Sonoma Botanical Garden unveils California Trail
By Melissa Dowling
Starting Nov. 5, Sonoma Botanical Garden will offer visitors two new botanical experiences — the opening of its highly anticipated California Trail, within a formerly off-limits native oak savanna, and the debut of its first indoor, living botanical exhibition, From East to Zest.
Eighteen months ago, the Sonoma Botanical Garden announced it had a new name and enhanced mission, one that deepened its commitment not only to the rare and endangered plants of East Asia (the former quarry is home to an exceptional 25-acre Asian woodland garden), but also to the unique flora of California.
For the garden’s recently appointed Director Scot Medbury, the two new initiatives are the next step in connecting East to West at Sonoma Botanical Garden.
“Since the name change, staff have been working tirelessly to bring the garden to a new level of excellence — both in the Asian and California woodlands. The openings of From East to Zest and the California Trail are exciting next steps on the garden’s journey of celebrating two biodiversity hotspots,” Medbury said.
From East to Zest: Nov. 5, 2022 through March 5, 2023
Visitors will enjoy a big squeeze of color this winter as Sonoma Botanical Garden transforms its greenhouse into a cornucopia of living citrus trees in fruit. The garden kicks off its brand-new special exhibition program with a first-time indoor botanical display, From East to Zest, an original, living exhibition illustrating citrus’ colorful journey across the globe. Immersed in fragrance and color, visitors will learn fun facts as they stroll, from the myth of the Meyer lemon to the cause of the grapefruit effect.
Virtually all citrus originated in Southeast Asia yet today are thoroughly ingrained in the cuisines and cultures of the Americas. Imagine Peruvian food without lemons, or Mexican cuisine without limes.
Thousands of years of citrus cultivar selection and breeding has produced a vast trove of littleknown yet distinct citrus fruits, including such culinary treats as the yuzu, beloved of chefs everywhere today, or the sudachi, from which ponzu braising sauce is made. Bizarre forms, like the Buddha’s Hand citron, or unusual hybrids like limequats and mandarinquats, add to the fascinating range of citrus grown in California today. These zesty delights have traveled far from their historic ranges, and new DNA evidence is changing how botanists think about this tangled floral family.
California Trail opens Nov. 5
The garden’s new California Trail leads visitors through the property’s southernmost section, a 22-acre California native oak savanna adjacent to its historic Asian woodland.
The California property was added to the garden in 1998 and is remarkable for its oak woodland and oak savanna plant communities. Visitors can enjoy and observe as garden staff employ ecological restoration techniques over the next several years to create space for the existing native seedbank to germinate and establish populations throughout the ecosystem. Near structures and in more disturbed areas, rare and unique California native plants will be planted to highlight sustainable, habitatfocused, and ecologically conscious garden practices.
In addition to new plantings and an extension of the overall woodland experience, the trail provides a more accessible route to the heart of the Asian garden. With no more than a five-percent grade, the trail follows the natural topography of the California section to lead guests up to the Asian garden, thereby expanding access for all.
To mark the new trail’s opening, the garden’s Board of Directors ceremonially planted a Catalina Island Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus traskiae), arguably the rarest shrub in North America. This woody perennial is native to one isolated gully on the south side of Catalina Island, off the coast of Southern California. It is estimated that fewer than 15 trees remain in the wild. Since its founding, the garden has been a sanctuary for rare plants from temperate East Asia, and it is delighted to take the first steps on the path to cultivating and displaying some of California’s rare and unique biodiversity.
The Sonoma Botanical Garden is a woodland experience founded in 1987, where East meets West by celebrating the beauty and importance of Asian and California native plants. The former quarry is home to a 25-acre Asian woodland garden, 22 acres of California native oak savanna, and a small cabernet vineyard. Whether hiking up to expansive winter vistas, enjoying a leisurely walk through spring blooms, finding the perfect picnic spot in a shady summer oasis, or marveling at the riot of fall colors and textures, the garden offers delights for the senses. A different experience — every season, every time, for everyone.
The garden is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, closed Tuesdays and some holidays. Garden admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $8 for teens, students, and active military. Admission for children under 12 is free. The garden asks groups of 8 to make a reservation in advance. Sonoma Botanical Garden is located at 12841 Sonoma Hwy. in Glen Ellen. For more information, call (707) 996-3166 or email [email protected]