Nature is on display at free Park Winters tours

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The passion flower’s blooms make the plant look less like a flower and more like a botanical spaceship, ready to detach from its vine and go spinning up into the air. The carpenter bee resembles nothing more than a large, shiny black marble. These two unlikely looking species create a perfect pair. The sturdy carpenter bee walks in a circle around the flat platform created by the passion flower’s petals, collecting the heavy pollen on its back. The entire process played out during a recent garden tour at Park Winters. “I’m not an expert gardener,” Rafael Galiano discloses at the beginning of each of his tours, but then explains that he has been gardening since he was five years old. Galiano is one of the venue’s owners, and started hosting the free monthly garden tours shortly after Park Winters opened. He wanted to find a way to share the space with the public. “We’re so event focused. People can’t come in if they aren’t invited to an event,” Galiano says. Hosting a free tour of the gardens was an easy solution. Much like the passion flower, Galiano and his husband, John Martin, opened Park Winters with the intention of creating a platform for artists to spring from. And the gardens at Park Winters are truly works of art. Galiano even talks about them as if every vantage point were the tableau of a dreamy landscape painting. The grove of ginkgos that turn bright yellow in the fall stands a few steps away from the koi pond where bright tulips come up the spring which are just around the corner from the tall, pink naked lady flowers that bloom in midsummer. Galiano and his team have to plan a garden that will be appealing in any season and neutral enough not to clash with any wedding colors. They cultivate a garden filled with evergreens, perennials and native plants. “To me it is really exciting–all the seasons in the garden–to see everything rising and falling,” Galiano says. By late August the naked ladies are starting to fade. The petals are beginning to wilt, and Galiano takes a moment during the tour to collect them. He says that he and his staff are always working around event to keep the grounds looking perfect. “This is like Disneyworld,”Galiano says. “We have to clean it at night when no one is looking.” Disneyworld is a fair comparison. The grounds are like a theme park for garden lovers and designers, but on a much smaller scale. The whole property is a sliver of the original 22,000 acre ranch. George Washignton Scott, one of Yolo county’s earliest pioneers, built the ranch in 1865. “If you pick up cowboy energy,” Galiano says while he leads the group down a paved path between buildings, “that’s because 200 men lived here.” Nowadays the energy has changed decidedly. Tall hedges create privacy and wind breaks.  Barrels overflowing with a combination of edible and decorative plants stand along the paths. Every trail leads to a different collection of colors and scents. The house has been updated to cater to wedding parties and bed and breakfast guests. The first floor is designed with a combination of antique furniture and modern art. “It’s not as granny as it looks on the outside,” Rafael says of the main house. “It’s pretty hip.” In June Park Winters hosted an event that capitalized on the venue’s distinct beauty. They called it Summerland, and invited 130 social media influencers and photographers from around Northern California to attend an all day event dedicated to photography and blogging. “It was just an idea that dropped on me from the sky,” Galiano says. The influencers took pictures of food prepared in the Park Winters kitchen, swam the pool and posed in front of giant angels wings and floral wreaths. The whole day was documented, blogged about and hashtagged. The event didn’t just lead to dozens of pretty pictures, it created a boom in Park Winters’ social media presence. All told, the event generated 300 social media posts, which went out to the influencers collective 4 million followers. Many of those followers then became interested in the venue, and starting following Park Winters on social media as well. After the event Park Winters gained 3,000 new followers. Galiano says that many people asked him about a similar event that would be open to everyone, and he says that the venue is considering it. The influencers appreciated having a time and space for them to work, and Galiano took that feedback into account. Galiano says that if they host a similar event for everyone, it will be separate from their Summerland event. For now, everyone is invited to attend the free monthly garden tours. Tickets can be secured through the Park Winters event calendar at www.parkwinters.com. The next tour will take place on Sunday, Sept. 16, from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. What can people expect to see on the September garden tour? “There’s a lot of color here in the fall,” Galiano says. ]]>

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