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Gardens of the Eco-Tour

Fairfax and San Anselmo blossom with examples of Bay Friendly Landscaping ideas.

For a compulsive gardener and photographer of nature, the self-guided Bay Friendly Eco-Gardent Tour on May 14 was fantastic. Not only could I decide where to go first, but I could also linger over any flower or water feature I wished. Did I mention I love water features? 

Marin’s fifth annual eco-friendly garden tour highlighted over 20 inspiring gardens that use practices sensitive to our local environment. At each location a professional landscaper, designer or homeowner was on hand to answer questions. 

Highlights at the gardens I visited in Fairfax and San Anselmo were:

  • Rain gardens, swales and cisterns
  • Erosion control measures
  • Lawn conversions/replacement
  • Permeable walkways
  • Edible organic gardens
  • Pesticide-free landscapes
  • Native or drought tolerant plants

Heading out into the cloudy gray morning, was my first stop and a fortuitous one. Anna McShea, a third-grade green team member, gave our group a guided tour. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable, she set the bar for the rest of my self-guided tour. I learned so much here that I had a keener sense of what to look for and ask about during my next garden visits. Laura Dax Honda has done a remarkable job forming a third-grade green team and teaching them a green way of living by actually producing results.

Barbara Huntingdon, designer of the garden on Bothin Road, next showed off amazing examples of reusing and recycling. Her old patio ended up as path stones, tent tubing was strung together with glass beads forming a decorative screen, and former kitchen light frames were hung as garden decor. She reuses all manner of things and the water features all incorporate recycled water. Her palate, which included edibles, was diverse and gorgeous.

Then, I wound uphill to 611 Cascade Drive, where this almost one-acre sustainable homestead has become a habitat for many, including the raccoons who sneak in despite efforts to discourage them. And, no wonder, with the abundance of food growing here. Edibles are surrounded by colorful natives and roses, composting piles, and insectary plants, creating a vibrant eco system.  Linda Novy was there to describe the various composting methods and many examples of symbiosis between plants and the wildlife they attract. 

Fairfax, always in the lead on green, has a wonderful asset in Sustainable Fairfax's . In their small backyard, they have incorporated many examples of eco-solutions. There are swales, fruit trees, drip systems, composts, and a cistern for rainwater diversion -- just to mention a few sustainable solutions.

Sustainable Fairfax Executive Director and Fairfax Vice Mayor Pam Hartwell-Herrero served as tour guide and I was able to go home with a small Comfrey plant. I have always been interested in the healing powers of Comfrey and, after seeing them thrive in several gardens on the tour I was excited to raise one myself. This sustainable center concept could be an asset in every town to demonstrate and teach, but also sell green gift items produced by local artists. 

Visiting the Detwiler residence in San Anselmo as my last stop was a pleasure. I was here in the winter when , artist and landscape designer, showed me around. Now that it is almost summer, the garden is much livelier. There is a newly planted edible garden and the espaliered apple trees were flourishing. The old home fireplace was incorporated into the new outdoor fireplace and pizza oven and no pesticides or herbicides were used in the installation. The former front lawn has been turned into a little lavender field with potted citrus. In the private back yard, the swimming pool was replaced with a small lawn, a cutting garden and vegetable garden.

There were tips and ideas to take from every garden. Our little towns are at the forefront of environmental landscaping.

I am already looking forward to next year's eco-tour; maybe I'll have time to visit all the gardens!

Pam Hartwell June 02, 2011 at 09:42 PM
I am glad you enjoyed visiting Sustainable Fairfax's backyard. It is open to the public from dawn to dusk unless we have a private event. I hope others will come visit-141 Bolinas Road, Fairfax. www.sustainablefairfax.org

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