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West County Master Gardeners Fall Garden Tour


West County Master Gardeners Fall Garden Tour

By Karen Felker

Tickets are now on sale for the Master Gardeners of Sonoma County (MGSC) Bloomin’ Backyard Garden Tour that will take place in the fall this year, on September 18. With the theme “Warm Autumn Days…A Time to Plant, A Time to Harvest,” the tour of West County gardens emphasizes how our California climate influences the plants we put in our gardens and the best time to plant them. To purchase group tickets for ten or more, visit, or email Individual tickets can also be bought on the website, or in person at Copperfield’s Books or Readers’ Books.

For over ten years, Master Gardeners have held a biennial Bloomin’ Backyards Garden Tour to raise funds for the MGSC program. The five gardens on this year’s tour were chosen for their distinctive garden designs and to demonstrate and promote good gardening practices. 

Not the Usual

The smallest garden, in the heart of Sebastopol, will dazzle your eyes with its array of textures and colors. Inspired by a winter trip to the Huntington Botanical Garden in Pasadena, the owners planted succulents and agaves for their exotic appearance and year-round visual interest. For structure, they planted drought-tolerant Grevillea, silk tassel and osmanthus. An arbor supports twining vines of star jasmine, honeysuckle and purple clematis, creating a retreat of serene beauty that only needs watering twice a month. 

Rustic Abundance

The next garden on the tour started out as a seasonal kitchen garden but is now a working farm that supports a roadside honor stand. Vegetables, herbs, and seasonal flowers are harvested from raised beds, wheelbarrows, and straw bales distributed throughout the one-acre property. The Master Gardener who tends this garden is especially committed to cultivating heirloom plants for their unique tastes and to preserve their genetic history from generation to generation. Any time of year, you can find young seedlings in the potting shed. She nurtures the plants through every stage of a full life, from germination to a mature productive plant, and carefully saves their seeds for the next growing year.

Simply Elegant

The owners of the third garden wanted their yard to be extension of their home, a place where out-of-town friends could relax and enjoy the expansive view that includes Mt. St. Helena in the distance. They installed a flagstone patio, a fire pit, flat stone pathways, and a wandering dry creek bed of river rocks, then added raised beds to grow most of the vegetables they need. Strolling the grounds, you’ll see a diverse and stunning selection of plants and trees that are both drought-tolerant and low-maintenance. Whimsical sculptures made by local artists are scattered among the plants, enhancing the feeling of being in an outdoor living space.

Personal Spaces

In the next garden, what started as a two-acre field of sheep has evolved over time into an assortment of outdoor rooms for a variety of purposes. A greenhouse built with recycled windows harbors succulents waiting to be transplanted. Nearby, a long row of purple sage borders chairs around a fire pit and provides nectar for bees and hummingbirds. Raised beds flaunt strawberries, green leafy vegetables, and dahlias. A few steps away, a low wall outlines a flagstone patio with table and chairs for outdoor dining. From there you can see abandoned monkey bars sheltering a bed of golden raspberries and a small grove of redwoods.

Haven for Habitat

To take advantage of an unobstructed southern exposure, the owners of the last garden converted four rows of water troughs into raised beds for growing vegetables, strawberries, and herbs. Olive trees border a lap pool and a patio for outdoor dining. Lavender and native sages furnish habitat for birds and insects, especially the bees in their backyard beehives. Two older Gravenstein apple trees, fig, pomegranate, stone fruit, and a variety of citrus trees provide a bounty of fruit.

More than Gardens

On the tour, you’ll find demonstrations on growing vegetables, native plants, drip-irrigation, composting, companion planting, attracting beneficial insects and bees, and more. You’ll also be able to purchase water-wise plants and a selection of garden-inspired crafts created by talented Master Gardeners.