Our farm is situated on almost four acres of gently sloping mountain terrain in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada's. The property is in a wooded glen which eliminates late afternoon sunlight, greatly reducing sun exposure in certain areas. In addition, our growing season is short since we often get late frost and snow as late as May. Usually our garden bloom times run about four weeks behind Sacramento's. As we work in Sacramento, I can enjoy their flowering periods, and then come home to enjoy those same flowers a month later. Talk about extended bloom times! We encountered these many garden challenges with vigor and enthusiasm, for I had a vision, a picture of the desired gardens in my head, driving me forward each season.
We have created many small gardens to beautify our property and create pleasant little areas to relax and enjoy the gardens. The gardens are never really finished, as I add new plants, remove plants that did not thrive, or create new garden spaces. The intent here was to create a natural, cottage garden, which would tie our home in with the landscape in a natural fashion. A series of gardens that were delightful to see, and pleasurable to visit. A cutting garden to meet my every desire, to provide basketfuls of flowers, not only for our home, but for sharing with friends. Gardens that would ultimately be maintenance-free, winter hardy, and drought tolerant. I love to create venues within each garden room, pictures within themselves, increasing the vistas. We also planned for a garden that would sustain us with produce, herbs, and fruit, enabling us to become true farmers living off the land.
Join Us Now for a Tour of the Gardens at Dunn Farm.
The first time I saw this property, I fell in love with it. The grand, old Black Walnut tree, over 100 ft tall, in the center of the yard, spreading out his strong limbs; the many English walnut trees surrounding the house; the magnificent Oaks, Maples, Cypress and Pines gave the property a lush and immediately appealing presence. The shade cast by the trees was cool and inviting, beckoning us to linger. There was a gentle slope of the land towards the east and I envisioned terraced steps, terraced gardens overflowing with flowers. I must have visited the vacant property at least ten times before our move-in date, watching the fish swim, listening to the breeze in the trees rustling the leaves, and watching the sunset through the pines. It was just so charming, and now it was mine!
The East Yard
This view is facing southwest, at the end of the 'front yard', which faces east, on the right side of the house. Morning light falls here and is always a beautiful sight. Delightful with royal purple Irises, lavender Agapanthus, hydrangeas, and Rododendrons, this garden is mostly in shade and skirts the pond garden, the Maples and circles the Black Walnut tree with wild violets. To the left is a beautiful Pink Dogwood, to the right is a white Kolusa Dogwood, kept small by the majesty of the Black Walnut's shade. These trees bloom in mid-spring, first the pink, then the white Kolusa and are delightful! I like to place sitting areas within each garden, either one chair or a bench, or even a wood stump to sit on. From this area you can see the Pond garden. Along the pond 's edge are golden daylilies, Heucheras, pink Penstemons, stately, feathery bamboo, spots of blue-green Fescue, and two mighty stands of Red Hot Pokers. Japanese Blood Grass plants flank the garden bench which sits facing the pond. Nestled at its side are Stella D'Oro daylilies, Lemon Balm, and Primroses.
This is a delightful place to relax and collect one's thoughts at the end of the day. Along a gravel path that crunches beneath your feet, you enter three other garden areas. Here peach-colored Hollyhocks, Strawberry Foxgloves, pink Fringed Bleeding Heart and deep, rich purple Columbine bloom during the spring and summer. Coreopsis, with her bright, yellow, ruffled petticoats, sways in the summer breeze. Zinnias, Poppies, and purple Coneflowers happily grow in the sunny lower gardens, neighbors to Hidcote Lavender, sprays of white and pink Gaura; tall, yellow Evening Primrose, Honeysuckle, Autumn Joy sedum, Buddleia, Fountain Grass, and Four O'Clocks. In spring, the pale yellow Forsythia is lovely draped over the east end of the pond, each branch covered with ruffled flowers. Gorgeous pink water lilies float on the pond's surface in the summer while the goldfish dart around just under its surface. Each exciting season brings new pleasures and discoveries, old friends revisited, each garden site maturing in loveliness. The pond 's current visitors, the tadpoles, have sprouted legs and begun their journey as frogs throughout the property, finding shelter throughout the garden, some nestling in among the leaves of potted plants. Their nightly chorus breaks the summer stillness as they sing with the crickets, serenading the moon.
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The Step Garden
This part of the yard we did in one day, laying the Cypress wood planks and gravel down to terrace the gentle slope of land. Sea thrift, Ivy, Candy Tuft, and Pansies line the paths. Vinca Major covers the ground with dark green foliage and sweet, purple flowers. Primroses raise their heads in early spring in white, pink, and yellow mounds; Hydrangeas love the dappled shade.
Sprinkled all around are the purple wild violets, and as the sun falls on their dainty, spurred petals, the sweetest scent fills the air. It is in this garden where I place the most wonderful things, like special rocks, and magical pieces of driftwood that Tim has brought home. These are nestled in among the ivy and flowers, perfect mates. Day trips and journeys always end with a memento rock or gnarled branch being placed somewhere in the gardens. The Orchid Cactus pictured here was started with just a small cutting! Only one year later she is lovely with magnificent, red flowers that look like orchids, hence the name. One of my favorite plants, she loves it here where she gets full morning light, and afternoon sun with coolness and shade at the end of day.
Our East Yard in Spring
The shade from the walnut trees is really lovely and cool. The early afternoon sun is perfect for the Veronicas, Ferns, and Columbines growing here. White Alyssum, purple Pansies, and pink Carnations also have their home here. Our Wisteria is starting to climb this English Walnut tree, her lovely lavender flowers fragrant and graceful. Only her third year, we had four magnificent blooms! Just beneath the tree is a large, natural, shallow rock embedded deep in the earth, with a wide depression in it that I keep filled with water for the kitties and the birds. In the cool of the afternoon shade, Impatiens have rapidly multiplied in only one season, mingling with Coleus and white Sweet Alyssum. What a picture! An old fallen log Tim brought home is naturally hollow and in it I planted Creeping Jenny, pink Forget-me-nots, purple Violas and purple Sweet Alyssum. Just below the log, tucked all around it are Yellow Columbine, purple Columbine, purple and white Pansies, Ferns, purple Heliotrope, Strawberries and English Daisies, small, tufted red and pink plants growing on tiny stems. Ivy has been tucked in here and there, but I need to watch it, it really takes over almost overnight! Primroses also have their home here in the dappled shade along with Creeping Thyme which catches the early morning sun and sports tiny, purple blossoms.
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Natural rocks, some embedded into the earth, covered with lichen, are all around the property. In this rock garden, there are some large ones and smaller ones. They jut out of the earth in interesting ways, moss growing on the flat surfaces, wee wild flowers growing up between the larger ones. I have placed purple and yellow bearded Iris, golden Gladioli, purple wild Violets, Sinensis, Strawberries and Dianthus between the rocks in a casual fashion. These plants come up every year without care. I usually add some annuals each year for interest and color. This is a great place for Petunias, a pink Rockrose, which really loves the heat, and a wee Mock Strawberry groundcover. This has smaller leaves than the Strawberry plant, and its fruits are tiny, red and tart. It naturalizes very well and I prefer it to grass. One year I planted Green Apple groundcover and it was delightful, but not frost hardy.
Last year I planted a Chinese Lantern plant. It sports cute, little orange, papery 'lanterns' in the fall. In warmer areas, it is evergreen, but for us, it dies back each year. This is also a great place to show off Blue Fescues, Giant Yellow Columbine and white Daylilies. In the late winter, purple Crocus peeps through the snow here and there. Summer brings Gladioli in vibrant yellow hues, and soft peach shades while the Snowball Viburnum shrubs dangle their white orbs charmingly over all. Tim has added five New Dawn Redwoods here that he got from the State Fair five years ago and today they are almost ten feet tall.
White Shasta Daisies line the gravel path beside the pond in late spring and fill the two gardens below. A pink flowering Dogwood blooms at the same time, her boughs sweeping the walkway with her pink flowers. On the other side of the path blooms a lovely, small, Azalea with dainty, red flowers, an evergreen Sweet Olive tree that perfumes the air with its white flowers in late fall (she is just two feet tall and bushy), and the lovely Daphne, whose pink and white blooms have a magnificent fragrance, blooming in early spring, heralding warmer days. Low-growing Hypericum sport their jazzy, yellow flowers in the spring, which are then followed by little red berries in late summer and are evergreen. Their neighbor is a darling, white Azalea which has entwined itself with an Iris. Wild, pink, Fringed Columbines self-seed in this moist, shady area. A stately Strawberry Foxglove stands sentry, its soft pink color simply magnificent in the gold light of the setting sun.
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The Iris beds are lush and full with beautiful colors! Lavender, peach, and yellow Iris are flanked on both sides with Rose of Sharon shrubs, one with rose blooms and one with white, blooming in late summer. They are now almost ten feet tall and loaded with blooms each summer. Inter-planted with the irises are tiny Scilla and Grape Hyacinths, deep purple little spears, which are endearing and bloom in the spring. Two Autumn Joy sedums are wonderful, showing their green, tight flower heads in summer, which change to pink, then, in a grand finale, the blossoms change to dark burgundy in the fall. This has a long, blooming season and is spectacular. Rose-hued Ivy Geraniums make a colorful addition in the summer and bloom until frost. A more free-falling Geranium, the true hardy geranium, is 'Mavis Simpson'. This is spilling out of a barrel planting, looking great all season. Sheared after bloom, it will bloom again. Pansies are a further enhancement, blooming well into the fall by constant dead heading and frequent watering. My favorites are the pink and white Violas, with an occasional wine-colored Pansy with that sweet, little face peeking through. These Iris beds have to be dug up and the rhizomes divided every four years to ensure plentiful, healthy blooms.
We grow many kinds of dianthus in our gardens. They are unique in color, style and form, and some, like the Sweet William, are almost evergreen and hardy. If knocked down by winter, all are perennials and return in the spring and summer. Once they bloom, if deadheaded, will bloom once or twice more before fall. Cottage Pinks, lifted on tall, slender, 18 inch spikes, have a wonderful, clove-like fragrance and are excellent as cut flowers. They love afternoon shade in hot areas. Many have cheerful colors and striking patterns. One of my favorites is a rich, deep, burgundy color which I planted in one of Tim's old work boots. Peeking out over the tongue of the shoe, its flowers create a most unique picture.
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Mullein (verbascum) grows wild in our area and self-seeds freely. It is almost indestructible and comes back each year without fail, no matter how hard the winter. Its large, soft leaves clustered together at the base and spires of yellow flowers are used to make a tea excellent for flu's and colds. This really works and has kept me well during flu season when everyone around me is ill. Tim mixes the dried leaves of this herb with other herbs and flowers like Comfrey and Chamomile to create his 'Magic Tea' and it is a staple on our kitchen shelves. We share it with family and friends often. This year I planted a white Mullein which I purchased at the Luther Burbank Gardens in Santa Rosa. It has developed lovely, little white flowers all along its branches and hopefully, will set seed as freely as the native plants.
Tim & I thank you for visiting. We hope you enjoyed taking a peek at our gardens. This is just a few of the many areas we garden. You can always tell when I am in the garden, I play spirited music and the plants love it! And if you see a flashlight in the garden after dark, bopping around, it's me! And you can hear Tim, calling out to me in the twilight, "Time to come in, Honey!" Our horses, Jasmine and Sherzy, were very partial to the bag pipe music I would play, as was Shannon. She was a gorgeous Tennessee Walker, who lived with our neighbors behind us, and she would amble over for a listen as the music filtered out across the fields and meadows. She was Jasmine's auntie as she was present at that special birth and stayed vigilant all day, standing by the fence, watching her new niece greet life on wobbly legs. I really miss our horses since we sold them last year, but neighbors bring their horses over to keep the pasture eaten down, and they are wonderful to watch as they run across the land and to call out to in the evenings, giving them a handful of corn to nibble.
I have shared the many things I have learned the five years gardening at Dunn Farm in 'Garden Notes'. These pages feature my personal garden journal notes and observations. I have posted more current garden photos in Gallery, Blossoms and the latest page featuring this summer's blooms, Center Stage.
The summer sun lingers over the vegetable garden, deepening its flavors, sweetening its vigor. I can hardly wait to bring in the harvest of tomatoes! Already we are enjoying squash, melons, grapes, and peppers. Check out our 1999 harvest and visit us in the Vegetable Garden.
The flower beds are full with blooms, summer's choice at its peak. The scent of the roses are divine, and the delicate beauty of the Yellow Columbine, its twin spurs dancing on the wind, makes my soul smile. I still can't resist the pull of the nursery and the multitude of possibilities for my gardens. Although this year I have just enjoyed what came back naturally due to health reasons. Be sure and visit the Garden page to check out our other special gardens!
Winter at Dunn Farm
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Updated August 27, 2001