Western Hills Garden in the Sonoma County town of Occidental recently celebrated its four-year anniversary under new owners, Christine and Tim Szybalski. The last chance to enjoy the new phase in the life of this horticultural treasure on one of this season’s public Open Days will be Sunday August 10. After that date, the garden will be open for tours and plant sales by appointment only (Tuesdays and Thursdays) for small groups. See the website for details.
Formerly the Western Hills Rare Plant Nursery, the garden reopened for visitors in 2013. Results of the ongoing restoration project are already evident in repairs to the structures, including four bridges, and landscaping that delighted visitors from around the world for over 50 years. Opened by Marshall Olbrich and Lester Hawkins in 1960, the founders pioneered the introduction of drought-tolerant plants from Australia and southern Europe to Northern California gardeners. Visitors described their demonstration garden as “sacred ground to serious green thumbs.” The new owners’ goal is to re-establish Western Hills’ historic role of introducing new cultivars to California.
Shaded by a backdrop of redwoods, footpaths through the gardens meander along three terraced-acres of flowering perennials, herbs, shrubs and specimen trees that slope down to a pond fed by a seasonal creek. Spring flowering is over now but summer brings its own display of beschorneria, dogwoods, echiums, iris, kniphofias, mullein, phlomis, puyas, wachendorfia, and more.
Where to Stay?
The Garden recommends two local hostelries. The Inn at Occidental is described as a luxurious bed and breakfast while the Occidental Hotel is friendly and affordable. Both are less than 2 miles from the Garden; approximately 3 minutes drive or 25 minutes walk along Coleman Valley Road.
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