The woodland gardens
Wade and Esther Sturgeon moved to Green Hill Rd in Sebastopol in 1924. Sturgeon’s Mill was erected at that time and selective logging was carried on. In time the mill became an added attraction to the garden, when Wade and Esther planted wild flowers which soon added to the beauty of the grounds. Tables and benches were added for visitors to picnic at no charge.
The mill and gardens are in a little valley facing north which is almost frost free. There is a fine stand of native trees, and other trees have been added from time to time. Among the flowering trees that were planted were Pacific dogwood, magnolias, eastern tulip trees, pink eucalyptus, golden chain, Portuguese laurel, box elder, and Australian bride tree. Many of these survived. They also planted azaleas, hydrangeas and rhododendrons and visitors started coming to enjoy the gardens. Wade did not want the gardens to become formal and requested they be called “Woodland Gardens” and we will honor his wishes.
Three lily ponds were built and planted with water lilies of various colors. The sides were edged with attractive quartz from a gold mine located at the head of Willow Creek in west Sonoma County. One pond was filled in and planted with azaleas and rhododendrons that were given in memory of Wade who died in 1957. The remaining two ponds are edged with moss and ferns and other greenery.
Wade and Esther were delighted to host such renowned groups as camera clubs, botany clubs, members of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, members of the Audubon Society, landscape artists and other people of distinction.
One spring and summer, a register was kept and 4000 people signed it. Happy visitors wandered the paths, picnicked and enjoyed the beautiful setting in the redwoods.
In 2009 the garden became part of the Sturgeon’s Mill Restoration Project and work began to restore the gardens to their previous beauty. It has been a work in progress but with the dedicated help of several knowledgeable people it is again becoming a special spot for visitors.