We are now embarking upon a new phase to move Western Hills toward the future. Our goals include improving plant diversity, protecting animal habitats, and renovating the garden infrastructure for the enjoyment of visitors:
Threatened Species: Identify and replicate “threatened” species which are in the garden; introduce new endangered species as appropriate based upon the International Union for Conservation of Nature “red list” of endangered species. Our first effort was to identify the four “threatened” maples in the garden.
Propagation: Build a propagation capability to provide continuity with existing species that are at the end of their lifespan. Introduce an “heir and a spare” for the most important plants through this or other means.
New Cultivars: Understand and rebuild Western Hills’ historical role of “introducing” new cultivars to California with support from Sean Hogan (author, lecturer, and owner of Cistus Nursery in Portland).
Fauna: Understand and provide a viable habitat for the “fauna” that live in the garden. The pond denizens are back: dragonflies, ducks, heron, turtles, mosquito fish. We want to understand more about the needs of other species, including bees, birds, and butterflies.
Infrastructure: Provide a safe and hospitable environment for visitors to enjoy the garden.
Here is a list of some of the recent additions to the garden that help us advance toward our goals:
“Big House” Renovation—The iconic house from the ’60s had become unusable and was rebuilt in 2015 as a private residence. Our architect (Jon Stong), and builder (Ron Santos) were able to preserve much of the feel of the house while meeting strict County permitting requirements.
Ponds, Runnels and Waterfalls—In 2015, a pond at the northeast corner of the garden was enlarged and a waterfall added. Large sections of the runnels were also rebuilt in anticipation of El Niño. A waterfall was created at the top of the big pond, as well as a new bubbler.
Bridges—We have rebuilt five bridges. The new bridge over the waterfall, by Paul Duncan, has become a nice focal point at the pond. The most recent, in 2015, was made possible by a donation from the Diablo Women’s Garden Club.
Australian Collection—We have been actively replanting the Australian area, which was disturbed by the renovation of the Big House, since 2015. The garden features Banksia, Grevillea, and other species, including some from the UC Santa Cruz collection and Suncrest Nursery.
Wollemi Pine—An endangered Wollemi Pine was added to our collection in 2011, and we added a companion in 2012. The Wollemi was called the “Botanical Find of the Century” and a “living fossil” when it was discovered in a remote gorge in Australia in 1994. See the website of Wollemi Australia.
Pitkin Marsh Lily—We continue to propagate Pitkin Marsh Lilies (Lilium pardalinum, subsp. pitkinense), an endangered perennial herb that is endemic to certain wetland areas of the northern Coast Ranges of Sonoma County. See the U.S. Fish and Wildlife profile.
Event Space—The event space, designed by Sean Hogan and built by Matt Driscoll, was completed early in 2013 and has become a gathering place to sit and enjoy the view. Several events have been held, including birthday parties and small conferences. Landscaping included interesting new cultivars from Cistus Nursery.
Sequoia Sempervirens ‘Yurok Prince’—The American Conifer Society gifted Western Hills a new redwood cultivar in 2013. It is one of a few specimens of a low-growing, horizontal-branching shrub recently found in Oregon. See “the rest of the story.”