Things To Do in Sonoma

Floral Getaway: Petaluma’s Garden Valley Ranch Gets a Reboot

A sister and brother bring Petaluma rose garden back to life.

Jessica Yau dodges the three dogs who race past as she surveys the grounds of Garden Valley Ranch. She and her brother, Justin Yau, have called the ranch home for a little over a year now, after falling in love with the rose farm despite their minimal experience with farming or gardening.

“We come from a real estate background,” Jessica says with a laugh. “So we see potential.” It’s been a steep learning curve, she acknowledges, and on occasion, a challenging one.

When the Yaus first saw the place, it was in sad disrepair. The rose bushes hadn’t been thinned in a decade, and Jessica knew that they might “never win the battle against the mint.” But they vowed to create a thriving ecosystem, using Neem oil to combat rust on the leaves, and backwash from the koi pond to supply nitrogen. They let certain weeds with shallow roots overwinter to feed pollinators and attract good predators.

The Yaus’ shared mission was to make Garden Valley Ranch both a destination and a place to educate people about roses. This spring, they’ll host several public workshops and events, including First Friday tours of the gardens starting May 4 and a Mother’s Day open house, as well as ongoing floral workshops with top North Bay designers on hand to instruct on everything from compote arrangements to hand-tied bouquets.

The Yaus sell their cut flowers to visitors as well as wholesale, but the biggest part of their business is the potted roses. “Rose fanciers aren’t like regular gardeners. They are more like collectors,” Jessica explains. “We had a woman drive all the way from Washington to pick up one of our rare specialty roses called Honey Dijon.”

As for Jessica’s own favorites? She loves Classic Woman, a champagne-colored rose roughly the size of a peony; Lavender Simplicity, a Floribunda with “a lovely, citrusy scent”; and Black Baccara, a hybrid tea “with these blood-red, velvety petals.”

Nursery hours are Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., or by appointment. Five-gallon roses run $35-$45; 15-gallon or tree roses run $50-$60. 498 Pepper Road, Petaluma, 707-795-0919, gardenvalley.com 

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