Quarryhill Botanical Garden

Advancing the Conservation, Study, and Cultivation of the Flora of Asia

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The Asian Woodland Garden

  Asian Woodland Garden Map




The main garden at Quarryhill is a wild Asian woodland garden undulating across the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains. It is not manicured, is minimally pruned and intentionally has quite a natural feeling.  No fertilizing is done, and little pruning—just enough to keep the trails and paths clear, but not so much as to change the wild nature of the garden. It’s the closest that most people will come to visiting the wilds of Asia.

There are miles of serpentine gravel paths winding through glades of flowering shrubs, under shading boughs of exotic trees, past tranquil ponds with gushing waterfalls, and over and down rolling hillocks planted with Asian species. It’s a place of varying beauty at all seasons, from the riot of flowers in spring that will be evident in May, through summer’s lush green serenity, into fall’s bright bounty of foliage color.

You can rest on a bench by a water-lily-filled pond, in a deep glade of shade, or under the Tibetan prayer flags at the top of the garden overlooking Sonoma Valley. There, listen to the rushing sound of a nearby waterfall, or smell the fragrance of summer dogwoods and roses, and take in the beauty of the lush woodland.

More than just a magical place, Quarryhill contains one of the largest collections of scientifically documented, wild-source Asian plants in North America and Europe--approximately 25,000 plants, including over 1500 individual species. It is really a living museum of Asian flora--a modern day Ark. These plants represent the ancestors of horticultural favorites found throughout the western world: roses, camellias, lilies, peonies, magnolias, rhododendrons, maples, dogwoods and many more.

A quarter-century after its founding, the garden today is a mature, world-class botanical garden with towering trees shading glades and copses of temperate Asian plants—all grown from seedlings germinated from seed collected on annual plant hunting trips to Asia. The garden is an amazing accomplishment and a tribute to Quarryhill's management and board, its staff, a growing clan of dedicated volunteers, and to the vision, will and audacity of Jane Jansen herself.

Docents are often asked “what is the best time of year to visit Quarryhill?” by visitors expecting a single answer.  While blooms are greatest in May and June, there is truly no best time, and we encourage visiting three or four times a year to see the garden in all its states -- even in the stark, barren leaflessness of winter, when visitors can glory in variegated and striped bark, red and maroon branches and colorful, scarlet, orange and lavender berries. No matter what season you visit, many lovely plants will be in their peak of bloom or foliage color or fruit.


Docent-Led and Group Tours

Docent-led tours are available by advance appointment. See the Visitor Information section for details.

Self-Guided Tour

The self-guided tour map leads the visitor on an hour-plus overview of the Asian Woodland Garden, with key and descriptions of twenty of the most important species at Quarryhill.


Plants on the Tour

1. The curious looking maple in front of you is the rare and critically endangered Acer pentaphyllum. It occurs only in the mountains of western Sichuan, China, along or near the Yalong River. With a long dormancy, it waits until May to send out its delicate compound leaves.

2. Considered to be one of the key parents of modern roses, but too large for the average garden, Rosa chinensis var. spontanea is seen here arching over the rock wall. Thought to have been extinct, it was reintroduced in the 1980’s. White, pink or red flowers appear in February and March.

3. With its large creamy yellow petals (actually bracts), Cornus capitata puts on quite a show in May and June. A favorite of Quarryhill founder Jane Davenport Jansen, our trees hail from southern Sichuan, China. Commonly called the Evergreen Dogwood, the branches are laden in the fall from the weight of large red strawberry-like fruits.

4. Renowned English plant hunter Ernest Wilson declared Emmenopterys henryi to be “one of the most strikingly beautiful trees of Chinese forests”. However, the trees refused to bloom in cultivation; the first tree in Britain to flower was in 1987 at Wakehurst Place and was more than 75 years old. That tree has not flowered since, nor have any others in Britain. The one before you first flowered when only six years old. The pale yellow flowers surrounded by large white bracts may be seen in July and August.

5. With its graceful layered form, Cornus controversa has become a popular ornamental. Found in China, Korea, and Japan, this dogwood, like its American counter part Cornus alternifolia, is unusual with its alternate leaves. All other dogwoods have opposite leaves.

6. Before you is the wild form of a rose found in China and named after Lady Banks (wife of Sir Joseph Banks). Initially thought to be thorn-less, Rosa banksiae var. normalis is indeed covered in thorns. It is also densely covered with small white fragrant flowers each spring.

7. Known from the fossil record to have occurred throughout the northern hemisphere and thought to have been extinct, the stately conifer Metasequoia glyptostroboides was found surviving in a remote area of central China in 1941. Although closely related to California’s redwoods, the Dawn Redwood is unique in its deciduous nature, loosing its needles each fall.

8. A favorite with Quarryhill visitors, especially in winter with its decorative clusters of orange-red berries, the Idesia polycarpa is found in China and Japan. Because of the dioecious nature of the Iigiri tree, as it is called in Japan, one must have male and female trees in close proximity to gain the showy winter display.

9. From early March through early April, Magnolia kobus, native to Japan and Korea, produces delicate, vase-shaped white flowers, tinged pink at the base. Unlike the plant itself, flowers are very frost-sensitive, quickly rotting during spring cold snaps. Showy, red-seeded fruit and yellow foliage appear in the fall.

10. Unlike market persimmons, Diospyros lotus bears very small (½ - ¾”), astringently inedible, dusky yellow to reddish-black fruits with a purplish bloom. Tiny, pitcher-shaped, axil-borne flowers appear May – June amidst lush, lustrous, very dark green foliage. Native to much of Asia and Southern Europe, this dioecious (separate male and female plants) species is somewhat rare despite its wide-ranging distribution.

11. With its small three lobed leaves and rich fall color, the trident maple, Acer buergerianum, has a long history of cultivation in China, Korea and Japan, and is especially popular with Penjing and Bonsai enthusiasts.

12. Unusual for a genus to have only two species and even more unusual for them to occur on different continents, Liriodendron chinense is rare and endangered in central China, while Liriodendron tulipifera, the tulip tree, is widespread and common in the eastern USA.

13. Nothing quite lights up the garden like the spring display of the large orange-red to salmon-red blossoms of Rhododendron japonicum. Flowering just before the leaves open, this deciduous Japanese azalea delights again in fall as the leaves turn a bronze-red.

14. It was about 2,000 years ago that papermaking was invented in China using the inner bark of Broussonetia papyrifera, the paper mulberry tree. It remained a closely guarded secret for over five centuries before the technology began to slowly spread around the world.

15. Stunningly beautiful in late spring with its hanging clusters of white star-shaped flowers is Pterostyrax psilophyllus, a member of the Styrax family. It is endangered in its native China from firewood gathering and agricultural expansion.

16. Severely threatened by logging, one has to travel to remote areas of northwestern Sichuan, China, to see Cupressus chengiana. Even there this cypress is usually found only in inaccessible canyons.

17. The extremely fast growing Toona sinensis is widely cultivated in China for its onion or garlic-flavored shiny red new shoots.

18. With flowers and fruits larger than most crabapples, the Himalayan crabapple Malus sikkimensis provides year-round interest. In the spring, flowers appear to change color as outer pink petals give way to white inner petals upon fully opening.

19. Some say burnt sugar, others cotton candy or fresh strawberries to describe the delicious fragrance of the early autumn leaves of Cercidiphyllum japonicum. Endangered in the wild, this large deciduous tree with its delicate heart-shaped leaves is now protected in China.

Click here for a pdf of the map of the garden