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Brix Gardens

Top Ten Gardens in Napa Valley

By Paul Franson

Napa Valley has many beautiful gardens, but many are hidden on estates where only the owners and their guests can enjoy them.
    Fortunately, there are many more available to the public, and they’re very varied, from formal to rustic, from utilitarian vegetable plots to elegant formal gardens.
    Here are some of our favorites:

1. The incredible Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden at Skyline Park has to be one of the top destinations. It shows you the beauty of native plants adapted to our climate, and hence requiring minimal water and care. The 2.5-acre garden was designed for school groups, garden and hiking clubs and the casual visitor. Here, our native plants are assembled within a garden plan that is both attractive and beneficial for the plants. As a bonus, the garden propagates native plants from seed and cuttings, and hosts sales where you can buy the plants. Visit www.ncfaa.com/skyline/garden.htm.

2. Connolly Ranch is run by the Land Trust as an educational resource for kids, but no one says that excludes big kids. It features a wide variety of plants typical of working farms with a bonus of complementary farm animals, too. Connolly Ranch is at 3141 Browns Valley Road in Napa. Call  707-256-3828 or visit www.connollyranch.org.

3. Napa Country Iris Garden is one of Napa's best-kept secrets. It’s a garden specializing in tall bearded irises. There are 438 varieties listed this year. 77 of those are new or different from last year. The spring bloom season is planned for April 18 to May 18, but weather can affect  bloom season. The garden will open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm during bloom season. Admission is free. You can also order bulbs from the garden website. You can get more at www.napairis.com or (707) 255-7880. The garden is at 9087 Steele Canyon Road at Lake Berryessa.

4. Raymond Vineyards has an extensive garden (including vineyard) that illustrates Biodynamic growing. They even have animals on view!

5. Many restaurants in Napa Valley grow some of their own food, but perhaps none is more extensive and attractive than that at Brix just north of Yountville shown above. The garden was created to provide fresh herbs and vegetables for the restaurant’s seasonal menu and consists of eleven 6-by-20 foot raised beds. About 80 percent of the fresh ingredients on the tasting menu during season are picked from the garden. Brix also own 16-acres of olive trees and vineyard land, all visible from the dining area and patio. Call 707-944-2749 or visit www.brix.com.

6. Long Meadow Ranch's gardens at its site in St. Helena, which also hosts Farmstead restaurant, grows organic fruits and vegetables. It's owned by Ted and Laddie Hall, pioneers in organic agriculture as well as beef, olive oil, and wine. You can enjoy a walk through the beautiful demonstration gardens. Its website is www.longmeadowranch.com.

7. Pat Kuleto’s Kuleto Estate Family Winery high in the hills above Lake Hennessey can only be visited with an appointment, but it’s well worth the planning – and the effort. It’s the closest we have in Napa Valley (along with Long Meadow Ranch) to a self-sustained estate like the great tenutas of Tuscany. Pat has extensive vegetable and fruit gardens, livestock, fruit and olive orchards—and of course, great wine.

8. By far the biggest “gardens” in Napa Valley are those that grow wine grapes, and you can see them up and down the valley in countless places. Perhaps the best place to see a lot of varieties and how they grown, however, is St. Supéry Vineyards and Winery. It has one of the best demonstration vineyards, and it’s also adjacent to other gardens, a nice patio, great tours and exhibits about growing grapes—and fine wine to taste as the end of your tour. St. Supéry is at 8440 St. Helena Hwy. in Rutherford. Phone 707.963.4507 or visit www.stsupery.com.

9. Another winery that’s a must visit on many counts is Frog’s Leap in Rutherford. Owner John Williams doesn’t take himself too seriously, unlike many local vintners, but he’s very serious about his farming and wine. Frog’s Leap is one of very few dry-farmed (unirrigated) vineyards still left in the valley, and his grapes and other plants are organically farmed, another term for traditional farming. The winery also has extensive vegetable, herb and flower gardens as well as fruit orchards and lots of other delights for the eye as well as the tongue. And the wines are like the superb Napa Valley wines of yesterday, not the over-ripe over-extracted wines that all taste alike. Frog’s Leap is at  8815 Conn Creek Road in Rutherford and you do need an appointment to visit. Call 707.963.4704 or visit www.frogsleap.com.

10. It’s very difficult to select the last garden from among all those at wineries in Napa Valley, but one that’s both beautiful and accessible in that at Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena. It’s in front of the winery’s Victorian guest house, and next to the tasting room, one of the few in Napa Valley that doesn’t charge for tasting, at least its basic wines. The garden is full of roses and other flowers and plants, all lovingly tended and labeled. Sutter Home is at 277 St. Helena Hwy (Hwy. 29) South in St. Helena. Call
707-963-3104 or visit www.sutterhome.com.

 

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