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This Glen Ellen Garden Is a Hidden Gem for Nature Walks, Picnics and Shopping

For a unique, socially-distanced excursion, make your way to this Sonoma Valley garden.

It can be hard to venture off our usual retail route, which, lately has been dotted with a lot of online shopping. But the experience and the style rewards make the effort worth while. This is especially true in scenic Sonoma County, where socially-distanced shopping experiences can be combined with time outdoors.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen offers the best of both worlds: a gift shop with items for the home and body and a world-renowned wild Asian woodland garden — both unique in their own way. The gift shop stays away from the usual information books and swag and instead focuses on mindful living, sustainability and global style — think spiral citronella candles, linen trays, Indian desert bells, and natural clothing dyes. The garden is home to one of the largest collections of wild-sourced Asian plants in North America and Europe.

For a nominal ticket fee, or a yearly membership, guests can stroll the gardens and take in the beauty of its Asian plants, many of which are threatened or endangered.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden was founded in 1987 by Jane Davenport Jansen and, in the same year, representatives from the garden made what would be the first of many seed-gathering missions to East Asia. The garden—named for the abandoned quarries on the path of the Mayacama foothills where it is located—has committed to preserving biodiversity through plant conservation; to be “an ark of rare and endangered species.” According to the garden’s website, botanists estimate that in 2050, 100,000 plant species will be in danger of extinction.

There is a lot of hill at Quarryhill. With a few miles of gravel paths, it’s more of a hike than a garden stroll, so bring hiking shoes, shade and hydration. There are level paths, too, including one that is ADA accessible and can be reached by golf cart.

Amidst the Asian plants and trees, you will find a giant lily pond, waterfalls, footbridges, and a structure of Tibetan prayer flags perched high on a hill overlooking the Sonoma Valley. There are plenty of benches throughout the property, many at optimal spots for resting and taking in the beauty. There’s a rose garden, too, and picnic tables flanked by the vineyards at the property’s entrance.

To fill your picnic basket, head over to Glen Ellen Village Market before your visit to Quarryhill to find a fantastic array of grab-and-go sandwiches, a floor to ceiling wine aisle stocked with hyper-local offerings, plus cheeses and spreads galore. There’s also Les Pascals bakery, the yellow building with the perpetual line out the door, for great sandwiches or something sweet.

If you’d like to bring some of the botanical beauty home, you’ll need to rely on your smartphone. Make sure to snap plenty of photos — you won’t find a key chain or comprehensive book on botanicals in the gift shop. Remember: your purchases at the store will help support the mission of Quarryhill.

$8-12 (self-guided garden tour, children under 12 are free), Quarryhill Botanical Garden, 12841 Sonoma Hwy, Glen Ellen, 707-996-3166, quarryhillbg.com

Editor’s Note: Travel, dining and wine tasting can be complicated right now. Use our inspirational ideas to plan ahead for your next outing, be it this week or next year. If you visit restaurants, wineries, and other businesses during the pandemic, remember to call ahead, make reservations, wear a mask and social distance.

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