Home & Garden Columns
Here’s another field trip, in case you’re not busy enough with all the October nursery sales and native-plant fests. Morningsun Herb Farm has a few natives, but its focus is garden herbs in the vernacular sense of the word: useful culinary, medicinal, and fragrant plants.
The place is on the edge of Vacaville, though Vacaville’s one of those places whose edges are ever expanding; if you read this a year from the publishing date you might find the place next to a Generican shopping mall.
That would be a shame, too. The road it’s on is frequented by weekend motorcycle riders including the sort who think they’re making movies, but is otherwise peaceful and scenic. The nursery itself will relax you.
Don’t skip the demo gardens that surround the small gravel parking lot and expand to its right.
On a hot Vacaville day the path leading under tall shrubs and trees including that area’s ubiquitous old walnuts is quite inviting, and the understory’s full of birds.
Lots of salvias greet you with blue, purple, red, and/or yellow flowers depending on what’s blooming. It’s not misleading: we counted 45 kinds of sage, no, wait: 53; no, here’s more: it’s 57, like Heinz.
We probably missed a few too. Salvia is one of those genera that have lots and lots of species, and some of its species have lots of cultivars because they taste good or smell good or, sometimes, just because they look so good. There’s one there, Salvia vanhoutii, with gorgeous velvety deep-crimson flowers at about a foot tall. Betsy Clebsch wrote a whole book about salvias.
Morningsun’s habit of stocking herbs in infinite variety doesn’t stop with sage. There were 21 lavenders, 11 kinds of rosemary, half a dozen echinaceas; I lost count of the oregano varieties, and the penstemons and the thymes.
There were more basil cultivars there last spring; that’s reasonably a seasonal thing, since most basils are annuals. But Morningsun has African blue basil right now, and that is perennial in Berkeley gardens and, get this, keeps going all winter.
Aside from unusual varieties in things one sees here and there, the place has stuff I couldn’t resist because I hadn’t seen it anywhere else.
Vetiver is a grass with fragrant roots; you know what it smells like because you can’t stand in line or ride public transit without having met some popular vetiver-based cologne. It’s cedarish, with a hint of citrus.
Morningsun has lemongrass and something new to me, “vanilla grass,” with a strong and restful scent under the sun.
Unusual pond plants too; winter veggies; seeds, dried herbs, pretty things including amusing garden art. Fall/winter classes—e.g. wreathmakings, Nov. 4 and Dec. 2, $45.00 including materials. A “blowout” sale (does anybody stop to picture that when they use the word?) starts the day after Thanksgiving.
For details, archives of the interesting newsletter, and more news visit their website. To get there, take I-80, exit Pena Adobe Road, left on Cherry Glen, right on Pleasants Valley Road.
Morningsun Herb Farm
6137 Pleasants Valley Road, Vacaville
Tue.–Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Starting Nov. 1: Wed.–Sat. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Dec. 24–Jan. 26.