May 30, 2018
By Jane Rogan
For those of us who watched too much Science Fiction as children, Carnivorous plants are like something from another planet. Triffids they may be! But true or false, they are being cultivated in Sebastopol for their singular beauty with a life-long dedication by the owners of California Carnivores.
Damon Collingsworth is a Sebastopol native and co-owner of the nursery with Peter D’Amato. They manage a sizable cultivation business, interact enthusiastically with the community and run an international online business. Damon says he was attracted to carnivorous plants as a boy because they eat bugs. Now he is passionate about their rare beauty, fascinated by their unique interpersonal relationship with nature and driven by the need to protect them from extinction.
There is something else. His fascination with carnivorous plants led Damon to the rain forest of Borneo where he lived with a tribal family in their hut. He ate what they eat [lots of fresh seafood]. He wore the clothing they wear. He learned about the forest and the tribe’s culture. Heavy rain pounded the tin roof all day and night, violent lightning provided the necessary carbon burn some of these plants need to thrive, thunder shook the forest. All became the daily norm.
He went native. When he returned home to California, with all its easy conveniences, he experienced the displacement many people feel after spending time so steeped in nature and removed from the Western mainstream. On his arm he shows me the tribal styled tattoo of a pitcher plant. It is part of who he is.
Before he left for Borneo, Damon developed a mentoring friendship with Peter - the Godfather of carnivorous plants. Peter opened the Sebastopol nursery in 1989 and is the author of the award-winning book,The Revised Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants. Peter and Damon have been business partners now for 11 years, growing this most unlikely business of cultivating and conserving the rarest of Paleoendemic plants: Venus flytraps, American pitcher plants, sundews, butterworts, bladderworts, tropical pitcher plants and others - all commercially cultivated for either the curious beginner or the discriminating collector who wants the highest quality plants.
Damon and Peter have infused their business- family culture with the importance of community and ecology. On the day theGazette visited, Damon was finishing working with a local first grade class. He says he has local students in all the time. Caring for growing things, working in harmony with nature and recycling are lessons that are implicit in the world of carnivorous plants. Studying any one of the many species in the nursery will demonstrate the principal of symbiosis, or interdependence between a plant and an insect – or even a small rodent.
The information Damon and Peter can provide is encyclopedic. So, if you would like to take a quick trip to an exotic environment and learn all about these spectacular plant species, California Carnivores is a must-go-see and experience place.
2833 Old Gravenstein Hwy Sebastopol, CA 95472
By Vesta Copestakes
Two unique gardens and plant propagators live in South Sebastopol. Both are worth taking the time to visit while you’re here for California Carnivores. This is a wonderful part of our county. The roads take you into beautiful countryside you may not experience if you weren’t looking for these nurseries.
Lone Pine Gardens specializes in succulents. They grow thousands of them to sell to stores like Friedman Home Improvement and nurseries all over. The tiniest pots contain starts that live on tables until they have established sufficient roots to be sold. And they are beautiful. Some are even planted in unique pottery for table art.
A few years ago a photo of this garden was on the cover of our annual Gardeners Resource Guide.Joan Humbree was the photographer and I always enjoyed talking with her. An annual visit over the phone. She died not that long ago and I never got to meet her face-to-face, so when we were exploring Damon’s wild plant kingdom, I just had to entice Jane and Su there.
Su is a plant enthusiast who knows the Latin names, so as we wander these gardens, she gets all excited and tells us what they are called, what conditions they like to live in...all kinds of information about these lovely little plants. Her knowledge and joy at being out here makes the journey that much more fun.
Colors, shapes, light and shadow playing across curved, thick…leaves? Are they leaves? Su, tell me what this is...it’s lovely! We gather little pots in our arms and go to pay for them. The website has care information, and lots of photos, probably taken by Joan. It’s worthy of a tour on your computer, but go there as well. Bring money, you WILL bring home treasures for your garden!
Lone Pine Gardens, 6450 Lone Pine Rd, Sebastopol
lonepinegardens.com • (707) 823-5024
Sonoma Horticulture Nurseryspecializes in Rhododendrons and Azaleas, but also shade plants like ferns, etc. We’re in the tail end of Azalea season but coming into Hydrangea season, so it’s another reason to visit. As you approach the nursery you wonder how can a shade plant garden be out here in the wide open and sunny hills. But once you find the gate and wander down the drive to park you understand. (use the map on the website!)
7+ acres settle into Blutcher Creek valley with towering trees shading the mile-plus walking path, pond and plant propagation areas. It’s lush, dark green, cool and shaded with bursts of color.
The path wanders through the garden so you pick up a map at the small shed by the parking lot where you will bring your treasures back to pay for them before you leave.
Polo de Lorenzo used to own this nursery for decades, then had a hard time maintaining his creation, so now Mike Boss owns it and is taking care of deferred maintenance as he discovers every plant, every wonder that Polo created over the years. It’s an adventure!
Want to spend time here helping Mike? They have Garden Work Parties the second Sunday of the month from 10am - 4pm. And yes, you earn discounts for your efforts. I have a neighbir who has done this for years. You have never seen such lovely gardens in a canyon!
Sonoma Horticultural Nursery, 3970 Azalea Ln, Sebastopol
sonomahort.com • (707) 823-6832
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