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Monte Rio Musings - March 2015


Monte Rio Musings - March 2015


Saturday morning yoga class was finishing and one of the students looked out the big windows of the front of the Community Center and said “What’s that tree?”  Full of wonder, she pointed at the tree loaded with big pink and purplish flowers, and filled with a woman posing in the tree for a photograph.  The sun had come out during class and the backlit tree by the public restrooms was a glorious spectacle. 

Magnolia soulangeana,” responded a gardening expert.  It’s a distinctive tree, and it seems like there is one on every block in Monte Rio.  When we lived across from Fern’s Market, we had one in our back yard, right over the septic system line and thus well-fertilized.  There are several along the highway, and more tucked in yards on the side streets.  I tend to think of it as the Monte Rio tree because that’s where I first noticed them.  I never noticed them when we lived in Santa Rosa or Rohnert Park, but maybe that’s because I didn’t have one in my back yard.  And it’s one of those things that, after you see your first one, you start to notice them everywhere.  Especially now.

It’s an early bloomer, and seems to be going off earlier this year, says Jamie Sandoval, a local landscaper.

While it looks like something from Hawaii with blooms suitable for a lei, it’s actually a hybrid created by one of Napoleon’s retired generals, Etienne Soulange-Bodin.  A cross between two other varieties of magnolia, liliflora and denudata, the tree grows well in a variety of climates and it likes the well-drained soils that you get in a river flood plain.  Sometimes called a Tulip Tree or Saucer Magnolia, the tree’s flowers pop before the leaf buds.  Unlike the magnolias with the big white flowers set amid the big green rubbery leaves, this tree is all flower for awhile.  And then the flowers fall and the leaves show up, making this a great backyard shade tree—after you rake up all the flowers.

Such is the beauty of the flowers that people would knock on our door or call over the fence to ask if they could cut a few limbs to make flower arrangements.  But a bouquet doesn’t do it right; it’s best to see the whole spectacle.  I suggest lunch in Monte Rio followed by a stroll through the neighborhood.

The folks standing outside the Community Center on the afternoon of Feb. 18 weren’t thinking about trees; they were thinking about vacation rentals.  About 70 people showed up to let County staff (and Supervisor Efren Carrillo) know how they felt about the ordinance regulating vacation rentals.  I think neighbors of vacation rentals outnumbered the owner and manager contingent, and neighbors seemed to have the same concerns that they did when the ordinance was being hammered out—parking and noise from late-night partying.  After several years of being in effect, complaints have shifted to difficulties of the enforcement process.  The Board of Supervisors will hear recommendations from PRMD staff after more input sessions like the one in Monte Rio.  Check  for more details.  


Her breadsticks graced the tables at the Village Inn.  The chai tea spiced scones were scrumptious.  The focaccia and baguettes were delightful. But no more.  Dawn Bell (who used to write this column) is retiring from her baking business, Casa LaBelle.  She said the business had reached the point where the choice was to quit or keep growing and expanding (and thus finding a place besides the Village Inn to do her baking).  She decided to bag it and return to writing while continuing to book events at the Monte Rio Recreation and Park District.


Sunday, March 8 starts Daylight Savings Time.

Monte Rio School report cards should go out on March 6.  If you didn’t like the results, you can tell it to the school board, which meets March 12.  Spring break starts March 30th and classes resume April 6.

Tuesday the 10th the board of the fire district meets.  Monday, March 16th, the park district board meets at the Community Center.  For a look at the full schedule at the Community Center, check the park district calendar at

Friday, March 20 is Landpaths’ stewardship day at the Bohemia Ecological Preserve.  Check the Landpaths website at for details and sign-ups.

If you want to do some general stewardship around town, go pull some ivy off a redwood tree.

On Saturday, March 21, the Rio Theater will host a special presentation by author Joe Jordan about William Castle, the filmmaker behind House on the Haunted Hill and others of that genre.  The book is Showmanship:  The Cinema of William Castle, and Jordan will show film clips along with his talk.  This starts at 2 p.m. and will cost $5.