As luck would have it, I worked in Menlo Park today. Menlo Park, California is home to Sunset Gardens, a test garden for Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine. After work, I headed straight there and took the (frigid) self-guided tour.
Southern Pacific Railroad Company founded Sunset Magazine in 1898 . It evolved over the years to reflect the changing times. It went from promotional tool, to literary magazine, before settling into what it is today: a lifestyle magazine for the west. For over 40 years, they’ve produced the Western Garden Book, the most comprehensive book of its kind. I’m on my second copy, and though it’s now available on the web, I still enjoy the weight of the book in my hand and the ease of use.
Sunset’s headquarters surrounds the editorial test garden in addition to an array of Climate Zone gardens ranging from the Pacific Northwest to the Southern Desert. It’s a testament to the Bay Area temps that the Menlo Park location can support so many growing zones.
I’m going to make an extra effort this year to get back there in the spring, when the rose garden and many of the flowering shrubs are in bloom.
Here are the highlights from today:
The one downside to self guided tours is all the unanswered questions. I was curious to know more about this bench,tucked in a corner near the chicken coop. It’s made from a variety of recycled material, including old fence planks, scraps of metal, and the insulator caps from old high-tension wires. The birdhouse posts on the end of the bench are fully functional, though probably impractical from a predator stand point. They’re awfully cute though.
That is one, high-end chicken coop, conveniently located near the composting bins.
This lovely planter was part of a seating area. It’s made from driftwood and scraps of lumber.
This unique patio meandered through the entrance to the Test Garden. What looks like crushed rock, is actually tumbled recycled glass (white and green). The small round objects are actually synthetic wine “corks” from a Bay Area winery. The dark squares, upper right corner, are scraps of fencing lumber. Clever use of cast off materials.
To learn more about the history of Sunset, visit their website.
Self-guided tours are free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 4:00 pm. Call ahead for additional details at 1-650-321-3600. The gardens are universally accessible.