You can pick fresh fruit almost year-round with the right trees and the pollinating plants. See how in our Test Garden plot
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Trees like pluot and dwarf Meyer lemon are all Western innovations, and we’ve been covering them from the start—our first story on fruit trees was in 1934. To highlight the best of the best, Homestead Design Collective selected 22 fruit trees, suitable to Sonoma’s climate, which ripen in succession, from early apricots to late-season apples. And because fruit needs pollination, a lush underplanting of flowering perennials draws bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds for a visit.
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The orchard plantings are few but impactful: pink-flowered echinacea, tall purple-flowered Verbena bonariensis, grassy Muhlenbergia reverchonii, compact purple-flowered Salvia nemorosa 'Carrodonna', and lavender-flowered Agastache ‘Blue Fortune.
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Follow the yellow (decomposed granite) road
The windy path encourages visitors to get up close and personal with the plantings. At the end of the garden, a 20-foot-tall wire tree sculpture (inherited from a previous installation) stands tall.
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Vertical berry patch
Because no garden is complete without a berry patch, Homestead Design Collective planted an ‘Apache Thornless’ blackberry on a trellis by Gracie Modern Arbor. Thornless is the best choice in a cultivated garden setting.
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Catch the glow
Salvia nemorosa 'Carrodonna' is such a winner of a plant. Its long, spired blooms fade from purple to golden, adding movement and dimension to a planting. Here, it billows out from bed to path, but Homestead often designs with it in the middle of a bed, because it goes completely dormant in winter.
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Seckel pears hang from the branch of their tree. Also known as sugar pears, this super sweet variety is fabulous right off the tree.
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The most fortunate
The lavender spires of Anise hyssop‘Blue Fortune’ stand tall with the darker purple blooms of Verbena bonariensis behind it. The two are fan favorites of bees and butterflies, plus the Anise has edible flowers.
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For the love of details, Homestead Design Collective included a shallow cement trough filled with smooth river stones to delineate between paths and planting beds. The cool hues of the rocks play off the coolness of the blooms. “It’s a continuation of a color theme in the hardscape,” says Homestead designer Stefani Bittner.
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Crazy for coneflower
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a go-to water-wise perennial for Homestead Design Collective. All parts of the plant are edible, from the pinkish purple petals to the roots. The flowers are followed by long-lasting orange and brown seed heads, making them iconic members of a summer-to-fall garden.
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Meet the designers
In a tradition of choosing great talent to partner with (Thomas Church--father of the modern style of California landscape architecture--designed our previous gardens), we turned to the East Bay-based Homestead Design Collectivefor help executing our vision. Co-owned by a dyed-in-the-wool sustainable gardener, Stefani Bittner, and Alethea Harampolis, a florist known for her wild, garden-inspired designs, Homestead captures the zeitgeist of today’s gardener: an insistence on utility with an uncompromising commitment to beauty. And true to both their values and ours, Sunset’s Test Gardens are maintained without pesticides and fed with organic fertilizer, fish emulsion, and compost.