"Welcome to Mendo!"

Botanical Gardens and surrounding charm fest…

“Hey, uh...welcome to Mendo!”
“Hi there! What makes you think we’re not from Mendo?” (I’m pretty sure there was only the sound of crickets, but who could say amid the muting fog?).

This was my exchange with a somewhat surly character who emerged from a foggy, pitch-dark alley in Mendocino, CA during our garden sojourn.  It summarizes how disjointed, bemused, and delighted I found myself during the whole exploration to those there parts.  We followed in the footsteps of many before us, including Far Out Flora and A Growing Obsession and headed north into Mendocino County, CA.  I’m not at all hatin', I’m just sayin'…that’s a weird place--Not my typical reaction to places or many things in general; usually if it could be classified as “weird” I think it’s fun, crunchy, or I simply feel good when I’m there.  I’m much more likely to use the labels "delightful" or “an armpit” than I am “weird.”  

So, when I say that Mendo is weird (not an armpit), what I mean is that there are lots of unexpected and perhaps disparate elements—it kept me guessing.   Maybe it’s because it is sort of a lovers’ Victorian touristy town by weekend, county-wide grow house by work week kind-of-a-place, or maybe because of the relentless fog socking in the region (it just has a way of surrealifying the whole experience)—I don’t know.  We just really did feel like we were missing some secret when we left (Lingering questions include: Does burgundy-esque wallpaper really need to cover every visible surface? Why are there so many missing persons signs?  How can there be such a ripe and complex economy surrounding yarn—even if you do want to wear a Snuggie at all times? There really is a separate cemetery for the unredeemed?).   It’s a place of stunning natural beauty, peppered nicely with distinctively cultivated charm.  The town of Elk was especially breathtaking, and Boonville was an unexpected respite after car-sicky roads.  Lots of cottage gardens and lots of savvier plant selections than your average smattering of towns with zero cell phone reception can boast. 

Observing these fog-wrapped gardens required me to assess plant health differently—some things were dry and too exposed, even though it felt like you were swimming through clouds much of the time.  Certain colors, especially ochres, magentas, and glaucus foliage took on a veritable glow, and it did just seem like someone had turned up the exposure and spent some time on photoshop (true for plants in the fog, not so much for people).  

When things stay in that kind of marine belt, they miss the wreckage and the benefit of the seasonal extremes.  It’s always been easier for me to see the protective aspects of the milder climate, but from a maintenance standpoint  there are a few real boons to a crippling winter (and to some real root-activating heat).  When temps drop way down, herbaceous plants behave truly herbaceously.   There are all kinds of seasonal cues—if not demands—about when to prune something, when to cut it back, along with disease and pest killing cold.  Not that there aren’t seasonal maintenance cues in a foggy garden, they just don’t scream at you like in a more temperate seasonal climate.  Or, if they do, you can’t hear them for the fog…it seems to require a finer and perhaps more astute touch in the maintenance department—not because it’s harder, but because it’s easier, and therefore requires a delicate hand.

So on to pics:  the Mendo Botanical Gardens is a gem.  It’s nicely layed out and nicely maintainted: I loved the Heather garden best.  They also have a significant number of conifers!  I’ve not seen as many conifers around as I would expect, given the range that can be grown in this part of the world, and they are well integrated into the colorful borders.  For a public garden of its size, in its locale, with the garden’s probable income, the condition and visit-worthiness of it far exceed those of several more acclaimed collections I’ve visited.  They have a great little nursery full of interesting plants.  David got inspired by an Abutilon and we couldn't help but put together a little vignette!
Who’s got the munchies?

Stunning prostrate Grevillia 

Echeveria and Arcostaphylos

Here are two forms of prostrate Picea selections

What a stellar planting vignette

Simple sculpture: Repeated concentric circles in graduated scale to force the perspective...really nice!  (Behind Melianthus)

Another beautiful Grevillea

Garden shed with Hops growing near their edible garden
This soil near the vegetable and dahlia beds was like black sandy gold...

Euphorbia chariacas x robbiae selection--so chunky and vigorous!

The Abutilon and Leucadendron that inspired our nursery display



  1. Yum! there are some delightful parts of Mendo, but I do agree: it is unpredictable, disorienting, and unsettling as a whole. That's why, when you stumble into the little pockets of perfection, you want to nestle in and call it home, as so many seekers do. They find their patches and stay. And then, everyone else that enters in seems Weird, making the whole dynamic even more weird. I'll have to come visit with you--the gardens look tastier than I know the vineyards to be! xoxox

  2. Nice pictures, Boonville is awesome, not just because of Anderson Valley Brewery, but because it was so far from the main road they developed their own language called Boontling


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