story: Kerri Regan photo: Kara Stewart
DUNSMUIR'S BEAUTIFUL BOTANICAL GARDENS
Wander along a trail that meanders through the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens and you might discover a couple taking wedding vows, artists capturing a blossom on canvas, children marveling at butterflies in the milkweed or a fisherman grilling a mess of freshly caught trout.
The botanical gardens are situated on 10 acres of forested hillside in Dunsmuir City Park that slope down to meet the Upper Sacramento River. “Every season brings a change of color and something new to discover,” says Judy Harvey, who began volunteering with the gardens in 1994, wrote the 501(c)3 application for the gardens in 2000 and joined the board in 2006.
The botanical gardens were established by a small core of volunteers in 1992, led by Lucy Depoli and Gene Fleet under the management of Dunsmuir Parks and Recreation. It has grown from a display garden into a true botanical garden – “a living library and horticultural resource,” Harvey says.
The Children’s Gardens near the park’s playground feature colorful annuals surrounding whimsical statues. McHenry Garden features Jack-in-the-Pulpit, wild rose and other native plants.
Monarch and pipevine swallowtail butterflies lay eggs on plants chosen just for that purpose in the Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden, and Kelly’s Garden showcases a stunning assortment of white blooms in the center of the meadow lawn.
Picnic tables and memorial benches make it a tranquil spot to relax a day away. Take a self-guided tour any time, or arrange for a horticulturalist-led group tour by calling ahead.
Under construction now is a crevice rock garden that will feature alpine plants native to the mountains surrounding Dunsmuir. The garden will be built with native stone, with evergreens and perennials tucked into the crevices created by the rocks. Funded by the McConnell Foundation and the Union Pacific Foundation, it will be the only public crevice rock garden between Sacramento and Portland.
Also, horticulturist Candace Miller is working to identify the genus, species and variety of the gardens’ perennial woody plants. As they’re identified, an “accession record” is made for each plant, and a metal tag will be affixed to each one to correspond with its record. A database with that information will allow Dunsmuir to share information with researchers, students and other botanical gardens. This project was also made possible by the McConnell Fund.
The gardens evolve with the seasons. In the spring, it’s tough to find a more breathtaking collection of native dogwood. Now is the time for Shasta lilies, and autumn gives way to Japanese maples and an assortment of woody plants that are “very showy in the fall,” Harvey says. “One of Candace’s objectives was that instead of planting 5,000 impatiens in the garden in the spring, we’d always have something in bloom. It’s always free and it’s always beautiful.”
The gardens are governed by a 12-member board and they’re part of the American Public Gardens Association. About 150 people or families have memberships, and the garden is a source of great community pride. The Dunsmuir High senior class recently spent a day reseeding the meadow, and numerous organizations and individuals have donated time, money and materials.
“This is where people who are coming through on their way to British Columbia stop and have a picnic lunch,” Harvey says. “This is where Dunsmuir families have had weddings and family reunions. We have a couple who have lunch together every Thursday in the park.”
Admission to the gardens is free; they are funded by memberships, donations, grants and the annual “Tribute to the Trees” concert. The 20th anniversary show, slated for Saturday, June 19, is the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra’s “Rhythm Del Rio” concert. Featuring music from Brazil, Argentina and Panama, the show is conducted by Benjamin Simon and showcases soloist Chris Froh on marimba. The event also includes a silent auction, raffle and outdoor dinner.
“When the orchestra is playing in that venue, it’s not like the Hollywood Bowl. It’s just a whole different thing with that music wafting up through the trees,” Harvey says. “It’s something else. To hear those young musicians play, it’s such a special, special time.”