Sunset is a hundred-year-old publisher of Sunset Magazine which began as a publication promoting the beauty of California to mostly Midwestern readership. Over time, Sunset Magazine has become a lifestyle publication featuring articles about travel, cooking, gardening, entertaining, and architecture for Westerners. Sunset also produces a variety of garden books including The Western Garden Book, a wonderful reference book of plants that will grow in this part of the country. It's often the first garden book purchased by western gardeners when starting to garden here. Because USDA hardiness zones only take into consideration winter low temperatures, in 1967, Sunset devised and introduced a refined system of 24 climate zones for the states west of the Continental Divide. The book now includes climate zone maps for Alaska, Hawaii, and Southwestern Canada. Having read the magazine and used book for years, I was excited to see the Sunset Headquarters and gardens in Menlo Park. To learn how to visit yourself, go here.
The garden is divided into several areas featuring plants that thrive in various regions of the west. We start at the test garden which is "jammed with the latest plants, devices, and projects we're evaluating for coverage in Sunset." Notice that tall bushy looking plant with purple blooms just below the eve of the roof on the corner. That's one of Sunset's new introductions this year Salvia 'Amistead.' Many of us fell in love with the blooms with black calyxes like S. 'Black and Blue' but with purple flowers. While it may not grow quite this tall for me, I was delighted to find one on sale at Fred Meyer (Thank you Heather & Scott!) for $12.00!
Pam Penick, mother of the Fling, evaluating the pavers in the small seating area that you'll see more of below. To get her take on it, go here.
And in case you missed Pam's T.V. appearances -
So many colors & textures - so little space.
Another view of the trial gardens where 50% of Sunset's own garden photography is taken.
"A room with a view" was constructed for sunset and will be featured in a future issue of the magazine.
Interesting arbor in that it's both ornamental and utilitarian. For some reason, it didn't look all that sturdy.
I was reminded of this purely ornamental circular portal from the Carhart Garden on Vashon Island, WA.
One of the many nice surprises in the Pacific Northwest area of the Sunset Garden was this totem created 15 miles south of my home town in Alaska.
I guess this is what happens to Japanese maples when grown in hot summer areas. Maybe the irrigation system malfunctioned.
Even though this isn't my cup of tea, these are very nicely done!
At the sunset Headquarters, we had the pleasure of hearing presentations by sponsors Sunset Western Garden Collection, (Salvia 'Amistead' being one of my faves!) Southern Living Plant Collection/Encore Azalea, and Bailey Nurseries. Bailey, headquartered in the Midwest, has growing fields both there and on Sauvie Island, near Portland, OR. I've driven past them for years and it was nice to put faces and stories with the fields.
Another of the sunset collection that sounds interesting is Jubilation Gardenia. It is supposed to be cold hardy and able to bloom well without as much heat as most gardenias require. I can't wait to try one to see if we could actually have profuse gardenia blooms in summers that are fairly cool. There's nothing like that fragrance!
The bark of several old trees caught my eye. Quercus lobata/Valley Oak.
Eucalyptus - also love the fragrance!
Platanus racemosa/California Sycamore.
Crepe Myrtle in full bloom.
Do you see the sweet little Western Bluebird?
Gorgeous lawn is used for concerts and special events.
In a few steps, we're in the southwest.
On the shady side.
An ornamental pomegranate. I understand that in warm climates like this one, they actually set fruit. Here we grow them just for their flowers.
And we're back at the test garden for a last look.
What a lovely place to visit! Am I the only one who wishes that his workplace had gardens like this around it?