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Western Hills, the famed rare plant garden in the hills of Occidental, re-opens for spring Friday, April 11, with a third season of plant sales, public tours and an expanded Friday-to-Sunday schedule.

Co-owner Tim Szybalski said the garden has been slowly evolving, with a new outdoor event space added to serve garden clubs, horticultural societies and corporate groups. Four bridges have been restored and the "big house" that once belonged to the late founders Marshall Olbrich and Lester Hawkins is undergoing a major renovation that involves saving the original adobe walls.

"We have expanded our propagation efforts and now offer a broader selection of plants for sale from the garden," Szybalski said.

The plant sales provide income to restore the historic garden, which gained international fame in the 1970s and 1980s for its collection of rare and unusual plants.

Propagation efforts have concentrated on the garden's more unusual plants as well as identifying vendors who have comparable plants. Among them is the Pitkin Marsh Lily, an endangered perennial herb that is endemic to certain wetland areas of Sonoma County.

Szybalski said an endangered Wollemi pine was added to Western Hills' collection last year.

"And we just added a companion. The Wollemi was called the 'Botanical Find of the Century' and a 'living fossil' when it was discovered in a remote gorge in Australia in 1994," he said.

Another addition to the garden is a Sequoia Sempervirens 'Yurok Prince,' gifted to Western Hills by the American Conifer Society. The new redwood cultivar is one of a few specimens of a low-growing, horizontal branching shrub that recently was found in Oregon.

Guided tours of the extensive display garden are available by appointment. Admission is $10. To make an appointment, call 872-5463 or email Stacie@WesternHillsGarden.com. 16250 Coleman Valley Road, Occidental.

HEALDSBURG: Russian River Rose Co. reopening

The rose season finally has arrived and with it, the re-opening of Healdsburg's Russian River Rose Co.

The seasonal nursery, which also features irises and perennials as well as extensive display gardens, is open every weekend in April and May with special themes each weekend.

Presentations will be offered at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. today and Sunday, April 5 and 6, featuring tips on how to prepare and tend your rose garden to coax out the best bloom possible. The talks will cover planting, fertilizing and grooming, with a special emphasis on water-wise practices. The talks includes a planting demonstration.

On April 12 and 13, the focus is "Lovely Irises and Early Blooming Roses." Expected to be in bloom are some 120 varieties of irises, many of them world-class award winners. The weekend will also mark the debut of two new additions to the gardens — "The Purple Playground," a collection of 15 different purple, mauve and lavender fragrant roses, as well as a Hummingbird Wall, a 12-by-12 foot trellis filled with plants that attract and feed hummingbirds.

The display gardens and nursery are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors are invited to come by for a stroll, but are asked not to bring picnics or pets. 1685 Magnolia Drive, Healdsburg. 433-7455 or russian-river-rose.com.

SANTA ROSA: Come visit home of Luther Burbank

The Luther Burbank Home & Gardens once again is open for docent-led tours.

The gardens themselves are open year-round with no admission. But for garden enthusiasts, the guided tours offer an in-depth look, including an overview of the famed horticulturist's life, his best-known plant developments, and a visit through his greenhouse and his home, with its original furnishings and memorabilia.

Tours are held every half-hour between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, April to October. Cost is $7, free for children under 12. The site features the Carriage House Museum & Gift Shop, which is open during the tour season from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The historic site is located at the corner of Santa Rosa and Sonoma avenues in downtown Santa Rosa. 524-5445 or lutherburbank.org.

SANTA ROSA: Care and feeding of paphiopedilums

Dave Sorokowsky will talk about trends in the breeding of paphiopedilums at the next meeting of the Sonoma County Orchid Society on Tuesday, April 8.

Commonly called lady's slipper orchids, paphiopedilums originate in the jungles of Asia, including Indonesia. They are semi-terrestrial, growing in humus and other material on the forest floor, on cliffs in pockets of humus and sometimes in trees. They are easy to grow under lights or in a greenhouse.

There will be orchids in bloom to see and purchase at the meeting, which runs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Santa Rosa Veterans Building, 1351 Maple Ave., Santa Rosa. Nonmembers are welcome. For information, visit SonomaOrchids.com.

SANTA ROSA/SEBASTOPOL: Washi eggs, just in time for Easter

Learn how to make colorful Washi eggs for Easter from a master of the craft.

Barbra Friedman has been teaching this ancient Japanese art using elaborate Japanese mulberry paper for more than 10 years.

She has two upcoming classes in Santa Rosa in which participants will get to make three decorative eggs, choosing from among 60 fancy papers. She will also share tips on how to turn twigs and grasses from your yard into beautiful nests for the eggs.

Coming up

Today April 5: From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Riley Street, 103 Maxwell Court, Santa Rosa. $35.

Tuesday, April 8: From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Cast Away and Folk-Modern Craft, 100 Fourth St. (entrance to shop is on Wilson St.) in Santa Rosa. $35.

For information and to register in advance, call 696-2009 or email barbrabvf@yahoo.com.

SONOMA COUNTY: Master Gardeners share expertise

The Sonoma County Master Gardeners continue their series of free lectures, most held at local library branches. All classes run from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more information about the program as well as a wealth of gardening information, visit sonomamastergardeners.org or call 565-2608.

Offered today, April 5

Cloverdale — Is Your Garden Ready for the Drought? Master Gardeners who are participating in the Garden Sense program will discuss easy ways to conserve water and save money by creating climate-appropriate gardens that are healthy, eco-friendly and beautiful. Garden Sense is a free service where Master Gardeners with specialized training in water management, irrigation systems, low-water-use plants and sustainable gardening practices will come to your home by appointment to advise you on how to have a more environmentally sensitive garden. Cloverdale Regional Library, 401 N. Cloverdale Blvd.

Windsor — Hydrangeas. Carlyss Van Ness leads a workshop devoted entirely to cultivating, propagating and drying hydrangeas. She will also do a hands-on pruning demonstration. Windsor Regional Library, 9291 Old Redwood Highway.

Santa Rosa — Spring Food Gardening in a Drought Year. Participants will come away with a tool shed full of tricks for food gardening without guilt during the drought. Specialists will cover how to retain soil moisture and efficiently use available water, how to identify sources of water and how to use formulas to determine how much water your particular garden needs. Sonoma Youth Center Garden at the Sierra Youth Center, 635 Eliza Way, Santa Rosa.

Rohnert Park — Super Succulents for Sonoma County.Anne Lowings focuses on succulents suitable for this climate. Her talk includes tips for keeping them healthy throughout the year and a slide presentation along with samples. Rohnert Park/Cotati Library, 6250 Lynne Conde Way, Rohnert Park.

Coming up April 12

Petaluma — The Significance of Geometric Forms in Botany. Paola Tonelli will decode the mysteries of the forms in leaves and flowers, which follow laws of physics in their development and rules of mathematics in their forms. Petaluma Regional Library, 100 Fairgrounds Drive, Petaluma.

Rincon Valley — Restoring Habitat. Mary Lou Milkoff will discuss easy ways to entice pollinators, songbirds and beneficial insects to your yard. Rincon Valley Library, 6958 Montecito Blvd., Santa Rosa.

Rohnert Park — Culinary Herbs. Janet Barocco will discuss and demonstrate how to plant a home herb garden and create a living "pantry" of flavor and aromas. She will cover the basics of cultivation, use and preservation of culinary herbs and edible flowers. 6250 Lynne Conde Way, Rohnert Park.

Sebastopol — Plant4Bees in All 4-Seasons. Learn how to create a garden filled with flowers high in nectar and pollen year-round to keep the honeybees and other pollinators happy. Sebastopol Regional Library, 7140 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol.

(You can direct Home and Garden news to Meg.McConahey@pressdemocrat.com or by calling 521-5204.)