California Road Trip: Days 9 & 10 – Wine, Rain, an Innovative Marketplace and Gardens

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California Road Trip

Well, another road trip is drawing to a close, but not before two more fun-filled days.

California Road Trip

California Road Trip

After leaving San Francisco, we headed up toward Napa Valley.  Despite it being a rainy day, we were determined that getting a little wet wouldn’t hinder us from exploring this area.

beautiful landscapes

Our first stop was (not surprisingly) a winery.  Many wineries were surrounded by beautiful landscapes and to be honest, I like plants more than wine, so I spent more time outside than inside sampling wine.

California Road Trip
Olive trees

Olive trees and roses were prevalent in landscape beds alongside grape vines.

Young grapes

Young grapes were beginning to appear on the vine.

California Road Trip
shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans) shrubs.

Ivy climbed up the walls of buildings and neatly trimmed boxwood shrubs enclosed areas filled with roses and shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans) shrubs.  

oak trees and tall poplar trees

The green hills were studded with oak trees and tall poplar trees were also used throughout the area.

Cornerstone Sonoma

The next morning was sunny and warm making it a perfect day to spend exploring  Cornerstone Sonoma with its trendy stores and gardens.

California Road Trip
California Road Trip

Many of the stores were filled with items for both home and garden while others offered stylish clothing with a casual theme.  

California Road Trip

An artisan created ollas onsite.  These clay containers are buried in the ground and are an old-fashioned way to water plants that have seen a resurgence in popularity. 

California Road Trip

Also offered for sale were shallow basins that mimic the appearance of wood.  They were filled with water and used as containers for plants.

California Road Trip

Old grape vines were used as borders for garden beds as well as for an accent piece in the garden – you could also buy some for your own garden.

California Road Trip

Unique, rusted metal containers were for sale, just waiting to be taken home and planted.

purple hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea') and bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum)

Throughout the shopping area were creative container plantings that I really liked.  They were housed in square metal containers and filled with purple hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’) and bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum).  The focus on these containers wasn’t on flowers but rather on the colorful foliage of the plants.

Sunset Magazine

One very exciting element of Cornerstone Sonoma is their new partnership with the folks at Sunset Magazine who are moving their test gardens and their test kitchen to this popular spot in Napa Valley.

California Road Trip

While the official opening isn’t until mid-May, the Sunset Test Gardens were well on their way to being completed.

California Road Trip
California Road Trip

Large amounts of plants were still waiting to be planted in the new Sunset test gardens, which is where new plant varieties will be evaluated while also allowing the public to see them up close.

California Road Trip

Landscapers were hard at work planting the new gardens.

California Road Trip

 There are a lot of creative garden structures and I hope to see these gardens someday once everything is finished.

Cornerstone Gardens

Next on our tour was the existing Cornerstone Gardens, which are described on their website “as  an ever-changing series of gardens, showcasing innovative designs from international and local landscape architects and designers.  They create a cultural and creative haven, celebrating the connection between art, architecture and nature”. 

“There are currently nine Cornerstone Gardens. 

Continually in a state of evolution, some garden installations will be in place for a season, while others will remain for several seasons.”

California Road Trip

Approaching the gardens, the main path takes you by a grassy area, dappled with shade.  The focal part of this area is the ‘plastic pinwheel flower garden’.  Passersby enjoy this fun take on a traditional flower bed – especially kids.

California Road Trip

Individual gardens were surrounded by Japanese privet hedges, creating a sense of mystery as you walk toward the entry into each one.

One of my favorites was In the Air by Conway Chen Chang.  “This garden is intended to give the viewer a better sense of the human relationship to air in a very playful and whimsical way.”

Wisteria Vine

Wisteria Vine

California Road Trip
Clematis flowers

Clematis flowers

A curved path with uniquely-shaped step stones sits beneath curved metal rebar with clematis vines.

Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and Agave salmiana.
Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and Agave salmiana.

The next garden was filled with plants that are popular in the Southwest, including Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and Agave salmiana.

Garden of Contrast by James Van Sweden and Sheila Brady

“This is an experience of contrasting texture, form, color, and scent that changes with the seasons.”

Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and Agave salmiana.

I love contrasting textures in the landscape and using agave with its bold shapes alongside ornamental grasses and their wispy texture creates drama in the garden.

California Road Trip
Eucalyptus trees

Eucalyptus trees

This garden was the most unusual, in my opinion and paid homage to the eucalyptus tree.

Eucalyptus Soliloquy by Walter Hood & Alma Dusolier

“A celebration of the non-native eucalyptus trees in the Sonoma Valley.”

Driving throughout Southern, Central and Northern California, eucalyptus trees are almost as  familiar as native oak trees.

California Road Trip

Wire cages held strips of eucalyptus bark and decorative eucalyptus seed pods were piled at the base.

California Road Trip
pond filled with waterlilies

The wire cages framed an attractive view with a pond filled with waterlilies.

California Road Trip
California Road Trip

Rise by Roger Raiche and David McCrory

“A tubular experience that stirs and arrange of emotional response.  A place for interaction and play.”

I loved the use of contrasting colors and textures in this garden, don’t you?

Field of grape vines.

The view at the end of the ‘tunnel’ was a field of grape vines.

Cornerstone Sonoma

We spent a wonderful morning at Cornerstone Sonoma and I highly recommend visiting if you ever find yourself in San Francisco (it’s about 1 hour north).

California Road Trip

California Road Trip

As we left Napa Valley, heading back toward to San Francisco and our airline flight back home, I found that crossing the famous Golden Gate Bridge the perfect way to finish a fabulous road trip.

California Road Trip

California Road Trip

Thank you so very much for coming along with me.  

We will be back on the road next year!

Arizona Road Trip: Flowers, Containers, and a Wedding

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
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