All posts by Rebecca Flanegan

Artist in Residence Program Debuts in June

Botanical weaver, Julia Wilson, is The Gardens first resident artist in June/July 2017.

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.​

Our first featured artist debuting in June is Oakland-based botanical weaver, Julia Wilson. As part of her continuing series, Weaving the Grasses of America, Julia will create unique, site-specific plant weavings using garden waste material and trimmings. This ongoing series shows a woven, map-like path of a walk through a particular environment. By weaving the grasses in the order they were found, she records footsteps through time and place, and asks questions about native and non-native species.

Visitors are invited to watch Julia’s artistic process at work during free “open studio” on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings through June and July. She’ll be out in the garden spaces showcasing her art and will be available for observation and questions.

Artist in Residence: June/July 2017
JULIA WILSON, Botanical Weaver
Free Open Studio: Thursdays, 6-8 p.m. & Saturdays, 9-11 a.m. *No viewing 7/20 & 7/22

Tips for Visiting During Wedding Season

Flower fans and garden walkers aren’t the only ones looking to enjoy our beautiful spaces (especially the rose garden) — during prime blooming season from April through November, our property is host to over 75 weddings annually.

When private event clients have reserved The Gardens, we are typically closed to the public for several hours, but if you make proper arrangements, you can find the right time to visit.

Here are some tips for making sure you get to enjoy our lovely garden-scapes during wedding season:

  • Plan ahead, call ahead: If you know you want to visit The Gardens, pick a date a week or more in advance, and give us call (925) 947-1678 or email us to find out if we’ll be open for visitors. Our office hours are Mon-Fri 9am to 4pm, and Sat 9am to 1pm, closed Sunday.
  • Avoid weekend afternoons: Most weddings occur on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the late afternoon/early evening, so the garden areas are typically closed on those days from 2-3pm until around 6-7pm. Some occasional weekend mornings are also closed between 8am and 12pm.
  • Check the rental calendar: We have an online calendar posting which weekend dates our venue is booked for a private event. On these days, afternoon hours for the public will be limited. Review dates.
  • Check the signs: On wedding day, we usually post sings around the parking area and entrance to the property advising if/when we will be closed to visitors.

So, whether you’re bringing a group of relatives from out of town, planning a special date with a special someone, or taking your kids out for some fresh air, we hope these tips will make arranging your visit to The Gardens more fruitful!

New Season of Nature Explorers Opens in March!

Fun Weekly Classes for Preschoolers

Beginning in March, we’ll be welcoming our Nature Explorers families back to The Gardens to kick off the third year of this exciting educational program for children ages two to five! Featuring themes such as Wacky Weather, Around the Garden, Endangered Animals, Journey Around the Word and more, these engaging weekly classes offer nature-themed stories, garden walks, hands-on activities, and fun projects led by our amazing teachers. Six six-week sessions run from March 21st through November 28th.


Session 1: Wacky Weather, 3/21-4/25
Session 2: Endangered Animals, 5/2-6/6
Session 3: Journey Around the World, 6/13-7/25 (no class on 7/4)
Session 4: Around the Garden, 8/1-9/5
Session 5: Flight, 9/12-10/17
Session 6: Plants Around Us, 10/24-11/28
Advanced Registration for Each 6-Week Session: $80 Members / $100 Public
Single-Class Drop-in Rate: $15 Members / $20 Public
Are You a Nature Explorer? Join Our Class & Find Out!
Learn More

Spring Plant Sale – Saturday, April 29th from 8am to Noon

It’s time once again to welcome new plants into your home gardens, and what better way to stock your spaces than with a selection of unique specimens grown by the propagation team at The Gardens!

The winter brought us much rain, and the spring offers soft soil and sunshine perfect for planting, so let’s get started.

Some highlights of what you’ll be able to find:

Join us in the parking lot at The Gardens on Saturday, April 29th between 8am and 12pm.

More details to come…

Harvest Authors Unveil New Book, Perform Demo on March 10th

A Lecture and Demonstration with Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis

San Francisco-based authors and landscape designers unveil their new book, HARVEST, on March 10th at 1:00 p.m.

The Gardens at Heather Farm and The Garden Conservancy welcome authors Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis (photo above by David Fenton) to talk about their new book Harvest: Unexpected Projects Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants set for release next month. This practical, inspirational, and seasonal guide will help make any garden more productive and enjoyable with a variety of projects–organic pantry staples, fragrances, floral arrangements, beverages, cocktails, beauty products, and more–using unexpected and often common garden plants. Enjoy a lively discussion on how to turn your backyard garden into a treasure-trove of useful plants, and watch Stefani and Alethea perform live demonstrations of some of their favorite practical botanical transformations.​
When: Friday, March 10th at 1:00 p.m.
Where: Camellia Room @ The Gardens at Heather Farm
What: 30-minute lecture, followed by project demonstrations, book signing and reception
How: Reserve your spot online, $5.00 for GHF Members, $15 General Public
Register for the Harvest event on March 10th!
Sign Up Now

About the authors/presenters
STEFANI BITTNER and ALETHEA HARAMPOLIS are the owners of Homestead Design Collective, a San Francisco Bay Area landscape design firm. Bittner is co-author of The Beautiful Edible Garden and Harampolis is co-author of the bestselling The Flower Recipe Book and The Wreath Recipe Book, and a co-founder/owner of
the floral design company Studio Choo.

About the book
Every garden—not just vegetable plots—can produce a bountiful harvest. In this beautifully photographed guide to growing, harvesting, and utilizing 47 unexpected plants, gardeners discover the surprising usefulness of petals and leaves, roots, seeds, and fruit. Turn tumeric root into a natural dye and calamintha into lip balm. Make anise hyssop into a refreshing iced tea and turn apricots into a facial mask. Crabapple branches can be used to create stunning floral arrangements, oregano flowers to infuse vinegar, and edible chrysanthemum to liven up a salad.

Harvest: Unexpected Projects Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants
By Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis
$22.00 hardcover (Can $29.00), 224 pages, 150 full-color photographs, 7-1/4 x 10 inches. ISBN: 978-0-399-57833-5; eBook ISBN: 978-1-60774-861-8.
Gardening – Herbs; Published by Ten Speed Press; On-Sale Date: February 7, 2017

Happy Holidays from The Gardens!

The year 2016 was a marvelous one at The Gardens at Heather Farm! We had a record-breaking year of weddings & private parties, hosted several hugely-popular family events (S’mores at Sundown, Harvest Festival, Teddy Bear Tea) that raised lots of money for our programs, inspired thousands of local school children in classrooms and on field trips, added some truly excellent new staff members, and every day continued the crusade to spread awareness and appreciation for our natural world.

​From all of us at The Gardens at Heather Farm, thank you for being a part of our adventures this year and the ones before, and we wish you a wonderful holiday season. Cheers to even better things in 2017!

Featured in the photo above is the majestic Colorado Blue Spruce that sits on the crown of the hill in our Rockery garden (across the eastward path from the gazebo), reigning over the succulents and cacti. We thought this tree was the perfect specimen to match with festive adornments!

​Our building and offices will be closed for the holidays from December 24 through January 2, but the garden areas will be open for viewing daily from sunrise to sunset. Bring your friends and family visiting from out of town and come take a walk around. You’ll be glad you did!​


Generosity grows support. Show yours on #GivingTuesday and benefit nature-based garden programs.

At The Gardens, we believe that every child should spend quality time outdoors engaged with nature. Over the past 25 years, we have brought natural and environmental science classes and other garden programs to over 250,000 students, teachers and families. We hope to raise $10,000 on #GivingTuesday to help encourage people in our community to explore the natural world around them.


#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of a unique blend of partners—charities, families, businesses, and individuals—to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, this year—November 29, 2016, to kick-off the holiday giving season and to inspire people to take collaborative action to improve their local communities and to give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they support. Currently, more than 45,000 corporate and nonprofit organizations in over 71 countries have participated in the initiative.

Seeing an opportunity to channel the generous spirit of the holiday season and to inspire action around charitable giving, a group of friends and partners, led by the 92nd Street Y (92Y), came together to find ways to promote and celebrate the great American tradition of giving. Thought leaders in philanthropy, social media, and grassroots organizations joined with 92Y to explore what is working in modern philanthropy and how to expand these innovations throughout the philanthropic sector. “It’s been a privilege to work with remarkable leaders all over the country building a movement around #GivingTuesday,” said Henry Timms, 92Y’s Executive Director and founder of #GivingTuesday. “This initiative has truly been crowd-sourced by some of the smartest and most connected minds among the next generation of philanthropists and entrepreneurs.”

On #GivingTuesday November 29th, help us meet our goal to engage our local youth with the environment and bring nature-based programs to the community.


Donate Now to The Gardens at Heather Farm
Click Here

Learn about Winter Blooming Plants at class on Nov. 5

One of the most common requests landscape gardeners hear from their clients is for year-round color. We are lucky that our climate allows us to grow plants and flowers for color as well as cutting in winter, spring, summer and fall. Even though we live in an area with winter frost and extreme summer heat, it is possible to fill our gardens and vases with foliage and flowers from the garden year round. We are also lucky we have experts like Kristin to show us many varieties of plants and flowers she has personally grown which are suitable for our chilly winter temperatures and rain. Join us on Saturday, November 5th, as Kristin lends some insight into bringing that oh-so-desirable “pop” of color to our winter gardens.

Field of yellow Cowslip flowers or Primula veris. Shallow depth of field.

Field of yellow Cowslip flowers or Primula veris. Shallow depth of field.

Kristin Yanker-Hansen, flower garden specialist, was born on the East Coast, but has spent more than half her life gardening in California where she has experimented with numerous plants in order to attain the nirvana of year round bloom. Kristin is the former President of the California Horticultural Society, the former Horticulture Chair for the California State Garden Club, and has written articles for Pacific Horticulture, as well as numerous newsletters. After years of offering her friends advice, Kristin went into business in 1995, specializing in flower gardening. In addition to year round color, she has developed plans for dry gardening and promotes organic gardening whenever possible.

Camellia blossoming in the Shade Garden

Photo: Kept in Time Photography

Sign Up for Winter Bloom Plants on Nov. 5!
Register Now

Nature Explorers Session Six “Underground” Theme Starts Oct. 18th!

Join our team of Nature Explorers, a weekly parent-child preschool program, for Session Six starting Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 10 a.m! In the final six-week session of the year, we’ll be doing some fun activities and “digging” into to things UNDERGROUND, exploring the world of gophers, worms, root vegetables, fossils, minerals and magma.

Nature Explorers features nature-themed stories, garden walks, hands-on activities, and fun projects, all designed for your curious preschooler and led by our amazing teachers. Light snacks provided.

  • Who: Children ages 2-5; parent participation required
  • What: Fun nature-inspired activities and garden exploration
  • When: Six 6-week sessions on Tuesdays, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
  • Where: The Gardens at Heather Farm, 1540 Marchbanks Drive, Walnut Creek
  • Why: Exciting activities that will inspire a greater appreciation of nature
  • How: Each 6-week session costs $80 for members and $100 for non-members.
  • Questions: Email or call 925-947-6712
  • Additional Info: Sign-in and snacks will be available starting 15 mins before start time and class will begin promptly at 10:00 a.m.
  • Max. Enrollment: 15 students per session
  • Siblings: Children under two years old may attend free of charge with their registered older sibling. Siblings over 2 years are eligible for a 10% discount. To register siblings, please call (925) 947-1678.
Come be a Nature Explorer with us!
Register Now

Teddy Bear Tea Tickets Now On Sale!

Get ready for the 21st Annual Teddy Bear Tea, coming to The Gardens on December 3rd and 4th! Our popular, holiday-themed fundraiser is a huge hit with children ages three to nine and sells out every year.

For this memorable family event, our Camellia Room (did you know that tea is made from Camellia leaves?) is decorated in festive holiday decor, and serves as the perfect setting for fancy tea service in delicate, rose-painted porcelain cups. With seasonal music playing in the background, children visit the “Boutique” which features stuffed bears, jewelry and the ever-popular “ribbon halos” for sale before heading downstairs to take special commemorative photos. A selection of teatime finger foods to please both children and adults is served, followed by a raffle of special prizes. There’s also time for storytelling and crafts, and every child receives a special goody bag to take home.

This event, organized through the efforts of a team of dedicated volunteers, has been a very special tradition shared by hundreds and hundreds of families over the last 20+ years, and raises funds to support our youth education programs.

So, bring out the grannies and aunties, gather the mommy & me playgroup, collect all the kiddies and come share in the fun at The Gardens this holiday season!

Tickets to Teddy Bear Tea Now On Sale!