US (CA): Owner of Sebastopol’s legendary Hidden Forest hopes for a save

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When Marian McDonald needs a refreshing nature bath she heads to a nearby Eden that few people know about, a storybook forest of rhododendrons, azaleas, primeval looking ferns and spreading magnolias.

She can walk through acres of trails hugged by redwoods, oak and cherry trees in spring bloom. Tucked within is a gazebo and other places to pause and just be within this forest garden, hearing only the birds or the breeze scuffling through the leaves.

“I’m a lover of the forest and I love to sit in it for the serenity. You could slice it and spread it on bread, it’s just that marvelous,” she said in the kind of hushed voice reserved for a church sanctuary. Its name is the Hidden Forest, a botanical garden and nursery tucked away at the end of a rural lane in Hessel, outside Sebastopol.

Founded nearly 60 years ago and long known as Sonoma Horticultural Nursery, Hidden Forest, mature display gardens spreading over more than 7 acres, is legendary among old time garden lovers. It has some plants and cultivars found nowhere else. “There’s nothing like this in Sonoma County.” Bill McNamara But the Hidden Forest is in peril, its future uncertain.


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