Some Good News

If newspapers had come in two editions this past decade, one edition with only good news, the other edition with not-so-good news, the good news edition would have been slim indeed. Flung by the delivery person who always aims for my agaves, it would probably have blown away down the street like a kite before hitting my driveway. This past decade knocked the stuffing out of me, forcing me to jettison what little I thought I’d come to understand about human nature. I’ve never been one not to face unpleasant facts, but a blog about gardening seemed a reasonable response to what I’ve witnessed so far of the 21st century. It seemed a good time to focus on what you love, no matter how narrow and insignificant the subject might seem to the uninitiated, and find others who valued it as well.

In that spirit, this will come as good news only to a very small number of people, but that select few can rejoice. Western Hills, the garden, has been saved, for the moment at least, though it may not be a nursery ever again.


A photosynthetic palace, a beloved Northern California nursery destination for many years, as written here previously. All photos by MB Maher.



The view from the house on the property.


In honor of the occasion, I did a quick tour around my garden to identify plants obtained from Western Hills. Not many are left. Possibly a dyckia. Astonishing what a meat grinder my garden is, chewing up plants and leaving no trace. An elephant’s graveyard for nursery stock.

I did find what is probably the last notebook entry of a Western Hills shopping trip in April 2003:

Corydalis ‘Pere David.’ One of countless blue corydalis I fed into the meat grinder garden.
Daphne ‘Carol Mackie.’ Oh, to recapture the innocent days of gardening youth when one blithely purchased daphnes with every expectation that they would flourish.
Angelica sylvestris purpurea
Hellebore ‘Boughton Beauty’
Ruta chalepensis, the fringed rue
Viola ‘Dancing Geisha’
a variegated plectranthus
Sisyrinchium ‘Judith Kinear.’ (No hits when searching for a plant under this name today.)
Helicotrichon sempervirens ‘Sapphire’

From the Garden Conservancy website, the new owners are Chris and Tim Szybalski. Chris is co-owner of Westbrae Nursery in Berkeley, Calif.
With their purchase of Western Hills, I just know this is the beginning of another beautiful collaboration between people and place.


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7 Responses to Some Good News

  1. Thank you for passing along the good news! And for what it’s worth my paper “boy” has the same aim as yours.

  2. Kathy says:

    The SF Chronicle lands in the Zinnias and the Napa Valley Register is always in the Hell Strip. Never kept track of my Western Hills plants, though the visit there always seemed to trump the purchases. And that little cafe place in Occidental for lunch…pretty tasty.

  3. Pam/Digging says:

    I cracked up over your characterization of your garden as a meat grinder. And the listing of plants you bought in the innocence of gardening youth. Yes, I’ve been there too. And my garden has a bit of the meat grinder aspect as well.

    Good news about the nursery. I’m not familiar with it, but boy those pictures make it look like a sacred space. They’re stunning.

  4. Denise says:

    Loree, you’re most welcome. The news is getting out. The last Plant Delights email mentioned it too.
    Kathy, I didn’t know you’d been.
    Pam, why didn’t I use that phrase, “sacred space”? So true about the photos.

  5. Cindy says:

    You must admit, the last photo evokes a cathedral….wonderful space and a masterful photographic eye. Great news to hear something this special is being placed into likely good hands.

  6. hoover boo says:

    Wonderful news. “Sacred space” sums it up nicely.

  7. Alice Joyce says:

    This is news we’d all been waiting and hoping for!
    I had clipped an article from the S F Chronicle the other day, announcing the new owners, and tidying up that was going on.
    We can all share a sign of relief that this incredible place is being given the chance of a new life. Visting Maggie and the nursery were one of my earliest introductions to the Northern California gardening scene. And what an intoduction it was.
    I’ll have to ponder which of my babies are from Western Hills. Offhand, I can’t recall.

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