A Two-day Romp
by Cheryl Petty -- October 1, 2009
Want to experience the flavors of the Russian River, and there are plenty, with a horticultural or bonsai slant? We heard many good things about the area and especially about the numerous fine private bonsai collections in and around Sebastopol, CA.
We used Google to map out all our locations, but still managed to get lost at least once finding Miniature Plant Kingdom nursery, specializing in bonsai and garden railroad plants. Don Herzog the owner is knowledgeable and friendly as he briskly walks us around a nursery in transition; the sheer number of miniature varieties is almost incomprehensible.
Arriving for lunch at Jim Gremel’s Deer Meadow Bonsai nursery, we had only gotten lost two or three times even with our Google assistant, Jim refreshed us with a salad of fresh greens and veggies from the local farmers market. Jim recently won the National Bonsai Award at the 1st National Show in Rochester, NY for a cascade Shimpaku in the yamadori style he is known for. Tearing ourselves away from his benches groaning with Shimpaku juniper grafted on collected junipers as well as San Jose juniper and get back on the road.
We quickly got lost again at least two more times before finding Frank and Barbara Bardella’s beautiful home and extensive bonsai gardens. After getting the full tour of their collection of trees and accent plants, including their sophisticated irrigation system of two 8-station controllers run by Barbara’s PC, we promised to meet them again for dinner.
This time not getting lost at all, we enjoyed Lone Pine Gardens, a wholesale and retail nursery specializing in bonsai, pre-bonsai and fine ornamentals. Established by Ian and Janet Price from England, you will swoon at the more than 500 varieties of succulents and cactus and five kinds of miniature fuchsia from Mexico.
Finally we checked into Casa Carolina, a delightful bed and breakfast that was once a farm house, decorated with comfort and style in mind. We were treated graciously by the hospitable inn keeper Lila and also by the sheep and Daisy the Donkey in the pasture. Balletto Vineyards sent over a Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, for which they are well known, and we had a little happy hour at Casa Carolina Jim Gremel who came to join us.
Keeping with our Japanese theme, we joined the Bardellas at Sushi Tozai for a great meal. Afterwards we strolled around the Downtown Plaza along with many others interested in the free music or in our case interested in the many flavors of ice cream at Screamin’ Mimi’s.
Our day started early with a special breakfast at Patisserie Angelica. Condra Easley and Debbie Morris showed us their pastry case with cakes and pastries beautiful and foreign and a Pink Crocodile Couture Purse cake they sell through mail order. One wall is covered with their awards as they tell us they had only recently removed all the old ones to start over! There was more fun was in the kitchen, as we got to watch little Cardinal Sin chocolate cakes made from scratch. Sitting at a tiny wrought iron table with French tea and coffee we were in heaven with little individual Gateau Basque cakes and pain au chocolat.
Happily today we don’t get lost once and easily find the fine Osmosis Enzyme Bath Spa and meet the owner Michael Stusser for a tour of the exquisite Japanese style meditation garden and pond designed by Robert Ketchell. This is the only day spa in the US that offers the Cedar Enzyme Bath, a rejuvenating heat treatment from Japan. The treatment is both relaxing and energizing at the same time and is produced biologically by a fermentation process. Your own body chemistry participates in this natural cleansing process, breaking down waste in the subcutaneous layers of the skin.
Feeling radiant and looking younger, our next stop was the patio seating at The French Garden. We shared the Chioggia beet salad and crab cakes and finished with Gravenstein apple flan with vanilla ice cream served by a fine and friendly staff. Owner Dan Smith grows most of the seasonal fruits and vegetables that are featured in their continental/California cuisine.
REDWOOD EMPIRE BONSAI SOCIETY
The local Redwood Empire Bonsai Society boasts a roster of 100 members and goes back to 1981 with Mas Imazumi as their sensei. Before that, there was a Japanese Bonsai Club for only Japanese language speakers. Bonsai has a long and respectable history in Sebastopol. We were fortunate to get invitations to see some of the private collections by club members Jack O’Brian and Ivan Lukrich before the end of our Russian River holiday. Club members and bonsai enthusiasts may visit but always call first to make arrangements. REBS Annual Bonsai Show and Sale always takes place the last weekend in August. Their 2009 exhibit featured 250 trees with demonstrations and tree critiques by Masters Yasuo Mitsuyana and Kathy Shaner.
THINGS TO DO IN JULY
- Enmanji Temple Teriyaki Bazaar
THINGS TO DO IN AUGUST
- Gravenstein Apple Fair
- Redwood Empire Bonsai Society Annual Show
- Deer Meadow Bonsai 3700 Deer Meadow Ln, Occidental 707 874-1679
- Lone Pine Gardens 6450 Lone Pine Rd, Sebstopol707 823-5024 Open 10am-5pm Thurs through Sat
- Miniature Plant Kingdom 13404 Harrison Grade Pl, Sebastopol 707 874-2233
- Sumagawa Nursery 8049 Gravenstein Hwy, Cotati 707 795-5467 open 6 days week, closed Tuesday
HORTICULTURAL THINGS TO DO NEAR BY
There are six American Viticultural Areas in Sonoma County and 150 wineries clustered within a 30 mile radius. The Russian River Valley Area receives coastal influences from the Pacific Ocean which are great for cool-climate grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It’s hard not to notice the big family of wine growers in and around Sebastopol. Many wineries have regular daytime hours for wine tasting and tours and close in the late afternoon. For a small family run operation with award winning Pinot Noir find Balletto Vineyards on Occidental Road in Santa Rosa. The western edges of the ranch border the Laguna de Santa Rosa, the largest tributary of the Russian River.
The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens at the corner of Santa Rosa and Sonoma Avenues in Santa Rosa is where the American botanist, horticulturist and pioneer in agriculture science lived from 1875 to 1926 and developed many fruit and vegetable variants such as the Shasta Daisy, Santa Rosa plum and Burbank Russet potato.
Annadel State Park east of Santa Rosa offers 35 miles of hiking and riding trails that pass through numerous plant communities including beautiful oak woodlands of Valley (q. lobata), Black (q. kelloggii), Coast Live (q. agrifolia), Blue (q. douglasii) and Oregon (q. garryana) oaks. Coast Live Oak is the most characteristic tree of the California coastal plains, valleys and foothills within 50 miles of the Pacific Ocean.
- Gravenstein apple 1812
- Luther Burbank 1875
- Montepulciano Winery (Simi Winery) 1876
- Gravenstein Apple Fair 1910
- Buddhist Sunday School/Japanese Language School 1926
- Enmanji Buddhist Temple 1932
- Sumagawa Nursery 1960
- Miniature Plant Kingdom 1969
- Lone Pine Gardens 1979
- Redwood Empire Bonsai Society 1981
- REBS Bonsai Show 1983
- Grand Harvest Awards 1990
- Deer Meadow Bonsai 1995
ABOUT THE WRITERS
Cheryl Petty is a writer for Golden Statements and owner of the Window Box Bonsai Accents and Art Gallery in Dunsmuir, California. She is a member of the Redding and Chico Bonsai Clubs and the American Shohin-Bonsai Assoc.
Accompanying Petty on this trip was Kathleen O’Donnell, the Editor of Golden Statements, publication of the Golden State Bonsai Federation and lives in Sacramento, California. She is a member of the Capital City Bonsai Assoc, Sacramento Bonsai Club, American Bonsai Assoc, Sacramento.
Published Golden Statements The Magazine of the Golden State Bonsai Federation Vol xxxii No.6 Nov/Dec 2009