Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: Spring Garden Tours Around the Bay

Friday April 21, 2006

Maybe we’re going to get sprung after all. Maybe we don’t have to try raising duck potatoes and cattails in all our gardens, and who knows? The sun might even come out for a few days before the summer fog rolls in.  

In the event we get some garden time this year, there are lots of resources blooming this season. Fall may be the best time to plant a lot of things, especially natives, to take advantage of the winter rains, but spring is when our fancies turn to green stuff.  

Tomorrow (Saturday, April 22) Merritt College Landscape Horticulture Department throws its annual spring plant fair. This is a great place to find garden mainstays, food plants, and good advice; it’s also a place for unusual plants: things you never heard of and new variations on old favorites. 

There’s also live music, food, and art, and good advice about soils, structures, plants, exposures, pruning, or any other garden-related question you might have. 

While you’re there, take a stroll through the department’s grounds and don’t miss the vista from the western deck. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 12500 Campus Drive, in the Oakland hills; take Hwy. 13 to the Redwood Road exit and go uphill to turn right on Campus Drive. 

More ideas, inspiration, and advice can be found on garden tours: Register—right now, quick!—to tour or volunteer, at www.bringingbackthenatives.net/ for this year’s Bringing Back the Natives tour. It’s free and fascinating, and includes freebies, garden talks, and the chance to see how natives get along with other plants and wildlife in an immense variety of situations and combinations. Self-guided all-Bay-Area tour, Sunday, May 7, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.  

Park Day School’s annual Secret Gardens of the East Bay Tour happens Sunday, April 30, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. Order tickets, $45 each, at www.parkdayschool.org/secretgardens/ tour.html or call the hotline, (510) 653-6250. There’s a garden marketplace and lunch available at the school, or order a box lunch with your ticket, for $13.  

Reserve a tour of the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek and seize the chance to buy plants from that great place afterwards. The garden has lots of succulents and irises, and you can make drainage good enough for them; take a look at the mounding method the inimitable Mrs. Bancroft used to build her oasis. 

Docent-led tours are given Fridays, 9:30 a.m., and Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Self-guided tours Fridays, 1 p.m. and Sundays, 4 p.m. All tours $7/person. Registration required; go to www.ruthbancroftgarden.org/mailtours.html or call (925) 210-9663.  

Plan for Mother’s Day: Annie’s Annuals throws an appropriately annual party at the nursery in Richmond, May 13 and 14 this year; see anniesannuals.com for directions. California Native Plant Society’s Yerba Buena Chapter runs a free self-guided tour of native gardens in San Francisco on May 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this year. 

Download a map and address list at www.cnps-yerbabuena.org/gardentour.html—this one thoughtfully includes notes on how accessible each garden is to people using walkers.  

Ron Sullivan is a former professional gardener and arborist. Her “Garden Variety” column appears every Friday in East Bay Home & Real Estate. Her column on East Bay trees appears every other Tuesday in the Berkeley Daily Planet.