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Western Hills Garden is back

<MC>The legendary Western Hills Garden in Occidental will re-open to the public for Saturday tours on June 9, two years after it was rescued from foreclosure by new owners from the East Bay.

A team of volunteers has collectively devoted hundreds of hours a month to restoring the remarkable three acre botanical garden — part of the Western Hills Rare Plant Nursery — that drew the attention of horticulturists and collectors from around the world.

After installing an irrigation system, clearing away blackberries and other overgrowth, cleaning up the pond and restoring some important plants by drawing on cuttings from people who had purchased their plants at the old Western Hills Nursery, work is moving into a new phase.

More skilled volunteers are now being being recruited to help identify plants, properly prune rare plants, propagate, bring in new cultivars, act as docents and collaborate in other ways on efforts to make the garden an educational center and horticultural destination.

The garden will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and by appointment. Cost to visit is $9. It's located 16250 Coleman Valley Road, Occidental For information visit westernhillsgarden.com.


<MC2>Private gardens in Mendocino County will welcome visitors during the Garden Conservancy's Open Days weekend June 9 and 10.

Four gardens along the coast will be spotlighted on June 9, with the event moving inland to Anderson Valley on June 10.

Along the coast, there are four gardens to explore: the gardens around Digging Dog Nursery in Albion (31101 Middle Ridge Rd.), a garden on eight hours nestled among redwoods and surrounded by field and forest in Fort Bragg, the Gardens at Harmony Woods in Mendocino with serious collections of conifer and rhododendrons and the estate-style Frog Song Farm in Point Arena.

In Anderson Valley, garden lovers can visit Stoney Bottom, the retirement project of Walt Valen, who for years oversaw the San Francisco Botanical Garden; the English-style cottage gardens at The Madrones (9000 Highway 128, Philo), a collection of shops and winery tasting rooms, and Wildwood, a potager with a mixed shrub borer and a collection of magnolia and maples.

Cost is $5 per garden, payable at the gate. Visitors may also purchase discounted admission tickets in advance — 6 for $25 — at opendaysprogram.org or by calling 888-842-2442.


<MC2>Herbs are the most versatile of plants. They can be used medicinally, in cooking, and in body and skincare products. Or you can simply enjoy their beauty and fragrance.

The multi-purpose herb will be celebrated June 3 at the "All Things Herbal Faire and Plant Sale next to the Farmer's Market in the Sebastopol Town Plaza.

Pick up live herb plants, tinctures, cordials, dried herbs, health and skincare products, books, essences and more, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event is a benefit for the Sonoma County Herb Exchange. For information visit sonomaherbs.org or call 664-0768.


<MC2>You can take your pick from two home and garden tours in Sonoma County on Sunday.

The Sonoma County Master Gardeners' "Blooming Backyards" featuring five Healdsburg gardens all created and tended by devoted hands-on gardeners. The Sonoma Cottage &amp; Garden Tour offers a peak into charming east Sonoma addresses.

The Master Gardener's put on their tour only once every two years, moving to different parts of this county.

This year's tour in Healdsburg appeals to serious gardeners with each garden a demonstration of smart horticultural practices promoted by the University of California Cooperative Extension, which sponsors the Master Gardener's program.

Experts will be at each stop on the tour to answer questions on composting, irrigation, edible gardening, propagation, beekeeping, beneficial insects, designing with foliage, diagnosing plant problems, mulch, lawn replacement, container gardening, soils, Sudden Oak Death, and more.

There will also be a Craft Market with rain barrels, succulents, mosaics, birdhouses and handcrafted garden accents, and a plant sale featuring many of the "Top Plants for Sonoma County" as determined by the Master Gardeners.

Cost is $30 in advance and $35 the day of the tour. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For information call 565-2608 or visit sonomamastergardeners.org.

The Sonoma Cottage &amp; Garden Tour wanders through historic homes as well as gardens. Among the stops is the home of interior designer Josh Heiser, with its small main house, even smaller guest house, and a yard filled with raised vegetable beds, a chicken coop and a salt water pool.

Homes are open noon to 4 p.m. Cost is $40 in advance and $45 the day of the event, sold at the will-call station at the Farrell residence, 553 Second St. E. Tickets are sold at The Corner Store, Wedekind's Garden Center and Pharmaca Pharmacy in Sonoma or online at sonomaleague.org. For information call 938-0169.


<MC2>The Marin Home &amp; Garden Expo sets up in San Rafael this weekend with live entertainment, education and lots of products and services for homeowners.

Highlights include the "MODern Lounge" with an "Eichler" exhibit and videos (and special talks on Sunday), appearances by the Carey brothers of TV's "On the House" and the "Dirt Duo" Annie Spiegelman.

Informational talks, lectures, exhibits and live entertainment go from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday June 2, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 3. Cost is $10, $6 for seniors and free for kids under 13. Discount coupons are available at marinhomegarden.com. At the Marin County Fairgrounds located at the Marin Civic Center off Highway 101 in San Rafael.


<MC2>If you're considering adding honeybees to your backyard menagerie, check out an upcoming how-to talk at 7 p.m. June 7 in Sonoma by beekeeping expert Randy Sue Collins.

A painter as well as passionate advocate for bees, Collins has over a dozen hives. A former president of the Sonoma County Beekeepers' Association, she will talk about "The Wonderful World of Honeybees" before the Valley of the Moon Garden Club. Non-members are invited and there is no fee.

Collins enjoys formulating, crafting and marketing beeswax candles, soaps and skin care products from the ingredients found in her hives.

The club meets at Vintage House, 264 First St. E., Sonoma. For information call George at 935-5939.


<MC2>The Sonoma County Regional Parks is teaming up with iGROW Sonoma for a series of gardening workshops held in the historic barn and educational garden at Tolay Lake Regional Park.

The series kicks of Saturday June 2 with a talk by iGROW's Wendy Krupnick on "Success with Seeds and Starts: Growing Your Own Transplants."

Krupnick will discuss which plants can be started without a green house and others that are easy to grow in most homes. She will also go over selection of seeds as well as what it takes to grow healthy seedlings.

On June 3 the park will host a workshop on "Three Sisters Gardening."

Native Americans knew that three complimentary crops thrive when grown together. Learn the ancient secrets of growing corn, squash and beans in an intercropping method during a workshop open to the entire family.

Movement, manipulatives, demonstrations, stories and more will be used to engage workshop goers. Bring your garden dimensions and come home with a personalized design for a Three Sisters Garden of your own. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

On June 9 Stefan Stehling with offer an "Introduction to Biointensive Gardening" from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn the reasons and techniques for developing a sustainable garden or mini-farm with an emphasis on soil formation, sustainable fertility development and soil food web health. The day-long class also will cover tool use and assessment methods and hands-on skills like double-digging and compost-making. Bring a lunch. ($75 suggested donation.

On June 10 Krupnick will give a talk on "Water and Weeds: Management in the Edible Garden." From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Krupnick will discuss watering methods, soil types and water conservation to control weeds and lead to a more productive garden. The class also will help identify common weeds and the best timing and techniques to management with removal, mowing and mulching. $30 suggested donation.

There are discounts for Regional Parks members on all workshops.

Tolay Lake is at the end of Cannon Lane off Lakeville Highway, 5.5 miles east of Petaluma. Parking is $7 per car or free with a Regional Parks membership. Wear study boots, long sleeves and long pants and bring a hat, sunscreen and your own water and snacks. For details visit sonomacountyparks.org or call 789-9699.


<MC2>Welcome wildlife to your garden.

Roadways, construction sites and other developments are slowly robbing wildlife of safe sanctuaries. Author and garden writer Nancy Bauer will explain how to create an environment to welcome wildlife such as butterflies, humming birds, bees and beneficial insects during a workshop Saturday, June 2 put on by the Sonoma County Master Gardeners.

Bauer will point out how the plants and environment in the Garden itself provide shelter, food and water to encourage wildlife to visit. She is the author of "The Habitat Garden," a popular reference for wildlife landscaping in the Bay Area.

The workshop will be from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Harvest for the Hungry Garden, 17 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa, behind the United Methodist Church. For details call 484-3613.

You may direct home and garden news to meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com or 521-5204.

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