All posts by Rebecca Flanegan

Volunteers lend a helping hand building Community Garden

Three cheers for helping hands! Box-building for the Community Garden is nearly finished thanks to outstanding work by local volunteers, including a group from the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Helpers of all ages have been gathering on Saturday mornings this summer with drills and hammers (and lots of ice water to beat the heat!) to build up to 80 raised beds, including several that are ADA-accessible, for growing plants. Slowly but surely, the hillside at the back of our property behind the new Greenhouse is turning into a thriving community resource and gathering space for Walnut Creek residents. Next up on the docket: Irrigation and landscaping. Isn’t that exciting? More details about securing garden beds for your family to be announced soon!

Learn more about the Community Garden project
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Explore Habitats of California in Nature Explorers Session 5!

With gorgeous scenery, beautiful weather, and lots to do outdoors, it’s no secret we live in a pretty awesome state for nature lovers! California’s rich and diverse landscapes also make excellent habitats for an exciting array of plant and animal life. Next month, our popular preschool program, Nature Explorers, kicks off a session all about Habitats in California.

Learn about ponds, rivers, caves, deserts, forests, and coasts and salt marshes Tuesday mornings 9/4 to 10/9 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Full course $80-100; drop-in $15-$20 per child per class.

Join us for Session 5 of Nature Explorers
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Large grant from Andeavor Foundation expands natural science education

Since 1987, The Gardens at Heather Farm’s children’s environment education program has taught nature-based science principles in local schools. In the 2017-2018 school year, our amazing teaching team taught our Natural Science Classroom curriculum to over 20,000 K-7 students in over 120 schools in Contra Costa County. It is with a great deal of gratitude that we wish to acknowledge Andeavor Foundation for a very significant grant for the 2018-2019 school year, which will allow us to expand our programming to include an additional 6,000 local students! The funding will also allow us to replace aging teaching kits and supplement our curriculum with exciting new technology. This is a tremendous gift to our local schools, and we are grateful to Andeavor Foundation for their support.

Explore the world of the Natural Science Classroom
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Be cool with JAZZ in the garden on Sunday, September 9

Swing, bop, blues and bossa on a Sunday afternoon! It’s the second show in our new Concerts in the Garden series, as Bay Area bassist and band leader, Tom Lilienthal, brings sensational jazz vocalist, Jennifer Lee, and an all-star quartet to showcase lively jazz tunes sure to get you grooving. You’ll enjoy two sets of classic jazz standards and engaging originals by some of the Bay Area’s best talent in a stunning outdoor atmosphere.

The concert starts promptly at 5:00 p.m. Doors open at 4:00 p.m. Bring a blanket and picnic dinner to enjoy al fresco before or after the show!

Proceeds from the Concerts in the Garden series support The Gardens at Heather Farm’s nonprofit programs.

Concerts in The Garden:
Tom Lilienthal & Friends with Jennifer Lee

Sunday, September 9 at 5:00 p.m.
Tickets: $40 General Admission / $20 Students
Members of The Gardens have access to a VIP seating section!​
Don’t miss jazz with Tom Lilienthal & Friends on 9/9!

Community Garden work in progress!

Let’s give a cheer for progress, folks! Thanks to outstanding effort from the Mormon Helping Hands and other community volunteers, we’re more than half-way done building the planter beds that will make up our Community Garden site. The hillside at the back of our property behind the new Greenhouse will soon hold up to 80 raised beds available for Walnut Creek residents to rent annually. Isn’t that exciting?

Made of recycled, food grade plastic, the garden beds will be irrigated to make for easy watering. Most of the boxes will be 4′ x 12′ plus a few smaller and three ADA accessible for those with special needs, and we hope to have all 80 beds in place by the end of summer.

If you’re interested in participating in the box construction or working on the community garden project, please contact Joan Lucchese, Executive Director, at 925-947-0571 or

More details about the Community Garden program, such as membership, rates and rules, will be announced soon. There is a waiting list to secure a plot in our garden, and you can add your name to the waiting list.

In the meantime, start gathering ideas for winter plants you can drop in your Community Garden bed later this year!

S’mores at Sundown Returns for Fourth Summer on August 9!

Relish in the joys of a warm, summer night with sweet treats and outdoor activities for families in a beautiful garden! On Thursday, August 9, the popular S’mores at Sundown event returns for its fourth consecutive year with another magical evening of homemade s’mores, live music, stories, crafts, games and more.

Kids love exploring along the garden paths and dancing on the lawn. Parents love the relaxed atmosphere and chance to socialize with friends. And the highlight of the evening is roasting marshmallows over the grill to make fresh s’mores!

In addition to family-friendly songs and popular musical favorites, this year’s S’mores at Sundown will feature local party service company, ANDentertainment making their Gardens debut offering free face painting and balloon art.

The perfect summer family event for all ages, S’mores at Sundown provides support for The Gardens at Heather Farm’s nonprofit public garden and nature education center which brings natural and environmental science classes to over 17,000 local school children annually.

Admission fee collected at the door includes all activities and treats.

Bring a picnic dinner along to enjoy before your s’mores! Strollers, wagons, camping chairs, and picnic blankets are welcome!

S’mores at Sundown
Thursday, August 9
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Admission: $5.00 per person (free for kids under age two)

New Concerts in the Garden series opens June 24

Check out our new series,  Concerts in the Garden, presenting outstanding live music in a stunning outdoor atmosphere. Be entertained in a totally unique and natural setting, with the beautiful garden landscapes as a backdrop for some of the Bay Area’s best local musicians.

Julia Joy Photography


Revel in the beauty of our gardens while enjoying an enchanting selection of classical favorites including Bach, Elgar, Piazzola, and more! Performers Larisa Smirnova (harp), Ernie Mansfield (flute) and Pawel Walerowksi (cello) perform their first-ever concert in the garden as the Romance Trio, offering inspiring arrangements to thrill the spirit and soothe the soul.

Pawel Walerowski (cello): Originally from Poland, Pawel graduated from the Conservatory in Poznan in Cello Performance. An award-winning performer, he served in numerous European ensembles and toured across Europe as a lead cellist with an original cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. For the past 10 years he has toured the U.S., premiered musicals, played at Berkeley Rep, worked for SF Symphony’s education department and freelanced with many ensembles. Currently, Pawel serves as a musician at St Mary’s church in Walnut Creek, where he plays piano, organ and cello.

Lisa Smirnova (harp): Bay Area-based harpist and pianist, Larisa performs regularly as soloist, accompanist, and orchestral musician. Born and educated in Russia, she received both her Bachelor of Music and Master’s Degree in Piano and Harp Performance there before coming to the United States where she performed in various cities. She has given numerous recitals in Russia (Moscow, Great Composers Performance Hall) and throughout Northern California (CSU Sacramento, UC Davis, Sonoma University, Mondavi Center, among others). Her recent performances include collaborations with the Kensington Symphony, Auburn Symphony, Folsom Symphony, Camellia Symphony, and Camerata California.

Ernie Mansfield (flute): Ernie is a classically-trained musician, with experience performing classical, pop, rock, and jazz. He studied flute, sax, piano, and music composition at Interlochen Arts Academy, Oberlin Conservatory, University of Illinois, and University of the State of New York, and has played in numerous ensembles. Ernie has produced four albums on his own label, Windsailor Music, which include many of his own compositions, arrangements, and performances and has also worked as a producer, arranger, and performer on a number of other albums, including work with Narada Michael Walden, Fantasy Records, and California Symphony.

Sunday, June 24, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets: $40 per person, general admission

Get tickets for Romance Trio at on June 24!
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Don’t miss a Sunday evening of swing, bop, blues and bossa as Bay Area bassist and band leader, Tom Lilienthal, brings sensational jazz vocalist, Jennifer Lee, and an all-star quartet to The Gardens to showcase lively jazz tunes sure to get you grooving.

Jennifer Lee (vocals): Vocalist extraordinaire, Jennifer Lee has played many of the Bay Area’s best jazz clubs. Whether doing classic songbook tunes or eclectic Brazilian ballads, she impresses audiences with her smooth, sophisticated voice and relaxed, heart-felt style.

Tom Lilienthal (bass): Tom has shared the stage with many renowned musicians including members of Tower of Power, the Yellowjackets, and Santana. He has performed at numerous festivals including Monterey Jazz Festival.

Bob Athayde (keyboards): Respected music educator at Lafayette’s Stanley Middle School, Bob has been a mainstay in the Bay Area music scene for decades as a composer, arranger, keyboardist and band leader.

Jim Thorne (drums): Jim has played with a wide variety of jazz and Brazilian groups throughout the Bay Area.

Bernie Rivera (saxophone): A master of the reeds, Bernie plays tenor and alto saxes, as well as flute. He’s made a name for himself as a valued sidemay for various Bay Area jazz groups and has played at the renowned Monterey Jazz Festival.

Sunday Jazz with Tom Lilienthal & Friends featuring Jennifer Lee
Sunday, September 9, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.
Tickets: $40 per person, general admission

Get tickets for Tom Lilienthal & Friends on September 9!
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Proceeds from the Concerts in the Garden series support The Gardens at Heather Farm’s nonprofit programs.

Artist in Residence debuts in May 2018 with KNITTASTIC!

Bringing inspiring Bay Area artistic talent to the six acres of lush, natural landscapes at The Gardens at Heather Farm, our Artist in Residence program supports the creation of innovative and transformative artworks which inspire both artist and visitor to engage with the natural world.​ Now through July, artist Maureen McCourt showcases her colorful textile creations in and around the new Children’s Garden in a special exhibition entitled KNITTASTIC + POM! POM! galore.

KNITTASTIC is a knit bombing project meant to highlight the beauty of the Gardens. The magenta yarn wrapped around trees leads viewers through the garden landscape to the new and amazing Children’s Garden. Inside the Children’s Garden, viewers will find the eye-popping POM! POM! galore, a fun interactive installation that invites people to pet the sculptures and be dazzled by the rainbow colors!


Check out Maureen’s work and her project inspiration
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New Bird Series Starts May 10

Ever see a bird perched on a tree branch and wonder what it was? Curious about environmental impacts on bird nesting and rehabilitation for birds injured in the wild?

The Gardens is proud to introduce a new five-part series, The Ecology of Heather Farm Pond Birds, on Thursdays in May and June. Designed to teach participants skills needed to identify, appreciate and track the diversity of birds around our neighboring lake and pond, the course will be led by GHF’s Natural Science Teacher and bird enthusiast, Noelle Pipa, and will feature expert guest presenters including renowned naturalist, John Muir Laws, and conservationists from Lindsay Wildlife ExperienceMt. Diablo Audubon Society, and California Bluebird Recovery Program.

The course starts Thursday, May 10 at 4:30pm, and participants can register for the five-class series (at a discounted rate), or individual classes.

Join us for the Ecology of Heather Farm Pond Birds
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10 Reasons to Attend FIESTA NUEVA on May 6

Things are about to get really FESTIVE at The Gardens’ this spring! Our Annual Gala Fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, May 6 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., and we’ve compiled a list of our 10 favorite things that make this event so special.
1) See the garden at its best. Every spring, around early May, the thousands of rose blooms in the Cowden Rose Garden go bonkers and put on quite a colorful show. Perfect viewing for a sunny Sunday afternoon stroll.

Joshua Isaacs Photography

2) All food, beverages and entertainment are included in the ticket price. Yep, that’s right. A series of food/beverage stations located around the garden will offer Latin American-inspired appetizers such as ceviche, Cuban sliders, corn and black bean tortilla cups, gaucho-style steak, and tostones, plus dessert, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, live music, dancing, and more.

3) Win a Cancun vacation! All attendees will be entered for a chance to win a vacation certificate for five days and four nights in Cancun, Mexico. The perfect prize for our Latin American-themed event — a south-of-the border vacaction! Hit the links at Laguna Suites Golf & Spa or enjoy cocktails along the coast at Ocean Spa Hotel. (Some restrictions and fees apply.)

4) Caramelized pineapple margaritas “to die for.” Tangy lime, caramelized pineapple and silver anejo tequila put this tasty Mexican cocktail over the top. It’s a special recipe created by catering sponsor, A Loveable Feast, and we can’t wait to try it.
5) Help us engage young children with nature and teach them about the environment. Did you know that The Gardens’ youth education program brings natural and environmental science classes to over 17,000 kids in Contra Costa County each year? Funding for these school programs, on subjects like pollination, geology, composting, seeds, native plants and more, comes in part from money raised at Fiesta and other fundraisers.

6) Your attendance at this event will also make a difference in the garden. Thousands of visitors wander our paths monthly, admiring the garden spaces and taking in the pretty scenery. But all that beauty doesn’t happen by itself. As a nonprofit organization, we not only depend on volunteers to help with pruning and weeding each week, we rely on annual fundraising to provide dollars for purchasing new plants, fixing irrigation issues, and developing new areas of the garden for public enjoyment.

7) Sunday afternoons are perfect for authentic Latin music. Pianist Marco Diaz returns to The Gardens for the second consecutive  year, this time with his larger ensemble, Vission Latina. The authentic salsa band will perform a mix of traditional Cuban classics and contemporary faves. In addition to playing regularly around the Bay Area, their music has been featured in a number of documentary films about Cuba. Perfect sounds to get your hips swaying and toes tapping.

8) Learn to salsa dance under the sun. Professional salsa dancers in costume will be on hand to show you some moves sure to kick the party up a notch.
9) It’s the perfect weekend afternoon getaway, right around the corner. Looking for an easy “stay-cation” experience? Need a break from the kids or grandkids? Escape (virtually) to iconic Latin American cities like Cabo San Lucas, Buenos Aires, San Juan and Havana. Relax in the garden while enjoying the sweet fragrance of fresh flower blossoms, tasty appetizers, margaritas, sounds of piano and conga drums, all without even getting on a plane.

10) Eat good, do good, feel good. At Fiesta Nueva, you’ll get all the amazing event features mentioned above, while also helping the community, and helping The Gardens reach our goals. We depend on your support.
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