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'America's Best Gardens' tour includes two in Placer County

See Poswalls' Springhill near Lincoln and a hidden Newcastle oasis

Springhill, the gardens of John Poswall and Peg Tomlinson Poswall, will open for visitors Sunday.

Springhill, the gardens of John Poswall and Peg Tomlinson Poswall, will open for visitors Sunday. Courtesy Poswall Gardens

“If only I had room!” Every gardener has had that thought.

Here’s an opportunity to see two amazing and imaginative private gardens in Placer County created by folks who had enough room to let their dreams really grow. One garden – the Poswalls’ Springhill – sprawls over 50 oak-studded acres near Lincoln; the other – a 3-acre oasis outside Newcastle – has never been shared on a public tour.

Both gardens will welcome visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 4, during The Garden Conservancy’s Open Garden Days. These two participating gardens are about 20 minutes apart.

Suggested donation is $10 per garden per person. Patrons may sign up for one garden or both, but advance registration is a must. Sign up here.

The Garden Conservancy’s Open Garden Days program “annually celebrates the country’s most exciting, creative, and innovative private gardens,” says the conservancy. “Open Days is made up of a nationwide community of gardeners and garden enthusiasts teaching and inspiring each other and the public. From expert to novice, there is no better way to improve as a gardener than by experiencing a diverse range of gardens, and gardening traditions, firsthand.”

These two Placer County gardens are excellent examples.

Created by novelist/attorney John Poswall and his wife, food expert Peg Tomlinson Poswall, Springhill is not one garden but more than 20. It’s a rare collection of whimsy inspired by the couple’s world travels, complete with its own Stonehenge.

“Start at the Chinese Garden, hidden away below levies, with its Hidden Buddha Garden, Xi'An warrior, and Lotus Pond, and exit at waterfalls,” suggest the organizers. “Walk the plant-covered Islamic arched pergola to the Mexican Garden with its palapa and palms, and then on to the 400-foot-long Statuary Garden lined with Italian cypress; St. Michael at the top, the Three Graces at the bottom, and a 19-foot-high fountain in between. Above is the Italian Garden and still higher the Rose Garden with a view of the house and tower.”

In between are cactus and drought-tolerant gardens as well as lotus-filled ponds and shady retreats. Wear comfortable shoes.

The second stop is also special. Nicknamed Cheryl’s Oasis, this 3-acre private garden has been 47 years in the making. Located off Highway 193, just west of Newcastle, the property features a series of garden “rooms”; at the center is a screened-in sleeping room – open to nature. A highlight is the gardener’s vast collection of succulents, grown for three decades.

“More than 100 species and varieties of plants, flowering bushes, and trees surround the home with a mixed feeling of cactus, ferns, bamboo, and yucca crowding pathways lined with succulents, agave, and aloe,” say the organizers. “Pine trees and fruit trees sit alongside Chinese fringe and tulip trees with red canna below. … All this, in a distinct sense of quiet and peace.”

See for yourself – but one day only.

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Garden Checklist for week of April 14

It's still not warm enough to transplant tomatoes directly in the ground, but we’re getting there.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden needs nutrients. Fertilize shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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