Rancho La Puerta's gardens honor the history and spirit of the land, native peoples, and vineyard planters. The gardens also reflect the sacred mountain and its gifts of diverse plant and animal communities; respect the seasonal rhythms of sun and rain; and celebrate the delight and sensual experiences of living intimately with the natural world. Designed by Sarah Livia (Szekely) Brightwood, Chris Drayer and Enrique Ceballos, our gardens reflect not only the natural rhythms of our valley's native plants and land forms, but also a keen understanding of modern-day concerns about water use and sustainable methods of gardening.
Thanks to the careful use of water through drip systems and mulching, plus a biological marsh to recycle gray water for irrigation, plants from many parts of the world thrive. A generally free-draining, neutral soil derived from decomposed granite provides ideal growing conditions, especially when amended with organic compost made on-site. The Ranch has its own nursery and propagates a wide variety of native plants, as well as Mexican, Mediterranean, Australian, South African and cottage garden species.
Mature... but never complete
Nothing can replace time as a maker of gardens. Those at Rancho La Puerta's have had 60 years of care by the Szekelys, and approximately a century of farming use before that. Sweeping views and winding paths lead you past venerable wisteria and grape vines, and through layered canopies of mature palo verde, acacia, olive, plum, apricot and almond trees, as well as peppers, Chinese elms, honey locust, palms, sycamores, oaks and eucalyptus.
Color and fragrance greet you at every turn. Flowering plants include rosemary, lavender, sage, masses of billowy shrub roses, great drifts of calendulas, narcissus, ranunculus and alyssum. These are followed by hollyhocks and sunflowers, Lavatera (tree mallow), buddleia, matilija poppies and cactus blossoms. Jasmine and honeysuckle frame doorways. Hummingbirds swoop in to feast on the towering flowers of the century plant and the fleshy bells of Our Lord's Candle, the native yucca.