Fall Garden Tour Inspires and Educates Gardeners

Gardeners love to visit other people’s gardens for ideas and inspiration; that’s why garden tours are so popular here in Sonoma County. What sets the Bloomin’ Backyards Garden Tour and Market apart from the others is the focus on education. For this year’s tour, five home gardens within a four-mile radius of Sebastopol are featured, including one right in town on Florence Avenue, the street known for its whimsical junk-art sculptures. And, yes, that garden does have a sculpture in its front yard.  To find out which one, and what lies beyond that front yard, you’ll need to buy a ticket that allows you to explore all five unique gardens where the emphasis is on sustainability as well as beauty.

This biennial event, which financially supports the programs of the UC Master Gardeners of Sonoma County, rotates every other year to one of five different sections of the county. This year’s Sebastopol area tour is on Sunday, September 18, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.  An autumn date was picked to encourage gardeners to plant in the rainy season—conserving both money and water.  “The plants like it—it gives them a head start with root development—and you have to water them less.” says Ellen Zaslansky, this year’s chair of Bloomin’ Backyards.

On the day of the event, the culmination of two years of hard work by the home-owners, the gardens are ready. So are 150 volunteers—all of them Master Gardeners—greeting visitors, directing traffic, handing out brochures with highlights of each garden, and prepared to answer gardening questions on subjects as diverse as sheet mulching, gopher control, worm composting, seed saving, beekeeping, habitat gardening and more.

An important goal of the Master Gardeners is to educate home gardeners to understand that “pest management doesn’t mean Roundup,” says Janet Norton, head of marketing and publicity efforts for this year’s tour.

“You can accomplish the same results with good horticultural practices,” explains Zaslansky. “We try to help people understand what happens when they use these products, the impact on the ecology and themselves.”

Docents will be on hand in each garden to point out interesting features and special plants—the most hardy, most beautiful, most drought tolerant, and some more unusual species. One garden is almost totally planted with succulents. Some plants are available for sale and all of those are ‘off patent’ or ‘off trademark.’

There is stunning design diversity in these gardens as well as a huge variety of plants within them. A garden that was once a wasteland of asphalt and gravel is now an urban oasis of drought-tolerant plants. Haven for Habitat is planted with native sages and fragrant lavender to nourish backyard bees. Rustic Abundance is a working farm and features a craft marketplace and a straw bale demonstration area.

A garden with views of Mt. St. Helena in the distance and a stone patio space for entertaining has plants, books and prints for sale. And another garden offers a variety of outdoor ‘personal spaces,’ each designed for a different activity.

On display at each garden will be an original oil, watercolor or pastel by local plein air artists Tamra Sanchez, Susan Greer, Susan Ball, Sally Paul, Sandra Rubin and Annie Murphy Springer. The art is for sale, with proceeds going to support the programs of the Master Gardeners of Sonoma County.

Explore the creativity and ingenuity of home gardeners and find answers to questions about what would translate beautifully and sustainably to your own garden at Bloomin’ Backyards. Advance sale tickets, available at Copperfield’s Books stores, Readers’ Books in Sonoma and at sonomamastergardeners.org, are $35. On the day of the tour, tickets will be $40 and can be purchased that morning at the Master Gardener table at the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market, at Copperfield’s on Main Street, Sebastopol, and at participating gardens. And, if you have 10 garden buddies, take advantage of a group discount price of $30 per ticket (advance sale only). Visit the website and Facebook page, listed below, for more details about the tour and to learn about the Sonoma County Master Gardeners and their outreach programs.   SD

UC Master Gardeners of Sonoma County