Tag Archives: garden tours

Enchanting Gardens in the Valley

The LoFranco garden

It’s not everyday one gets the opportunity to visit an estate here in our neck of the woods. So if this sounds interesting to you get yourself a ticket for the upcoming Valley Churches United Garden Tour on Saturday June 22nd from 10am to 5pm . Enchanting Gardens in the Valley will showcase 7 beautiful gardens in Ben Lomond and Felton and directly benefit their year-round food pantry. You’ll come away in awe of the gorgeous landscapes some of our local gardeners have created.

You can visit the gardens in any order but I started at the largest garden near Quail Hollow. This 4 acre garden features a koi pond and waterfall in the front which is pretty spectacular in itself. But the back garden features a lake. Yes, I said a lake with a dock and an island and a huge waterfall. The owner, Vince LoFranco, told me that the only plant on the property 25 years ago was one redwood. The back acreage was then a spring fed marsh. They first had an engineer draw up plans to drain the boggy area but on second thought decided to go with nature and create the pond. When you visit look for Shadow, the black cat, the huge tadpoles in the lake and the blooming perennials, Japanese maples and grasses among all the other horticultural delights.

The Sikes garden

The Sikes garden was next on my list. Jeanne allows visitors to walk through the main living and kitchen areas as they are extensions of her garden. Using red as her primary color along with touches of vivid yellow, orange and blue with lots of white this garden features something to admire at every turn. There are many sitting areas to enjoy under the massive oaks. Jeanne adds new decorations all the time so if you visited this garden on the VCU tour a couple years ago there is a ton of newly created vintage garden art. Don’t miss it.

The Connolly garden

Sit a while in the retro metal glider bench at the Connolly garden next. Lisa told me that the property was “just dirt” when it was purchased 20 years ago in the Ben Lomond sand hills. When the front lawn was removed it created an opportunity to add low water use plants. The back garden features a beautiful river rock pool and spa. Under the shade of the oak trees flourish perennials and a DIY manzanita branch fence that “keeps the chickens on the other side” according to Lisa. There are many take-away ideas to glean from this garden that would be do-able for you, too.

The Swan garden

The Swan residence will keep your head spinning. Anatola has created multiple garden rooms that flow from one area to the other. Her modern garden design features hundreds of perennial shrubs and flowers mostly in shades of white with variegated silver and blue accents. Dozens of Japanese maples grow lush under the oaks and giant birch. Of the many tips she shared I liked the one about instant “weathering” of a lattice to screen the neighbor using vinegar, baking soda and steel wool. The screen turned out great.

The Moran garden

The Brook Lomond Iris Farm is home to Chris and Rick Moran who pack much more than the stately tall bearded iris on their property. A few iris might still be blooming and the compost bins working hard. Take in the front succulent and cactus garden featuring Chris’ renowned pottery to start your tour. The back garden features an organic vegetable garden, redwood fairy circle retreat, artist studio and a lush lawn that survives without sprinklers.

The Ross garden

Not to be missed is the garden of Adra Ross. Her huge spring fed koi pond is so big it has it’s own beach. Having a silting area at one keeps the water clean. On the day of the tour a local koi and pond expert will be on hand to answer questions. This is a huge 5 acre garden featuring many gardens rooms around the entire property. It’s a National Wildlife Certified Wildlife Habitat so you’ll come away with ideas and inspiration of your own.

And be sure to visit Hallcrest Vineyard in Felton to enjoy the perennial planters, vegetable beds and enjoy the view of the meadow from the tasting room. The Schumachers bought the property in1987 and have gardened here ever since. Take a lunch and purchase a glass of their renowned premium wine.

Get your $25 tickets for the tour at many local nurseries or Valley Churches United in Ben Lomond.

Garden Tour & English Tea in Scotts Valley

Path to Heaven tall bearded iris

I know where I’m gonna be on Saturday, May11th. St Phillip”s in Scotts Valley s having their 17th annual garden tour and English tea fundraiser for local charities including their own food pantry and community shelter. This year St.Phillip’s has chosen the Teen Kitchen Project as a special recipient for funds. I’ve previously visited two of the gardens on the tour and am looking forward to the others. Here are some highlights of what you can expect on tour day.

The full High Tea Luncheon includes home made scones with jam and cream, a delicious and light soup, sausage rolls and finger sandwiches plus sweet treats such as English toffee and shortbread cookies.

Doc Hencke’s entry garden

One of the gardens on the tour has been featured several times in my column. Richard Hencke’s garden – I call him Doc – in Scott’s Valley is one not to be missed. From his roots in Oklahoma and Texas he describes himself as the “Hillbilly Gardener” but with his extensive knowledge of trees, vines and just about anything that grows he is one of the most successful and enthusiastic horticulturists I know. Wear your walking shoes to truly enjoy this garden and the changes he’s made in his landscape over the past few years – before, during and after the drought.

Richard redid his pond a couple years ago. He was tired of fighting the raccoons and algae. Steeper sides will deter the raccoons and deeper water will help to prevent algae growth. He was forced to remove a curly willow that shed leaves into the pond as their natural salicylic acid was poisoning the pond.

Below the patio the golden Mexican marigold and blue Pride of Madeira should be in full bloom along with a gorgeous stand of weeping leptospermum. Among Doc’s passions is creating visual boundaries with flowering vines that grow up into the trees. Richard will be the first to admit that some are growing better than others. Sound familiar in your own garden? Even this expert propagator is sometimes stymied by Mother Nature.

I love to hear Doc Hencke’s stories as he shows me around. Stopping at a China Doll houseplant that has now grown into a tree he tells me he thinks it’s one of the tallest specimens ever. Richard’s new desert garden along the driveway is growing in nicely although he told me that the excessive rains and cold snap this year has caused come havoc. I”m not sure about the yucca he and his brother dug up in Texas that finally bloomed a couple years ago. “I’ve only waited 52 years for it”, he laughed.

Watering can collection on vintage wagon

The other garden I’ve had the pleasure to visit is the tall bearded iris farm of Jim and Irene Cummins. Also in Scotts Valley, the iris farm has been so successful that this year when the National Convention is being hosted by Region 14 their garden will be one of the host gardens on the tour.

When I asked Jim for the growing tips last year that make his iris so spectacular he told me he mostly uses lawn trimmings and tree leaves along with the native sand to break the soil down. “Iris don’t seem to care much as to soil type, they just need good drainage”, he said. He fertilizes with a balanced granular 15-15-15 fertilizer, using only an 1/8 cup or less sprinkled around each clump around Valentines Day and again in August or September. Another tip he told me was to be sure to plant the rhizomes very shallow with only the tops showing and about 12-18 inches apart. They water every 2-3 weeks although he says they can go longer between irrigations.

Among the beds of prized bearded iris there is an impressive antique farming implement collection. This historic property dates back to 1849 when an older house was built as a stagecoach stop. Everywhere you look the Cummins’ have created an interesting vignette of plants and artifacts. On the old barn there is an impressive vintage wrench collection as well as dozens of spigot handles. Antique tractor seats, watering cans, washing tubs, rusted bed frames, wagons, old kiddie cars- you name it, Jim and Irene have collected it.

All this and more can be yours when you purchase a ticket for the tour online at http://www.stphilip-sv.net or by calling their office at 831-438-4360.