Monday, December 30, 2013

Lands End at Years End

Is it the end or the beginning? Are we at the edge or the middle? 

The waves wash away all sense of time.  They bring us energy and take away sand.

We are always at the edge only touching water from the ocean's depths.

We can go forward and back in our minds.

Standing in the moment brings our view into focus.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holiday Hippo

Family traditions abound this time of year.  Winter solstice, Christmas ham, New Year fireworks, and so many more.  Celebrating, remembering, and gazing into the future are all part of the festivities.

Sometimes new traditions start.  Of course, they're not a tradition yet.  They are just the essence of a tradition; something memorable that one might want to try next year.

Enter the holiday hippo.  This past year, Ricardo made a wooden animal that very much resembles a hippo [at least the face!].  It stood by the fireplace for much of the year.  We thought it deserved a showcase for the holidays so we added some butterflies to its teeth, placed holly on its head, made a necklace of amulets, and lit some candles.  Voila!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lantern Project


Wildwood's December woodworking project is beginning to take shape.  What started as a slab of redwood is now a recognizable lantern.

The hood, or top of the lantern, required the most work, by far. We used a skill saw to make the initial cuts on the larger section of the hood.  Then, we chiseled away pieces of the wood before finishing the cuts with a handsaw.  The chiseled away sections allowed us to push against the block and maintain the angle of the cut all the way to the bottom. 

Of course, there's still quite a bit of sanding to do!  Then, treating the wood with a protective coating of tongue oil.  Then, assembling the lantern...

We can't wait to light it up.

Monday, December 9, 2013

From Tree to Lantern

Wildwood's winter hobby is woodworking.  This December, we're tackling a lantern project.

The starting point is a forty eight inch wide by thirty inch redwood slab.  This piece of redwood is a 'scrap' piece from a large milling operation on Lawndale Road in Kenwood, CA. Scrap is in quotes because while it is too small to use for conventional lumber it is really a beautiful piece of wood.  The grain is very narrow and the tones throughout the wood are luminescent.

We used a chainsaw to cut the slab into manageable pieces.   The top 'hood', side slats, and base will slowly take shape using a combination of power tools and hand saws.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Half Moon Bay Hike

We stepped off the beaten path during the Thanksgiving break.  Most of the time, the Northern Bay Area is our home.  A trip down to the Half Moon Bay Watershed was a welcome change of scenery.

The Tunitas Creek Trailhead is a short drive from the Skyline Ridge Drive that separates Portola Valley from the Pacific Ocean.  Upon entering the forest, one is immersed in a vast silent chamber of trees and ferns.  Redwood needles carpet the forest floor.  The effect is a deep rich almost glowing expanse of brown.

An up and down five mile loop on the Grabtown Gulch Trail, Purisima Creek Trail, and Borden Hatch Mill Trail provides a complete getaway.  Fern dells, meadows, waterfalls, creeks, and Redwoods are all included free of charge.  They're a great antidote for the hectic holidays!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Touchdown at Wildwood

The entrance to Wildwood underwent some major changes this past year.  Mainly, we eliminated four wind damaged trees.

Suddenly, the area was sunny. Really sunny. And really bare.

We moved some good soil from another location on the property to create a planting area.  We used the John Deere to move in some large lichen covered boulders.  We positioned a large twisting oak branch within the boulder groupings.  We planted Joe Pye Weed, Vernonia, Matilija Poppy and Lomandra.

We were missing something though.  Then, the Egret touched down.  Now that the Egret likes it, we think we're on the right track. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Seeds from Strybing

This past weekend, I stopped by Strybing Arboretum to talk to the garden's curator, Don Mahoney.  He was gracious enough to take some time out from the weekend plant sale to look at one of the Dogwoods in the garden.

Not just any Dogwood either.  A species [Cornus urbiniana] native to Mexico that is rarely found in the US.  It grows a bit taller than the Dogwoods native to the east coast and the bracts on the flowers curve inward with the tips touching.  The flowers look like big sales in the spring.

We found fifteen seeds on the tree and snipped off some young growth to use for cuttings.  Now it's up to me to get them to grow.  No pressure!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Novum in November.

We're giving special attention to the Maple in the center circle at Wildwood this year.  Well, this blog is giving it special attention.

Each month, we're taking a snapshot and looking at the progression of colors throughout the year.  This month, it's at the peak of fall color.  The special characteristic of Novum is it has more orange tones than most upright trees in the fall.  So, while most red trees are bright, this maple positively glows.

And it looks great after a long summer of continuous hot sun and windy conditions!  The tree's canopy is beginning to cast shade on the center circle.  With next year's new growth Novum will probably be 20% larger!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Before, Before, Before

Everyone likes the after pictures.  They show a landscape in its best light.

There's quite a bit of work involved in getting those pictures.  A blank canvas great - do something with it.  Here's a [gutted] house in Mill Valley, CA with a mature Japanese Maple in the front yard.  And weeds.  The backyard is 3000 sq ft.

The after pictures are in progress.  There's tractors involved, a living wall, and lots of greenery.  Once we load the tractor back on the trailer we'll have time to document the changes.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bigger Bee's Bliss

This past June, Studio Wildwood designed a garden for the entrance to a hillside Sausalito, CA house.

What a difference five months makes!  The Salvia Bee's Bliss is knitting together nicely.  This fragrant groundcover unifies the entire space, leaving room for accents like the Matilija Poppy and Rhododendrons.

In June, the tree fern peeked out from the corner.  Now it's unfurling new fronds and holding it's own.  The Tristania's are even a foot taller.  Soon they'll cast even more shade for the Sword Ferns and Iris.

Spring [and Winter] promises to be bigger yet.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

And, We're Back

Phew, we needed some time to recover from celebrating the blog's one year anniversary.  The plants have their healthy glow back, just in time for fall color.

We didn't actually take three weeks off.  There are some notable accomplishments that are being photographed as of press time. They'll be up in the coming weeks.

Grafting our dwarf Ginkgos was one of our first tasks after the celebration.  Look how small they are when they start!  When we show people this, it is easier for them to understand why three and four year old dwarfs are so small and so expensive.  Well, not so expensive when one considers the growth rate.

By 2015, these Ginkgos should be ready for the display shelves.  You knew them back before they hit the big stage though!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Novum In September

This summer we looked at the Novum planted in Wildwood's center circle.

It was a handsome red with bronze tinges on the leaves.  Well, it's changed color.  Surprise, surprise!

Even before the onset of fall color, this Novum develops a light yellow caste on the mostly red leaves.  This change brightens the overall look of the tree and is a cheery portrait with all the late summer brown and rust tones.

This change is only a preview of the spectacular fall color.  Hold on your horses, fall color promises to be a knockout!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

One Year Anniversary

Chalk one up.  The blog is one year old!

If the blog were a tree, how would we tell it's one year old?  It might have a growth ring, for starters.  Trees tend to sprout in the spring and this is the fall so it's what we call a late bloomer.  And, until year two, it's really hard to see a growth ring.

Candle[s] might be easier.  We'll put one on a cupcake tonight and make a wish.  Year two could be a whole bunch of fun!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

New Ad Campaign

Later this month, Studio Wildwood will launch a new ad campaign.  The ads will first appear in print in Sonoma County's Press Democrat.  Online placements will soon follow.

The campaign is centered around naturalistic plant selections that compliment rare and unusual plants from around the world.  Too often, residential gardens rely on a limited plant palette found at big box stores.  The plant world has so much more to offer.  The studio designs gardens that have texture, color, year round interest, and longevity.

Keep your eyes peeled.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Star Performer

At Wildwood, we rarely play favorites with our plants.  They all have their own personalities and their own merits.  Usually it's the setting, not the plant, that determines which plant is best suited for a space.

Sometimes, a plant looks great in many different settings.  Right now, we're soaking up the last rays of summer and enjoying a preview of autumn colors.  One plant that embodies all that is Mr. Sun.

Our young trees are small in stature.  They still pack a big punch.  Layers of orange yellow tones and slightly curving leaves call out attention.  Whenever we look at Mr. Sun, he reminds us of two great seasons - summer and fall.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Maples Hitch A Ride To Tahoe

This afternoon we loaded up three 36" box trees onto a trailer bound for Lake Tahoe, CA.

Two were Acer palmatum Beni Kawa.  These coral bark trees have a slightly smaller stature than 'Sango Kaku' and, we believe, a healthier branching structure.  They also tend to hold the red color in the bark throughout the year.  At nearly ten feet tall, these two maples will make an instant impact in their new home.  They're even starting to show fall color.

The other tree was an Acer palmatum Fireglow.  This particular plant was as wide as tall and showing great red tones.  It will definitely cast an impressive shadow in its new backyard.

Happy travels!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Late Summer Color

Last Spring, Wildwood ordered a handful of new [to us] perennials to experiment with.  Mainly, we wanted to plant them in full sun and see if they would survive.

Vernonia altissima has definitely passed the test, and with flying colors.  This east coast native grew from a baby stick to a four foot tall bush.  On the top of each stem, there are bright purple flowers that surpass quite a few annuals in showiness.  The picture shows Joe Pye Weed in the background which has similar shaped pink red flowers.  They're a great combination.

We're ordering more Vernonia to plant along our highway frontage.  After all, most gardens need more late season purple!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tedrick Goes Monumental

Bryan Tedrick is a local sculptor who occasionally displays 'smaller' pieces at Wildwood.

We visited his studio a few days ago to see what he'll be taking to Burning Man [we're art people, not sand and heat people].  What we saw is pretty awesome.


Even without the head and tail [in crates for the trip], Coyote has star power.  It's 820 hours of welding, cutting, sizing, shaping, and genius.  Climbing into the carriage of the body is exciting, scary, thrilling, and humbling all at once.  I'm a bit envious of the folks that will sit in the head and rotate!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dogwoods a la Carte

Last February, I wrote about starting Dogwoods from seed.  They're all grown up now.

Well, they think they're all grown up.  They're only eight inches tall.  It was time to go from a six pack to a four inch container.  There are now five flats of seedlings from Blue Shadow, China Girl, Satomi, and Trinity Star.  The Wolf Eye seedlings never made it.  The leaves were all white; they had no chlorophyll.

We've wheeled the flats to a raised bench in a shady area.  Hopefully, they'll have a strong fall growing season.  Many maples at Wildwood are already showing signs of second growth!  Bright red leaves are emerging on many branches.  A welcome sight.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eco Pots Show Off At Strybing

Wildwood set up a display at the San Francisco Botanic Garden this past weekend.

Eco pots were a huge part of the display's success.  One gallon plants fit nicely inside the Nova and Quadra model containers.  A burnt orange Vitifolium worked nicely in a coral color Quadra pot.  The dwarf Ginkgos looked smashing in the avocado color Nova pot.

As people bought from the display we had to redesign it on the fly!  The curator of the Arboretum was very kind and gave us a dogwood from Mexico for the display. 

The dogwood will definitely make another appearance after we propagate more!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Summer Gardening Faire

On the road again.  Wildwood's packing up a few of its treasures and heading down to San Francisco this weekend.

Strybing is having its annual garden faire Saturday from 10 - 3.  This will be Wildwood's first official appearance at Strybing.  We've made personal trips to the garden and those even date back generations.  Sara Monte's uncle made a donation to the garden that turned into a bench on a prominent overlook.

For this trip, we have some hip new pottery and great summer color.  A few dogwoods are even blooming.  Stop by and visit.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Class III Weekend

This weekend, I took some time off to raft the South Fork of the American River.

In past summers, I volunteered as a white water guide for a non-profit that educates people about water use in California.  I was 'on river' most weekends.  This was the first time I've been on river this summer.  Of course, I didn't tell my friends that their guide was rusty.

We met another fellow from Austria the night before so there were six people in the boat.  Another friend had two people in his boat.  We made it through Satan's Cesspool and Hospitable Bar [names of rapids] without flipping or losing anyone.  We did pick up one person at Satan's Cesspool that fell out of another boat...

It was a blast to go rafting again.  I had to buy an Aloe Vera plant for my sunburn on Sunday evening though.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Happy Trees, Happy Customers

In April, a San Mateo gardener made the trek up to Wildwood to pick out a tree.

She had a list of trees she wanted to look at.  One of them was a Katsura tree.  There are several different types of Katsura trees - upright, pendulous, reddish cast...  She picked out an eight foot weeping Katsura for a spot in the front yard.

We recently received pictures of the Katsura in its new location.  Here's a sample.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Red Hot Kniphofia

The hummingbird's out of the bag; Red Hot Pokers are now great for summer gardens.

The name, Red Hot Poker, might lead one to believe all varieties bloom in the summer months.  Au contraire. The hot red flower spires always seem a bit out of place when they appear in the dead of winter.

We recently stumbled upon a hybrid called Echo Rojo - brilliant orange red flower spires from summer to fall. Wow!  Paired with Shining Sceptre - brilliant yellow gold flower spires - or alone, these hybrids add punch to any garden.

The foliage looks like grasses [except it never needs any cutting back] so it pairs well with ones like Autumn Moor Grass.  We can't wait to get Echo Rojo out in the Wildwood Farm gardens. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer Haircut

Everyone needs a new 'look' for summer right?

Japanese Maples are no exception.  In the spring, they get all excited and send out long shoots of new growth.  These shoots look great when the tree is leafing out.  Bright, shiny leaves are a welcome sight after a bare winter.

In the summer, these shoots look too leggy, floppy and tangled.  Sometimes, maples look sad because all their branches are hanging down.

Cutting them back is the answer.  Suddenly, the structure and layers reappear.  The maple is ready for entertaining guests and backyard barbeques.  Plus, new growth in the fall will look much better.

Monday, July 8, 2013

New to the area --- first visit to Wildwood

New to the area, I noticed the sign for Wildwood on Highway 12.  I was intrigued but I had a destination in mind.  The second time I wanted to stop but my husband was in the car and again there was a destination. The third time I took a friend and Wildwood was the destination!  

Words cannot really describe what I encountered (images either) -- but I do know that Wildwood is a magical place full of living and breathing colors and shapes - all lovingly card for and artfully placed.  Actually I think any where the trees are placed becomes artful!  I don't know much about trees.  I was once fond of a Japanese maple that I inherited when we bought a home. I had a big yard I can envision planting it full of the amazing colorful varieties I found there.  I do know I will be back and hope to start my own modest artful collection.  Here are a few modest shots I took with my iPhone.  I am eager to go back with my DSLR!  

BTW, there is actually ART there as well!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

First Sundays

Wildwood Farm has a new schedule starting this month. 

On the first Sunday of every month, there will be refreshments for shoppers and a gardening talk during the afternoon.  The nursery will be open by appointment on all other Sundays.

Today, Sara Monte will be giving the gardening talk and short tour.  The focus will be 'Gardening in the Shade'.  The Shade Section in the Nursery has many of the plants that are growing in shady spots in our gardens so there will be plenty of opportunities to see shade plants!

Bring your dogs [on a leash] and kids for a family outing.  There are plenty of squirrels to bark at and tons of lizards to catch...

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Bark Beckons

The gardens at Wildwood Farm invite visitors to enter with a glimpse of a winding path or a showy display of foliage.  These elements pique people's interest and draw attention inwards.  The evergreens and large trees are generally architectural features that anchor various parts of the garden.

Sometimes, other features catch our attention.  The bark on a madrone tree [CA native] is one of those.  The rich brown bark peals away to reveal a fresh green layer this time of year.  This contrast evolves over many weeks as the tree grows into summer.  A native dogwood behind this madrone has a collage of white, grey, and brown colors on it trunk.  Not quite as showy, but it's a fixture on the tree. 

Hybrids of the native dogwood have the same bark and showier flowers.  Cousins of the madrone have more red tones in the bark and are a bit more reserved when they exfoliate.  The roots are smaller and respond better during transplanting so they are more prevalent in the trade.

Note: Any perceived connection between studying shade trees and the West Coast Heat Wave is purely coincidental.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Doubling Down

Gardening can be discouraging.  Even well thought out plans can fall short of expectations.  Especially if patience isn't part of the plan.

Last fall, I wrote quite a bit about the perennials being planted on Wildwood Farm's highway frontage.  They were supposed to pump up our curb appeal this year.

The Asters and Salvias tripled in size and even flowered.  They're just not very noticeable with traffic whizzing by at 60 mph.  With the onset of summer and triple digit heat, I could have written off the entire experiment.

Instead, I cut back the salvia blooms and fertilized everyone with a slow release 10-10-10 mix.  Then, I added a mix of dwarf double blooming hollyhocks.

If your garden needs a pick me up, there's no better way to do it then doubling down with double blooming hollyhocks!

Friday, June 21, 2013

No Maintenance Never Looked So Good

The first day of summer - sun, pool parties, barbecues on the back lawn - so much to look forward to.  Mowing the underutilized front lawn is not something to look forward to!

A young couple in Sausalito, CA had those same ideas in May.  Their back lawn was plenty big enough for their two young children to play on.  The front lawn needed to go.

Studio Wildwood redesigned the front to have seasonal color and large evergreen trees.  They'll be able to cook with the Rosemary and Sweet Bay [Laurus nobilis].  The Bee's Bliss Sage along the flagstone path has great fragrance.  The Matilija Poppy [see May's The Statement Poppy], Pacific Iris, and Pink Currant provide color throughout the season. 

They'll definitely be spending more time relaxing this summer instead of mowing.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Impressionism's Best

This weekend I visited the new exhibit on sailing at San Francisco's Legion of Honor.  With the likes of Renoir and Monet included in the exhibit, it was easy to sit and soak in all the 'action' in the paintings.

Many of the paintings are scenes of regattas and life along harbors.  All these had amazing reflections of boats, buildings, and people in the water.  Reds, yellows, greens [generally every shade but blue] blended together to make awesome rivers and oceans.  Some of the boats are blue so we can tell where the water starts!

This adventurous use of color, shading, and juxtaposition made the visit special.  There are so many ideas to absorb at the show.  It's definitely a fun overwhelming.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thinking Gardening

Gardening is more than planting, dividing, watering, and pruning.  A great deal of gardening is thinking about what there is to plant, divide, water, and prune.

Visitors to Wildwood Farm often arrive looking for new ideas about what to plant.  They usually find many new ideas. Sometimes they like help deciding what plants to use in their garden, even asking us to visit their garden to make suggestions.

On a recent visit to a home in Sonoma, I found a young landscape with mostly deer resistant, drought resistant, gopher resistant Olives, Flax, Hopseed, Rosemary, and Sage.  Definitely a Mediterranean look.  The owner would like to incorporate Maples and is open to adding other types of plants.

So, what's the best way to go from Mediterranean to Californian?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Wildwood visits Menlo Park

Wildwood Farm traveled to Menlo Park, CA this weekend.  It felt like home away from home.

The destination was Sunset Magazine Headquarters.  There aren't rows and rows of grapes but there is a Sunset Wine Club.  We were stationed next to the Wine Club for Celebration Weekend.  After their complimentary tasting, people were in a fairly jolly mood when they moved on to us.

With our extra tall tent we created a mini forest for people to walk through.  In a ten by ten booth we had twelve different varieties of dogwoods in bloom, eleven varieties of maples, six varieties of dwarf ginkgos and more!

Many of the plants are back home at Wildwood now.  They promise to be on their best behavior when guests from the South Bay arrive.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

About Time

It has been a few years since Wildwood Farm updated its About Us page.  In plant time, that's not too long.  In tech time, that's a long time.

Don't worry, we didn't pave over Wildwood Farm.  And there hasn't been a change in ownership.  You'll still be talking to the same folks when you visit or call.  There's over 100 years of plant knowledge combined between Ric, Sara, and I...

There are new pictures of us and new language about what we've done the past few years at Wildwood.  Plus, some addition by subtraction - websites need to be weeded every now and then too.

How about you? Let us know if you're planning to update your garden!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Will They Hold On?

Wildwood Farm is revving into event mode with Sunset's Celebration Weekend right around the corner.

Squeezing four acres of gardens and nursery into a 10' x 10' booth can be a tricky chore.  Hence, all the to and fro debating about what plants to bring.  The big question is if the Asian Dogwoods will still have flowers in ten days.  With all the heat and wind we've had, the bloom season for the East and West Coast Dogwoods was very short.  Many of the Asian Dogwoods are holding on to vibrant white and pink blooms though...

We'll definitely showcase Summer Fun and Wolf Eye, with their stunning variegated leaves, regardless of blooms or no blooms.  Plus, we'll have all our dwarf Ginkgos.

And, all our maples - oh wait they won't all fit!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Can You Grow Maples In Full Sun?

Yes, is the short answer.

There are maples from across the globe, not just Asia, and many of the can take full sun.  Maples from the Middle East, with rolled up leaves, are especially adapted to scorching weather.

In a little less forgiving climate, many Asian Maples will tolerate hot sun with frequent watering.

In the picture to the left, the A.p. Novum is growing in full sun in Wildwood Farm's center circle.  This red maple needs the sun to maintain a vibrant glowing red throughout the summer season.  If it was in the shade, the red would fade to green during the summer.

As a full sun centerpiece, it turns colors through the summer months.  Tones of rust, orange, and red rotate until fall when it turns a bright orange red. 

Check back in a few months to follow the color progression!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The State[ment] Poppy

It's tough to keep track of which poppy is the CA state flower [Eschscholzia californica] and which is the CA state poppy [Rhomneya coulteri].

Both plants have bright showy flowers and survive in terrible soil.  Both are tough to grow in containers.  The orange poppy [state flower] is a bit tougher than the white poppy to grow in containers because it's an annual. 

Wildwood Farm purchased several Matilija Poppies earlier this year for different projects.  One of them was redesigning the highway frontage.  When all the other perennials were going in gopher baskets and asking for extra water to get established, the Matilija Poppies waved off all the attention and grew happily in 'amended' road base.

Now, when the early 85 degree weather feels like 95 and we need a little lift to get out gardening, we look at the Matilija Poppies.  The massive white flowers with big yellow centers cheer us up.

Whether you need a powerful statement or a happy statement in your garden, consider the State Poppy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sheet Mulching Those Weeds Away

Who in the world would use plain old cardboard to stop weeds?

A very smart gardener.

It's no secret weeds, or any plant for that matter, like water and sunlight.  Without one or the other, they die.  Using plastic products creates a mess in the landscape.  The plastic rips and pretty soon there's scraps floating around.

Cardboard does the same thing and it decomposes so there's no weed barrier legacy to deal with.  Spreading a thick layer of mulch over the cardboard holds it in place and cools the roots of new plants.

In a year, plants like the Matilija Poppy, Yellow Spurge, and Blue Oat Grass in this Studio Wildwood design will start to fill in.  Then the garden will have a living mulch!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

And The Winner Is...

The past week was a whirlwind of activity at Wildwood Farm.

The lead up to the 38th Birthday Party, the packed crowd on Sunday for the party, and the last minute entries into our second annual photo contest.  Sorting through all the great entries was a welcome easy chore this week.

Julie Jackson captured a great scene at Wildwood for the winning entry in that class.  With the hills and grape fields in the back ground, a formal hedge in the foreground, and a kaleidoscope of maples in the center, we think the photo is the essence of Spring.

Thanks for all the great images on this amazing May Day.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Garden Party Playlist

In a few hours, we'll start the sound check for Wildwood Farm's 38th Birthday Party.  With two four foot tall Kenwood speakers, we're confident the place will be rather lively.  We're not just playing Happy Birthday either.  Here's a sampling of the songs that are on the afternoon's playlist:

The Key, The Secret by Urban Cookie Collective

Vacation by The Go-Go's

Escapade by Janet Jackson

Love You Want by The Wailing Souls

X You by Avicii

Lemonade by Alexandra Stan

Blue Moon by The Marcells

Desenchantee by Kate Ryan

Cada Que by Belanova

Rolling in the Deep Remix by Dj Dizzy

Thursday, April 25, 2013

First Impressions

Slow down . . . and you discover all kinds of things.

A few times each year we take a mini-vacation from our home in San Carlos to the wine country, most often to Sonoma County for its relaxed pace and natural beauty.  We go with our two little dogs to find a new restaurant or visit an old favorite, to see the vineyards as they roll towards the wooded hillsides, and of course to taste some wines.  This time, we took advantage of a glorious spring day to discover a tree nursery known as Wildwood Farm.

This enchanting property is a wilderness of Japanese Maples, Dogwoods, Ginkgo trees and other not-so-common species.  As you wander through, you experience the tranquility of the place, even though you are excited to see the shapes, textures and colors of hybrids you have never seen or heard of before.  You wander through dappled sunlight and shade provided by the mature native California trees, and you are refreshed because you have been reminded of the variety and beauty of nature.

The nursery sits off of Hwy. 12 on the west side, about halfway up Sonoma Valley.  Ricardo and Sara Monte and their son Joe were each moving throughout the gardens, independently tending to the young trees they know so well.  We ended up buying a weeping species of Katsura, plus a couple of smaller plants.  But the point is, if you want a different kind of experience, if you don’t want your landscaping to look like everyone else’s, then take a break and discover Wildwood Farm.

Slow down . . . or you’ll miss it.

gbooker & gmerritt

Flutterbye Alights

Yesterday, we installed Bryan Tedrick's large red butterfly in a new location at Wildwood Farm.

It is designed to be viewed horizontally and vertically.  In its horizontal position, it balances on a skinny post, rotating and waving in the wind.  This feet of engineering is impressive but the piece really deserves to be viewed face on.

It is now hanging from a Valley Oak by its tail inside the nursery.  One can truly appreciate the wingspan and intricate detail on the wings.  While it is a heavy piece, it looks very delicate and peaceful.

Perhaps, it will take flight and move to a new perch soon!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Collecting Samaras

Samaras [seeds] are beginning to appear on the Japanese Maples at Wildwood Farm.  They typically hang underneath clusters of leaves in groups of three or four.  Shaped like wings to fly far from the tree when released, they also catch the breeze while they're connected to the maple.  Since they are slightly translucent, Samaras can create a shimmering effect in a garden.

On the red seedling maple tree to the left, they add brightness to the deep purple foliage.  Green maples, especially cascading dissectums,  that have red samaras are most outstanding.  The contrast adds a new dimension to the plant and its presence in the garden.

Ric harvested hundreds of samaras to hand out as party favors for our Sunday Birthday Party.  No one really knows what type of maple they will produce.  Most of the time the new tree looks like other seedlings.  Sometimes, the seed produces a completely new tree!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stocking Up On Party Favors

This past week, the staff at Wildwood Farm potted several different types of wildflowers into four inch containers for party favors.  A sampling include, the California State Flower [Orange Poppy], Love in the Mist, and Poor Man's Orchid. These little darlings should be ready to go into the ground in a few weeks.

While they're blooming they'll provide food for hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and even bats.  Bats eat lots of bad insects, by the way.  When the flowers are done blooming, they'll release their seeds and pop up next year.

At the party we'll have other party favors and a talk about how to attract beneficial insects to your yard by the Bee Lady.  We'll have a selection of perennials that can help to attract them as well as a demonstration about how to arrange them.  After all, a garden should attract humans too.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Second Annual Photo Contest

Wildwood Farm's second annual photo contest 'Images of Spring' is officially underway.

There have already been several fantastic entries in each category.  Whether you're taking photos of your garden or at Wildwood Farm, be sure to enter.  Just email it to  There's even a prize for kids 12 and younger!

Photos are a great way to document progress you're making in your garden.  It's also handy to be able to look back later in the year and remember what things looked like in Spring.  That way you can avoid digging up bulbs or other plants that fade after a huge Spring show.

Right now, the trilliums are blooming in their shady spots.  I can't enter the photo contest but I would have submitted this speckled trillium. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Serving of Satomi Seedlings

You may remember that last year we collected dogwood seeds to grow for rootstock.  They sprouted and now they're ready to go into 4" containers.

We had to take them out of their flats and separate them.  The bare roots need to be kept moist so we placed them in a Tupperware bath.  That gave us time to get them into individual pots.

Why all the effort? It's best if you use seed from the tree you plan to take cuttings from for grafting.  With rare trees like C.k. Akatsuki and C.r. Celestial Shadow, we don't wont to take any chances.  We have a hard enough time keeping these plants in stock as it is. 

The Celestial Shadow isn't even on Wildwood Farm's website it's so new.  All the toughness of a Rutger's hybrid and the great show Celestial produces.  Plus variegated yellow, red, green leaves.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Visiting Arboretums

I squeezed in a visit to the LA Botanic Garden during a trip to Southern California this weekend.  The Australian and South African sections loved the mid 70's weather.  Plants were blooming their heads off.

Peacocks have the run of the mill of the place.  They fan themselves out on the lawn and stretch out on shady patios - quite a greeting for people just walking through the entrance.  Thankfully, they're very nice.

The massive waterfall at the edge of Japanese Garden was one of my favorite features.  The drop must have been over 25'.  Ferns, rhododendrons, and maples share space with massive boulders.  Great inspiration for gardening in Northern California.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Scenic Overlook

We reorganized part of the nursery this past winter.  As the taller maples started to leaf out, some of the lower maples at Wildwood Farm started to get restless.

They were used to views of the Valley of the Moon.  Being a scenic corridor and all, one could see [pun intended] how they had grown accustomed to great views.

They demanded that we build them a scenic overlook.  So, we scavenged around for some boulders, flagstone and sand.  After lots of lugging and rolling, it was ready for maples!

The Orangeola, Irish Lace, Omuryama, and Viridis are thrilled to have their views back.  And they're right at eye level for people to stroll by...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hillside Retreat

This week Studio Wildwood completed a small shelter overlooking the Valley of the Moon for a local writer.

While it looks quite imposing standing below and looking up, the shelter only measures eight feet by feet.   The front of the deck cantilevers over a small rock outcropping covered with ferns and the tin roof shelters occupants.

Native sword ferns, maidenhair ferns, and fritillaria surround the deck, providing a sense of tranquility.  Branches from valley oaks twist around the shelter.

The vantage point is great for getting lost in the view or brainstorming a new plot.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Have you visited your garden lately?

When was it that you took a look at your garden?  You have been living in the same house for five years and leave home in the am and return in the pm.  Five days a week, off on weekends, staying home and doing chores or going out and doing errands.

Open the garage door, get in the car, back out.  Returning to the nest - drive up and use the remote to get into the garage.

Initially the home was exciting.  Everything was new - a new lawn - one token tree put in by the developer - something fast and cheap looking.  The front garden has the feeling of a token entry to Down in the Belley Restaurant, or a McUpchuck - bland and ultra boring.  The lawn keeps growing, week after week it grows.  The plants need the monthly haircut with the latest quickies ultra sonic 120 mph speed trimmer.

The backyard looks like a plan from a company that works fast, gives good deals, and cannot be reached anywhere on the planet.

Wouldn't it be better to have the only garden on the block that is completely different.  You don't have to go to a botanical garden to see plants from around the world.  You have it in your own space.
                                  No foundation planting
                                  No grasses
                                  No fast growing eucalyptus or redwoods as a center piece

A grouping of Japanese Maples - perhaps an Acer palmatum Ukigumo with an A.p. Ojishi and A.p. Garyu

Put in a Cornus nuttallii 'Gold Spot', a repeat bloomer, leaves that are green with splashes of gold thrown in.  Blooms March to April and again in September.  The fall color rivals that of the A.p.

A Sasanqua camelia Yuletide. 
A grouping of Damnacanthus indicus 'variegata'.  That certainly would make the front yard distinct.  The neighbors would complain but now when you drive up the street you can see your garden from miles away.  And now it is a pleasure to work outside - every plant is an individual.  It has a personal history, it has a personal philosophy and gives off an enchanting personality through the seasons.

It is not grass - which keeps its ratty color and then turns brown.

It is not the token cheap box plant that is imported from China.

This is your garden - visit it.  Sit in the peace and tranquility of the plants as they are growing - the first buds of spring - the enthusiasm of youth as the buds mature - the lazy days of summer - nap in the peace of your plants.  Settle into the arrival of colder times - the comfort of inside the home as you peer at the skeletons and inner figures of plants from around the world.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Blank Canvas

Today, several plein air painters set up their easels at Wildwood Farm.  They pointed themselves towards various views of the Valley of the Moon.  One juxtaposed the distinct lines of vineyards with the rolling hills, another liked the twisting turning branches of old growth Oak trees.

The creative license to embellish, add colors, and move entire mountains seemed to be the fun part.  It's much like designing a garden.  Transformation can be the sum of many small changes or one large swoop of a shovel. 

Standing back and admiring the view is an integral part of painting and design.  Visualizing, contemplation, and rest always prove to key parts of design.  The canvas fills up quickly if we rush.  Enjoy the process, whether you have a brush in hand or a spade!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dogs like Dogwoods

On Saturday, Sara Monte gave a presentation to 20 people about Dogwoods.

Half the presentation was a PowerPoint slide show under Wildwood Farm's pavilion.  Sara touched on the different bloom times of Eastern U.S. trees, Western U.S. trees, and Asian dogwoods plus fall color.  The photos were all taken just last year in Wildwood's dogwood collection.

The group also toured the nursery and gardens to look at the growth patterns of large plants and different varieties.  Lola, the poodle, wagged the whole time.  Luckily, she knew not to bark at the dogwoods!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Class in Session

On Sunday, Wildwood Farm, had its first class of 2013.  Ten people signed up for the Introduction to Pruning course.  The one hour class covered the basics of pruning, from making proper cuts to assessing the structure of a tree.

Everyone took lots of notes and left with a tree they shaped during the class.  We will teach two more classes in March on pruning.  We also lead an Introduction to Gardening with Dogwood course on two upcoming Saturdays. 

All our classes are outdoors amongst the plants and are truly hands on learning experiences for plant lovers of all abilities. 
Dust off your trowels and swing by for the next class.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Patio Puzzle

This week Studio Wildwood completed two Connecticut lilac flagstone patios in San Anselmo, CA.  The work is part of a larger garden project - rock walls, decomposed granite pathways, and plantings are also being restored.

The flagstone patio is one of the more challenging portions.  It is like a jigsaw puzzle that comes on pallets instead of a box.  And there is no guarantee that all the pieces will fit together!  With a little sawing of edges and corners, one can create a masterpiece.

The secret is to start at one corner and have all the pieces flow outwards.  The edge is set in stone - or is it?