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Mendocino’s Dahlias Arrive Early This Year

Mendocino Coastal Botanical Gardens, Dahlia Garden
Mendocino Coastal Botanical Gardens, Dahlia Garden
David Laws

Except for a few days here and there, June gloom this year deferred to unfamiliar sunshine along the typically foggy California Coast. From Monterey to Mendocino, dahlias that usually reach peak bloom in August exploded into their extraordinary variety of colors, shapes and textures a month early.

The Heritage House Resort on the Mendocino Coast
David Laws

Carrying cut blooms to-go presented by the gardeners on dead-heading days, visitors to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens near Fort Bragg, California feel the need to respond to quizzical glances with “It’s OK they said I could take it.” Over 450 plants in a secluded woodland setting represent 120 different cultivars of the genus that has grown in popularity along the coast since 1926 when it was adopted as the Official Flower of San Francisco.

Colorful mounds bursting with old favorites and rare specimens in the Perennial Garden are alive with bees, butterflies and humming birds. Designed to raise the plantings above the normally high water table, the varying elevations across the site present dramatic sweeps of color that seize visitors’ attention the moment they step onto the entrance plaza. Boulders and sculpture, together with a backdrop of conifers and shrubs add structural interest to this focal point of the Gardens.

While the dahlias and perennials are at their best over the next few weeks, the mild maritime climate allows the Gardens to offer year round displays of color and texture. The 47-acre property owned by the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Park District accommodates more than 20 plant collections including begonias, camellias, dahlias, fuchsias, magnolias, tender-species rhododendrons, and heaths and heathers in manicured formal gardens.

An easy half-mile walk through a natural forest and fern-covered canyons, beyond a stout gate that discourages unwelcome Black-tailed deer, the path ends in grassy meadows atop the coastal bluff. From here you can watch the biannual Grey Whale migration. When the wind howls and the waves turn wild you can still enjoy the spectacle from the screened comfort of the Cliff House.

Where to Stay?
The Mendocino Riviera is blessed
with an abundance of unique and charming B&Bs. But if you are seeking a private cottage with full-service and restaurant amenities perched high above the ocean, The Heritage House Resort offers a haven of peace and tranquility. [Reviews: 4.6/5, Price: $$]

Based around an 1877 New England-style farmhouse, this star of the popular 1978 movie Same Time Next Year is in the process of being restored to its role as the jewel of coastal hostelries after an absence of several years. Drought-tolerant flowering plants and shrubs clustered around the dwelling units merge into 37 acres of natural meadows and groves of cypress and eucalyptus along the rugged ocean-front setting. The Heritage House Resort is located at 5200 N. Highway One, Little River, about 20 minutes south of Mendocino Coastal Botanical Gardens.

California Gardens Mobile App
California Gardens is mobile travel app, free from iTunes, that describes over 200 gardens that are open to the public on a scheduled or occasional basis. It includes arboretums, botanical gardens, public parks, college campuses, hotels, nurseries, wineries, and private estates that showcase the extraordinary variety of plants that thrive across the diverse climate regions of the Golden State. Download California Gardens from the Apple iTunes App Store (free) or Google play for Android.