Home & Garden Columns

Garden Variety: This Sonoma Nursery Is Well Worth the Detour

By Ron Sullivan
Friday October 06, 2006

I must have passed this place a thousand times without going in. I think it used to be called “The Windmill Nursery” and it still has the eponymous windmill, an old but still unrusted Aeromotor, evidently not in current use. 

It’s right at the end off the off-ramp from 101 to the road we usually take to Sebastopol and beyond, either to chase birds around Bodega Bay or to get our annual Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill fix at the Sebastopol Celtic fest in late September.  

But we’re usually eager to get to the birds or the music, and we give most of the roadside attractions on the Gravenstein Highway a pass.  

This year we had an extra hour or two the Saturday morning of the Celtfest, between the luxurious Motel 6 in Petaluma and the Sebastopol Community Center, so when we swerved for donuts at the first “Donuts!” sign, we also took a stroll through the nursery that sits fortuitously next to the donut joint.  

So the former Windmill (I think) Nursery is now “dig the nursery” or maybe it’s “dig: the nursery” with font changes working as punctuation. Cute name aside (and I say this as a former columnist whose former columns were shamelessly called things like “Dig This!” and “A Sense of Humus”) it’s well worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood. The neighborhood’s worth a visit too, especially now that it’s harvest season for those apples, so it all works out. 

At “dig the nursery” I noticed seedlings from our old friends at Flatland Farm, who used to be located right in town at Blake near San Pablo. They’d turned the intractable clay soil we have in the lower flatlands here into something about as springy as a mattress and clearly congenial to the plants thriving in it, and they had the prettiest chickens I’ve ever met, Millefleurs.  

The nursery’s owner hails from here, too, and like so many plantfolk in the area used to work at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery. He said he’s interested in retailing plant starts from not-the-usual sources, including Flatland, Blooms of Glen Ellen, and others new to me.  

His assistant hails from the South Bay, which might account for his taste in plants: he’s responsible for the horde of succulents, some of them unusual even for succulents, in various sizes.  

Other interesting plants the day we visited included dasylirion (a plant that’s fun to watch while walking around it), nifty citrus including Buddha’s hand citron, and a big handsome blooming Franklinia alatamaha, the tree now extinct in the wild but saved as a species by planthunter William Bartram in the 18th century and the gardeners who’ve perpetuated it since.  

We also saw water hyacinth for sale. You’re scaring me, bhoyos. I don’t think Florida has any manatees to spare for us. (Pity; they’d add so much charm to the Delta.) There are other water plants too, like big papyrus; I forgot to ask if the koi in the big tank were for sale. They were certainly flirty.  

Don’t miss the gazebo made of bicycle wheels.  



Dig: the nursery 

8567 Gravenstein Highway, Cotati 

(707) 795-7825 

9:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. 


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.