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Garden wisdom from deer country!

Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer



The seasoned gardener


published in The Union in Grass Valley CA


More information on soil preparation and mulching is detailed in Deer in My Garden, Vol.1: Perennials & Subshrubs and Deer in My Garden, Vol.2: Groundcovers & Edgers!

Colfax CA gardenWandering through Summer Gardens in Colfax
Art, music, an 1880 home, and a wealth of personal garden touches

by Carolyn Singer
August 28, 2010

Today is an opportunity to visit gardens and a restored 1880 home in the Colfax and the Chicago Park areas. Personal and inspiring, the stories behind each one add to this interesting garden tour.

With cool summer temperatures returning just in time for the annual Colfax Garden Club tour, take time in your weekend to appreciate the gardening efforts of this small community. Four of the gardens are within the city limits of Colfax and can be viewed by walking from one site to the next. And if you are in Colfax around noon, you'll have the added bonus of hearing the train come through town.

Last weekend the musicians and artists who will be in the gardens joined garden owners and volunteers for a special pretour. We visited the gardens in order, but once you have a ticket and map in your hands ($12 at Prospector's Nursery in Nevada City, Weiss Brothers and Hills Flat Nurseries in Grass Valley), you can wander from garden to garden as you like during the open hours, 10-4.

Colfax CA gardenThe first garden is Cynthia Jacob and Lynda Chapman's restored historic Neff house, which was built in 1880. Happily, the house is open for a partial tour. Jacob Neff made his fortune in gold in Iowa Hill. Mr. Neff became a California State Senator and then the Lt. Governor. My favorite structure in the garden was the large brick wall with the colorful gecko on the old door.

Laurie Vandiver and Mike Cunningham have small and very colorful garden areas (Garden #2) that invite close inspection. A deck around two sides of the house is filled artistically with containers and plants that will inspire any plant collector. This garden is just a couple of miles from Colfax near the Bear River.

Back in the town of Colfax, another historic property is the Rhinehart Garden (Garden #3), which has been pictured on the cover of "Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul". Covered with weeds just a few years ago, the old stone walls were buried. The efforts of owners Cindy and Edward Vine have uncovered and restored a beautiful terraced garden highly visible from the street.

Nearby is Garden #4, lovingly tended by Cheryl and Joel Arbaugh. A huge ancient fig tree dominates the side yard. Pruned in one section to allow canopied access under the tree, this "room" has a small sitting area and a sign for a garden café (always open) that almost made me believe someone would show up with tea and crumpets. As a child I would have lived in that "secret" hiding place; as an adult, I was reluctant to leave to move on to the next garden.

Colfax CA gardenThe fifth garden on the tour is the Outfielder Community Garden at the Sierra Vista Center. Started just this year (and remember how rainy it was in the spring?), this garden is a powerful testimonial to the possibilities of community. The idea was seeded by Colfax Garden Club Vice-President Cathy Kiefer. With the wonderful support of President Bili Winter and the entire club, plus a lot of volunteer community effort, this organic garden has blossomed in just a few months. Almost every 8'x12' plot has a proud owner. Some are gardening for the first time in their lives.

Chicago Park CA gardenThe last garden (Garden #6) on the tour, though it may be the first for visitors coming from Nevada County, is on Talking Pines Road (north of Powerline Road) in the Chicago Park area. Owned by Joan and Lance Goddard, this peaceful and beautiful 9-acre estate encompasses garden rooms that invite wandering and lingering. A terraced vegetable and flower garden, a large pond, a hillside garden near the pool, and beautiful hardscaping throughout are sure to open ideas and possibilities for your own garden. Today is a good day to wander.

©2009 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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