The Power of A Garden that’s Open to the Public

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I’ve spent a very enjoyable portion of my life visiting gardens – small and large – rustic and elegant – casual and formal – public and private. I’ve visited as a girl, as a daughter, as a student, as a writer, and as a mother watching my own kids roll around and revel and learn in all these same kinds of gardens. PHOTO: A broad late summer sweep of the Mary Wattis Brown Native Plant Garden at UC Davis Arboretum.

When I was younger, I actually had a list of goals for my own home garden in construction. These goals ranged from the superficial to the philosophic and included having a hand built dry stack stone wall, having a small fruit tree orchard, having the willingness to open my garden to the public one day, and to be able and willing to host events in my garden for the benefit of charitable endeavors my family and I supported.

I can happily report that over the last 20 years with the help of family and friends these goals have all been met at least once – the emphasis in that information being placed firmly on: WITH THE HELP OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS OVER TIME. Each goal met taught me something about the way things work, about my own limitations and strengths, and about the power of community. PHOTO: A view down the main pathway at the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding..

All of these goals and the ways in which they were ultimately met in way or another supported my belief in the benefits of sharing a garden, and reminded me of the importance of opening private gardens and public gardens. When I recently visited a small public historical society interested in developing a native plant pollinator and ethnobotanical garden as an ecological and educational addition to their public facility – my first reaction was: “Wow – in this drought, in the economy of this particular small town – to establish a new public garden is an act of supreme optimism.”

Which on that day, in that week, was a needed reminder for ME!! Right! The ecological, educational, cultural and social goals of all gardens and gardeners are supreme acts of optimism in a world that can use them. Gardening and its “goals” are never a one-stop destination or possession but a storied journey of process – and hope. PHOTO: The Native Plant Pollinator Garden at Gateway Science Museum in Chico.

While it may not seem like the best time to visit gardens, there is in fact never a bad time to visit them and you can always learn something. In this dry late summer and early fall, we can certainly all use lessons on good plants, good techniques, good looks for our place at this time. Consider a visit to a local garden near you soon.

If you live in or plan to be visiting the Chico area in late September – on September 27th Altacal Audubon, the Mt. Lassen Chapter of the CNPS and the Butte Environmental Council will co-host a native plant garden tour of public and private gardens in and around Chico from 10 – 2 pm. For more information or to register for the tour, go to the Butte Environmental Council Tour Registration Page. PHOTO: A researcher, Jaime, from UC Berkeley’s Urban Bee Garden program collects data on how and to what extent urban gardens work to support native bee populations. Public gardens are excellent resources for such on going research and learning opportunities.

For a listing of many public gardens in the North State, visit the Links and Resources Page at

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PHOTO: A hand woven willow house that was built in place at the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens at Turtle Bay several years ago.

In a North State Garden is a North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, every three weeks.

Jennifer Jewell
In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.
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7 Responses

  1. Like Jennifer, I have enjoyed visiting gardens for many years. You can always learn something – a plant you’ve never seen before, a technique for growing, or a creative fence idea. You can also learn what NOT to do, which is just as important 😉

    A great resource for all garden lovers looking for places to visit is The Garden Conservancy – This a national organization dedicated to saving and sharing outstanding American gardens for the inspiration and education of the public. It has an Open Days Program where the public is invited to participate in self-guided tours of absolutely lovely gardens of all styles throughout the the country. I actually plan my vacations around their extensive schedule.

    California, Oregon and Washington have many opportunities, but if you’re traveling east, there are beautiful places there, too, where you can literally peek beyond the garden gate. The cost is $7 per garden (!) and you can stay as long as you like during the hours they’re opened. The people who make the gardens – professionals as well as talented homeowners – are usually available on site to ask questions. Check it out!

  2. Avatar K. Beck says:

    The Shasta chapter of the CA Native Plant society has had garden tours featuring CA native plants. Check them out at:

    They also have native plant sales, the next one is on 10 OCT:

    Fall 2015 Native Plant Sale

    Saturday, October 10, 2015 8:00AM – 2:00PM

    Shasta College Horticulture Area

    11555 Old Oregon Trail

    Redding, CA 96003

    For more information call:

    Terri Thesken – Plant Sales Chair

    (530) 221-0906



    • Jennifer Jewell Jennifer Jewell says:

      These are all great resources! YES Karen McGrath and WHEN are we going to get a Garden Conservancy Open Day in the North State… many fun things, so little time.

      Definitely go to the Shasta CNPS fall plant sale and wander around their demonstration garden at the sale yard there on Shasta College campus.


      As to the Bidwell Demonstration Forest, there are three sites in Chico that might be what you visited. The first is the area all around the Bidwell Mansion on Esplanade in downtown Chico and is now designated as the Chico State Arboretum. There are pretty good printed Nature Walk maps of the Aboretum trees, but better yet is to join one of the several Campus Tree Tours offered in Spring and Fall by Professor Emeritus Wes Dempsey. I will try to point these tours out when they are coming up – but also follow the Mt. Lassen Chapter CNPS Pipeline newsletter/website for announcements.


      Second, there is something known as the Tree Station, which is now part of the Mendocino National Forest and can be found off of Cramer Lane in Chico and is now known as the Genetic Resource and Conservation Center. On this 209 acre site you can find trees brought in and planted and studied to determine their viability in our area for production and forest.


      Third, and finally is an area around the Chico Creek Nature Center off of East 8th ave in Bidwell Park, known as Cedar Grove.


      Hope one of these is what you were looking for!

  3. Avatar name says:

    Years ago in Chico we went to a place that was called something like “Bidwell Demonstration Forest”.  It was a place where Bidwell planted a large variety of different types of trees to determine which would grow best around there.  I was in Chico recently, and could not find it.  Can you please tell me where this place is?  Thanks! (and thanks for the info in the story above).

  4. Avatar KarenC says:

    name, I found this article in the Chico News and Review….might this be what you are looking for?


  5. Avatar Sally Wells says:

    Seeing the photo of the woven willow house many years ago, brings back some favorite memories.  I took one of my granddaughters, probably about 4 – 5  years old to see it.  To walk into it was rather dark and she was afraid to go in it.  She walked over to a bench putting her knees on the seat part and her back facing the willow tree and head buried in her arms.  I finally convinced her, promising to hold her hand, she timidly was successful getting herself to walk into this magical place.  Coincidentally, just the other day I brought our adventure up and she still vividly remembers it.