Native Plant Tour in Santa Cruz County - The Blair Garden

The sign says this way or that way - The owner of this 33 acre property in the redwoods near Scotts Valley certainly does it his way!

Sunday June 12, I spent the day touring some of the 12 gardens in the first Santa Cruz County native garden tour. Hats off to the organizers and volunteers and those who put their gardens on display - I thoroughly enjoyed my day.

This first garden, a 33 acre property in the redwoods, made a real impact on me for many reasons. The owner, Mr. Blair, a man in his mid sixties, has lived there all his life. About 12 years ago, he decided to make the place more like a park and set about restoring it to native habitat, and lawn. There is a surprising amount of lawn in the open areas. He says he doesn't generally need to irrigate till August, and then waters weekly. He mows it all by hand, too. I can't imagine.

But he also worked with what was growing on the site, to revegetate with all sorts of local woodland shrubs and perennials. He has only one book to guide him: Plants of the Coast Redwood Region by Kathleen Lyons and Mary Beth C ooney-Lazaneo, photos by Howard King. It's a book I have too. It's very nice indeed, and useful, with lots of fine photos of the main plants to be found in the redwoods.

When I arrived Mr. Blair was putting out his signs - painted like the rest of his carvings. Unfortunately I think this one was a bit of a mondegreen or mishearing:

I asked him about this and he said, "Well, I don't know, someone told me that was the name." I think the person must have said "Vanilla grass." What do you think?

I wandered up into extensive trails above the valley with the lawns. There are seats all along the trails. The one on the right was of burned wood - not sure I'd sit on it, though it looked comfy!

The variety of understory plants was amazing. Here's woodland brome:

This looks like mostly slim solomon's seal:

I was inspired! How can I encourage more of these plants in our redwoods? Here are two-eyed violet and redwood sorrel:

Close-up of two-eyed violet:

There was lots of trail plant:

Deeper into the woods! Woodland madia, Hooker's fairy bells, and more:

Lots of adder's tongue, not in bloom right now, but the leaves are wonderful:

And very tall coast redwood trees!

But nothing like the majesty of the trees that were here before the loggers came through:

The land was first owned by William Waddell, local worthy in the mid 19th century. Mr. Blair told me he sold the property because he was afraid of grizzlies - He moved to Seaside down the coast (he founded the town, based on his lumber mill). There he was mauled to death by a grizzly bear!

It was stumps like this, I guess, that Mr. Blair had to remove some places, giving him lots of wood that he didn't know what to do with - so he started making his carvings.

Higher along the trail the vegetation was generally less dense:

I didn't go all the way to the top, but the trails actually connect with a local Scotts Valley park I didn't know about - it's behind an industrial area. I'll have to look into it. Mr. Blair is working with the local government to enable connection to the trails on his property. He is a very sharing person, and invites his neighbors to wander the trails - and also soon, people who are hiking in that park.

Mr Blair. cuts the trails by hand - an amazing amount of work. Here, hooker's fairy bells:

Along the trail... I couldn't help but wonder why the door!?:

I peeked! Ah!

The small trees lining the right side of the trail are douglas fir. They look like they're planted, but they're not. Mr. Blair said he'd probably take them out as he doesn't like 'em.

On the way back down... more lovely understory - redwood sorrel:

Sun and shade in the redwoods. So many ferns! I think because of Mr. Blair's propagation efforts...

I rounded a bend on the way down from the trail and spotted the propagation area:

Closer up:

I asked Mr. Blair how he did his propagation. He looks for young plants growing wild and scoops them up generally with a bit of moss and adds a bit more native soil to the pots he plops them in, and that's it. I am definitely inspired. We need to take more walks down on the old logging road beneath our property, and I need to get going on the redwood habitat propagation - Mr. Blair's way.

In the lower areas (which I didn't get good shots of unfortunately) is this small tool shed, with the lovely stained glass windows and old tin signs. It was partly made from lumber taken from an old logger's cabin. Mr. Blair remembers playing in the cabin as a small boy. The old logger who lived there died not long before Mr. Blair was born, and his stuff was just left there - what a great playhouse for a child:

I liked this shade structure - half-logs on top, rough hewn:

Many carving whimsies that abound in the lower part of the property:

Another little whimsy:

Whimsical banana slug carving:

The Blairs used to hire the place out for weddings and did over 30 before they decided to give up that business. Here's a wonderful picnic area, with carved car heading the "train." At the end was the car's trunk, but I didn't get a photo.

Here is another carved car:

A fine gate into the veg. area, with chickens. Some kind of old hooks have been used - any idea what they were for?

I got a great shot of the wiry Mr. Blair with a carved motorcycle - but maybe I best not show a photo without permission. Thanks, Mr. Blair - for sharing your place!


Great post - you mices always suss out the most interesting places to visit. How do you do it?
Kurt said…
The hooks are logger's tools called cant hooks. Not surprising to find in a former logging area!