic setting amidst the vineyards—spectacular at this time of year, I might add—I didn’t quite know what to expect. Glen Ellen’s climate is Mediterranean, pretty much like ours in Davis, and a botanical garden dedicated to temperate Asian plants seems a bit out of place there. (I saw sprinklers throughout the garden, so the plants do get irrigated.) And yet, Quarryhill “is not only a world-class botanic garden, it is internationally recognized as home to one of the largest collections of scientifically documented, wild-sourced Asian plants in the Western World” (1).

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Walking from the parking area to the actual garden, we were greeted by this massive (14x11x11 ft.) wood-and-metal sculpture by Northern California artist Bruce Johnson.

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“Offering” by Bruce Johnson (2009)

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“Offering” by Bruce Johnson (2009)

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“Offering” by Bruce Johnson (2009)

Quarryhill’s 2014 Art Exhibition is dedicated to Bruce Johnson. Six pieces are on display throughout the garden. Lest you fall in love with his work like I did and wonder—if ever so briefly—if you might be able to afford a piece for your own garden, let me tell you right away that you’ll be sorely disappointed unless you’re very well-heeled. According to the price list on Johnson’s web site, “Offering” is a cool $75,000.

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“Uprising” by Bruce Johnson (2009)

But let’s take a walk on the wild gentle side and see what the garden has to offer. I expected to find fall color, and we did. Most of it was in fairly muted tones, but I think that fits the ambience of Quarryhill far better than the in-your-face-yellows I’d seen in the Eastern Sierra last month.

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Chinese tupelo (Nyssa sinensis)

But there was more than fall foliage. There were rattlesnakes rattlesnake warning signs…

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I would have loved to spot one, but didn’t

…a few blooms…

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Grantham’s camellia (Camellia granthamiana), rare and endangered

…and quite a bit of fruit.

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Chestnut rose (Rosa roxburghii), sporting the coolest-looking hips I’ve ever seen. They’re thought to have powerful medicinal properties. In China, they’re “used to combat stress and aging” (1).

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Chestnut rose (Rosa roxburghii)

And of course Bruce Johnson’s spectacular work, this one resembling a Japanese wabi lantern:

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“Five Elements” by Bruce Johnson (2012)

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“Five Elements” by Bruce Johnson (2012)

OK, enough of my rambling commentary. I’ll let you enjoy the rest of my photos in peace.

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LEFT: Henry’s maple (Acer henryi)   RIGHT: Unidentified

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Immersive fall color

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The tree that provided this glorious foliage wasn’t labeled

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Japanese beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica)

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Japanese beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica)

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Japanese beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica)

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Japanese beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica). I couldn’t get enough of the otherworldly coloration of these berries!

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“Monkey Mind” by Bruce Johnson (2014)

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Creeping cotoneaster (Cotoneaster adpressus)

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Evergreen dogwood (Cornus capitata)

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Evergreen dogwood (Cornus capitata)

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Cornus capitata is also called the Himalayan strawberry tree, and it’s easy to see why

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“Void” by Bruce Johnson (1990-2014)

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Igiri tree (Idesia polycarpa)

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Japanese maple (Acer palmatum, no cultivar name given)

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Maple leaves

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Autumn tapestry I

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Autumn tapestry II

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Mrs. Wilson’s barberry (Berberis wilsoniae)

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Chinese anemone seeds (Anemone hupehensis)

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Chinese tulip tree (Liriodendron chinense)

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Leaves of Chinese tulip tree (Liriodendron chinense)

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Foreground: large-leaf dogwood (Cornus macrophylla)

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Peduncle from large-leaf dogwood (Cornus macrophylla). Doesn’t it look like coral?

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Autumn tapestry III

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Oriental white oak (Quercus aliena) with very large leaves

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Oriental white oak (Quercus aliena)

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Unlabeled magnolia

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Autumn tapestry IV

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Unlabeled

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Golden larch (Pseudolarix amabilis)

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Sargent’s cherry (Prunus sargentii)

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Unlabeled

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Golden vivax bamboo (Phyllostachys vivax). I’d been disappointed by the lack of bamboo at Quarryhill until I found this small grove.

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Autumn tapestry V

Right now is actually a pretty perfect time to visit. There were very few people, which made for a relaxing, almost meditative, experience. We talked to one of Quarryhill’s botanists, and he said that May is the peak of the dogwood bloom, although there is plenty to see from late January on. (This issue of The Quarryhill Quarterly, the garden’s newsletter, has a lot of interesting information on dogwoods in Quarryhill’s collection.)

While Quarryhill Botanical Garden isn’t really aligned with my interests—there isn’t a single succulent in the entire garden—it’s such a unique place that I will be back in the spring.

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For more information, visit Quarryhill’s web site at http://www.quarryhillbg.org/.

8 comments:

  1. Wow, that unusually marked maple leaf! Stunning!

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    1. It's amazing the kinds of patterns you get on these leaves!

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  2. Thanks for the virtual visit, and the reminder that I really do need to track down a couple of Cotoneaster adpressus. I had a huge old one in my garden in Spokane (at least I think thats what it was) and I loved that thing.

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    1. While I know what a cotoneaster is, many trees and shrubs were unfamiliar to me. In a way, walking through Quarryhill was almost as exotic as walking through a tropical botanical garden.

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  3. Wow, you get to visit so many cool nurseries Gerhard! With all those Asian plants I could easily think it looks more like a cornish valley garden than a Californian one.

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    1. Indeed! It didn't look very California. But that was the nice thing about it.

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  4. I bet it's been at least two years since I ventured over to Quarryhill, and no good excuses here, since it's a less than an hour scenic drive. Thanks for the reminder !

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    1. Kathy, if you know of any other cool places to visit in Napa/Sonoma/Mendocino County, please let me know. Maybe we can meet up during a future outing?

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