The Gardens at Cal Turf Inc.
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Secret GardenOctober/November 2014
By Candace Feely
Photos: Kelli Avila
Walking through the large barn doors at The Gardens at California Turf, you’ll find more than a nursery. The gift shop, a seamless blend of home and garden, is stocked with such items as citrus topiaries, hanging lights and spiced candles. Just outside the shop, a path leads visitors to distinct demonstration gardens. Flowers, shrubs and trees create layers of color and texture. A central sloped lawn invites children to play, and a grand water feature provides nature’s background music.
With all that The Gardens offers, it is possible for you to forget why you have come. Instead of rushing to buy a flat of chrysanthemums, you may find yourself meandering the grounds, sampling a balsamic vinegar or signing up for the next yoga class.
That’s because The Gardens has changed the way people buy plants. What once was an item on the to-do list has become a destination in itself. An outing. An experience.
This is a trend in nurseries, according to Devon Brown, manager and co-owner of The Gardens. Classes, events, gift shops, food and drink: these elements are making nurseries a place to gather, relax and create. The Gardens, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, is no exception. In fact, embracing the trend was quite intentional.
“All of us wanted people to have an experience,” Brown says. “We wanted people to come here and feel something.”
Take the Pop-Up Restaurant as an example. Once a month, the nursery transforms into an elegant dinner party set in the evening glow of the garden. A local chef prepares a gourmet four-course meal, and the night ends with a movie under the stars. Guests are welcome to buy plants and gift shop items, of course, but the event is about the garden party experience.
Creating The Gardens required hours of researching and planning. Landscape gardeners Fred and Pam Brown, long-time Tulare residents and owners of Cal Turf Equipment since 1984, were the first to dream of the nursery. When their son Joel and daughter-in-law Devon moved to the Central Valley, things began to take a more concrete shape. Joel and Devon’s background and education in landscape architecture helped pave the way to start work on the nursery. After a year of designing, The Gardens opened in September 2013 with Fred and Pam Brown, their son and Cal Turf Equipment Manager Seth Brown, and Devon Brown sharing in the ownership.
From the beginning, the family wanted The Gardens to be a place that inspired, a goal that steered the design of the nursery. The serene environment provides an ideal setting for people to dream. Four demonstration gardens (Traditional, California, Cottage and Woodlands) and plenty of interesting displays empower people to create something they love. From succulents to evergreens, herbs to annuals, the vast selection of plants compliments almost any garden style.
“I want it to be a place that has a focus on creativity,” Devon Brown says, “that (people) can easily see things and take those pieces, or be able to visualize that this is what it would look like in my home. I hope that people can come here and make their places a little more peaceful or restful.”
To help foster that creativity, The Gardens offers weekly classes covering a wide range of topics, from landscaping with native plants to arranging holiday centerpieces. Most are hands-on. Attend a succulent wreath-making class, for example, and you’ll head home with a handmade wreath of your own. If you have little ones, sign up for an interactive Kids Craft. Each season brings a fresh round of topics and projects so even the frequent visitor has something new to learn.
And there is still more to come. Like a true natural setting, The Gardens continues to evolve. The Children’s Garden, which Brown describes as “whimsical and tactile,” is close to completion, and an Australian demonstration garden is planned. In the works is an Aerium Bar – a cool designated space for creating terrariums. More locally crafted items and gourmet fare are making their way into the expanding shop. And down the road, The Gardens will include a café, which just may be the culminating piece of it all.
The Gardens has made the nursery both a destination in itself and an inspirational starting point. It provides the setting, materials and education to help visitors create their own garden retreat. As Devon Brown says, “You need your escape place, that environment of tranquility, and hopefully that can be in your own home.”
The Gardens at Cal Turf Inc.
950 North J Street, Tulare
8 am – 5 pm (Monday – Saturday)
Noon – 4 pm (Sunday)