Sunset's headquarters: A lab for Western gardening
Welcome to Sunset's gardens in Menlo Park, CA. The grounds here are part of our lab for Western living, where editors and staff test their ideas.
The garden was originally designed by Thomas Church, the dean of Western landscape architects. A 2000 renovation by Chris Jacobson and Beverly Sarjeant added a fresh new look but kept much of the original border, with distinct areas representing the major climate zones of the West.
The gardens at 80 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA are no longer open for self-guided walking tours, as we are boxing up our office in preparation for our dual moves to Oakland’s Jack London Square and Sonoma’s Cornerstone. The last date tours were open to the public were October 30, 2015. We hope you come visit us in our new digs!
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Trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, perennials, and ornamental grasses show how foliage textures and colors can combine for beautiful effects.
Here, a meadow-like mix of grasses offers a fluffy contrast to the turf grass and a sprawling valley oak.
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The Sunset garden is divided into sections based on the geography of the West. Here, Northern California meets the Northwest with a selection of woodland plants.
Japanese maples ― yellow ‘Bon Fire’, apple-green ‘Sigure Bato’, and finely divided, deep red ‘Tamukeyama’ ― provide splashes of bright colors.
This rose variety, named for Sunset magazine’s 100th anniversary in 1998, is exceptionally disease-resistant and has a fruity fragrance.
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'Bloodgood' Japanese maple
The leaves of a ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple glow like stained glass in the sun, contrasting with the cluster of sunshine in the foreground ― those are ‘Strong Gold’ tulips.
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A valley oak (Querqus lobata) towers over Sunset’s south lawn. This native California tree can reach 70 feet tall; it’s picturesqely twisted limbs are a signature of the species.
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Sweet-faced violas are a staple of the fall and winter garden. Even when the weather is gray, they provide cheerful ― and reliable ― color.
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A trifecta of not-too-sweet pinks are the very picuture of spring.
‘Dreamland’ tulips on long slender stems are underplanted with charming ‘Antique Shades’ pansies; the easy-care shrub Loropetalum chinense ‘Sizzling Pink’ provides a dose of hot magenta.
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A trio of Dutch irises so vivid that they each look hand-painted: deeply colored ‘Purple Sensation’ (foreground), blue-violet ‘Professor Blaauw’, and perky ‘Royal Yellow’.
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‘Silver Beauty’ Dutch iris
A snowy bank of ‘Silver Beauty’ Dutch irises. Their strappy foliage looks just right interplanted with grasses, like pheasant’s-tail grass (Stipa arundinacea), California fescue, and zebra grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’).
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‘Fringed Elegance’ tulip
The beauty of this ‘Fringed Elegance’ tulip is in its subtleties: Fine red streaks and a delicately textured edge. It begs you to come in for a closer look.
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Puffs of cherry blossoms are the surest sign that spring has sprung. This fast-growing yoshino flowering cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) can reach 40 feet; it’s the same variety that’s planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.
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We love the stark white of these 'Stainless' narcissi. Their pristine petals contrast with a yellow-green eye, a sophisticated update for typically yellow bulbs.
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Euphorbia characias wulfenii
Looking for a plant with energy? Try Euphorbia characias wulfenii, a drought-tolerant Mediterranean native that thrives in the Sunset demonstration garden. The lime green "flowers" are really bracts in this poinsettia relative. (Yep, they’re in the same genus!)
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Planted in a tight group, ‘Daydream’ tulips catch the afternoon sunlight.
Enjoy a self-guided walking tour of our garden any workday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Groups of 10 or more should call ahead for reservations at (650) 321-3600 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Please note that no tours will be held from May 23, 2011 through June 12, 2011 for setup and cleanup of Celebration Weekend. Location: 80 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA.