Eco-Friendly Garden Tour – Old Roses, New Ideas


Roses, Natives, and Rainwater

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Margaret Spaulding began work on her Glen Ellen garden in 2001. It has emerged as a result of planning, experiment, love, and surprises. The garden is set on about an acre of steep hillside and consists of several zones. Downslope from the house is a fenced area containing over 300 species of rose, many of them very old and rare, mixed with fruit trees, perennials, and bulbs. Adjacent to the fenced area, on a slope above a pool, drought tolerance prevails. Above a parking area more roses mix with less water-loving perennials, and further up the hill even more drought-resistant plants merge into the natural hillside of oak woodland, now interspersed with a handful of olive trees.  Baby oaks have gained a foothold, planted in the past few years from acorns.

It’s a sprawling, country-scale place, not neatly manicured but full of color, texture and scent. Birds and bugs seem to enjoy the habitat designed for them.

Irrigation water from the well is supplemented by more than 20,000 gallons of rainwater storage. Margaret is deeply connected with her garden and chooses to water by hand rather than use an automatic irrigation system. This allows her to tend each plant and to judge individual watering requirements.

Plants include, besides roses, many Salvias, Eriogonum (native buckwheat), Epilobium (California fuchsia), Buddleia, Tagetes limonii (Copper Canyon Daisy), Artemesias, Dahlias, Dianthus and Gladiolus.

Parking & Access

This garden is accessed via a gravel road and includes steep, uneven terrain, and narrow pathways. Low-heeled shoes are mandatory for safety reasons.

Russian River Friendly Landscaping Principles and Practices

Protect Water and Air Quality

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Russian River-Friendly landscaping can help protect our water from pollution by:

  • Increasing on-site infiltration and reducing runoff
  • Reducing contaminants in runoff
  • Increasing the soil’s ability to remove pollutants from runoff

In an undisturbed landscape, as little as 15% of the rainwater leaves the system through surface water runoff. Up to than one-third moves into the soil where living, biologically diverse organisms break down and naturally filter out pollutants, before it reaches groundwater or our waterways.

As land is developed into residential or commercial landscapes, roads and parking lots, major changes occur.

  • More water runs off the surfaces — as much as 90% of all rain and irrigation water runs into waterways without moving through soil.
  • The soil supports less microbial life and is less able to filter harmful chemicals out of the little water that infiltrates and moves through soil.

What happens next? Erosion of channels is greatly accelerated. As little as 10% impervious surface in our watershed causes significant degradation of streams.

Pollutant load also increases. An acre of parking lot collects as much as 4 gallons of oil, gasoline and diesel fuel each year. When it rains and water runs off the parking lot, these toxic compounds are discharged into local creeks where they may eventually enter the Russian River. Other pollutants include trace metals, pesticides, nutrients from fertilizers and pet waste, trash and suspended soil particles from poorly vegetated ground.

Stormwater runoff, from both residential and commercial sites, thus becomes a large source of pollution.

Russian River-Friendly landscaping can help protect our air from pollution by:

  • Reducing fossil fuel consumption
  • Recycling plant debris on site
  • Planting trees to remove CO2 and absorb air pollutants

Air pollution from power equipment used in conventional landscaping takes an enormous toll on our environment. Gas powered garden tools emit 5 percent of the nation’s air pollution. Plant debris is hauled to the landfill in vehicles that pollute the air, and once there, the materials decompose without oxygen and in the process emit greenhouse gases.

  1. Use integrated pest management
  2. Eliminate high input decorative lawns
  3. Minimize site disturbance
  4. Choose and maintain your materials, equipment and vehicles carefully
  5. Keep soil and organic matter where it belongs
  6. Minimize impervious surfaces
  7. Plant and protect trees
  8. Manage and maintain the irrigation system carefully
  9. Design a system to capture and treat water