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Spring Garden Gift

Butterfly & Hummingbird Spring Garden Gift

Garden gift

It is April 2022 and we are celebrating Spring and Earth Day 2022.  This year, the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, Sonoma Syrup Co. and I are coming together to help the community and the environment during this beautiful time of the year.  We have gathered and created 350+ spring garden gifts composed of thoughtfully curated pollination-encouraging plant seeds packets so that the recipients of this free gift may plant their own gardens to attract Butterflies & Hummingbirds in the warm + sunny days ahead.

Spring Butterflies
Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden Seeds; Bring Beauty to your Home this Spring with a Butterfly & Hummingbird Flower Garden

Let’s Celebrate Spring, Earth Day 2022 and Help our Pollinator Friends!

Sonoma, CA (April 2022) – Gardens are an important part of a home here in Sonoma Valley. Brenda McNeill and friends will help you join in with a gift of seeds to create beauty and abundance around you. These high quality seeds have been specially curated to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Both the butterflies and these very lovely small birds are treasured contributors to our larger ecosystem. Whether in a personal garden or expansive field, they bring inspiring beauty and joy into our lives.

The seed gift packets will be gifted (free) to local residents the week before Earth Day 2022. It is our hope that the community will plant these seeds in their pollinator gardens in a spirit of celebration for Spring and our Mother Earth. Each garden gift will contain a mix of seeds ready for planting which will bloom into beautiful flowers. In addition to the seed packets, a complete list of the flowers will be enclosed, an overall information sheet, and simple planting guidelines.

Pollination plants

Brenda McNeill, Karin Campion and both the Sonoma Nature Club members and Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance mentors + mentees have carefully created these packages for community gifting to be picked up at local businesses. It is our hope that in addition to helping the birds and butterflies, this Spring gift will also support our local Sonoma business community.

Garden gift
We are grateful to the many helping hands that contributed to this garden gift.



Spring in Sonoma
A group of mentors and mentees in April 2022.



Gift for the Garden

Created and donated to the community by Brenda McNeill, luxury real estate and leisure lifestyle specialist + founder of Sonoma Nature Journal Club, with the help of the Sonoma Mentoring Alliance mentors and mentees and the support of specialty food company Sonoma Syrup Co. As local professionals who help clients with homes, gardens, families and food, we hope that you will call upon us if we can assist you in any way. Or, visit us on Instagram: @artofleisuresonomanapa, @sonomasyrupco, @sonomavalleymentoring.

We will provide the gifts to Sonoma businesses by April 15th. The community can stop by one of the local business participants to pick up Butterfly & Hummingbird seed packets from the 15th through the 25th of April. A few are listed below.

Participating businesses include;

Shops: *Summer Vine  *Half Pint  *Prohibition Spirits Distillery  *Sonoma Country Antiques  *Chateau Sonoma   *Refill Madness  *Sign of The Bear  *Wine Country Garden Center  *Tiddle Winks  *Woof  *The Corner Store  *Readers Books  *Nomad Botanicals  *Williams-Sonoma, Sonoma *Scott Nichols Gallery *Potter Green & Co.

Services: *Café Mac  *Edward Jones, L.Stone  *Off Broadway Cleaners  *Vinny’s Shoe Repair  *Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance  *Art of Leisure, B McNeill  *Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau

Dining: *Basque Boulangerie Café’   *Taub Family Outpost  *Café La Haye  *Caddis Wines  *Baker & Cook  *Oak Hill Farm  *Sonoma Syrup Co. *Cline Cellars

Education: *Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau  *Musette Atelier  *Sonoma School of Martial Arts

Lodging: *Bancroft Inn of Sonoma  *MacArthur Place

We are so grateful for all our pollinator helpers, from those who teach, plant + grow the garden, to the butterflies, bees, and birds that we treasure.

Butterfly garden
A Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance mentor and mentee in front of their garden, planted from the Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden Seeds gifted to the community in 2021.



A few flowers from one of the 400+ seed packages that we shared last year with the community.

Please enjoy a short video of the Wine Country Pollinator Garden above that was planted with our flower seeds: Vimeo  •  Youtube


Hummingbird Garden
A lovely caterpillar that will hopefully become a Swallowtail butterfly.



Sonoma Bee Hive
A bee box at Sonoma Garden Park with many pollinator friends who will enjoy these gardens.



hummingbird nest
A nest with a few very young hummingbirds.  The picture was taken from a distance; here you see a close up.




Spring Gatherings and History in Wine Country

It is almost Spring in the Wine Country, so in the spirit of something beautiful and fresh, I visited the flagship location of an iconic store and two homes that have many inspiring spaces.  Sonoma was the site of the first Williams-Sonoma; here is a colorful holiday presentation that they have created this Spring.

Spring Wine Country

This store is lovely both inside and outside.  Located near the end of the El Camino Real, the main boulevard leading to Sonoma Plaza, it remains a hallmark of the city.

Spring in Sonoma Valley

An evening view into the window.

Spring Wine Country

In 1956, Chuck Williams purchased a hardware store at this spot and created a small area in the back for his now-renowned chef-quality cookware offerings.

Easter in the Wine Country

Today, the store is displays an especially beautiful table for the Easter holidays.

Spring in the Wine Country

Easter Wine Country

Wine Country Easter Basket

As someone who has filled many Easter baskets with these sweets, I do know that they are adored by kids of all ages.

Wine Country Spring

In contrast to the sweets, here is a more formal place setting from Summer Vine on Sonoma Plaza.

Sonoma Real Estate

This very personal table setting from Chateau Sonoma speaks of the sea.  Composed of linen napkins, stones, shells, glass and lovely plates on a worn wooden table, this would make an enchanting place setting for gatherings this Spring.

A block away is Sonoma Plaza, with its many shops and a lively duck pond.  Nearby are two properties that embody the leisure life in Sonoma.

Both homes are located on the much coveted east side of Sonoma, and both have the very desirable proximity to Sonoma Plaza. One nestles on land near a winter creek with vineyards nearby.  The other is surrounded by grape vines near to the historic Buena Vista Winery.  Each property offers thoughtful and inviting spaces for enjoying the best of the wine country leisure lifestyle, with easy access to all that Sonoma Valley offers.

Wine Country Homes for Sale

Just inside from the screen porch entrance is a large, open kitchen with very unique appliances in an amazing red color.  The detail on the cupboards and countertops is impressive.  Exceptional hardwood floors and the decor brings this house a comfortable yet elegant feel.

Wine Country Estate

In keeping with the design of the home, this bedroom has time honored linens.

Many parts of this property are reminiscent of another age, yet retain fine quality today, as seen in the guest house kitchen. 

Between the main house and the guest house, this relaxing pool has expansive views of mature trees and vineyards.  Having just enjoyed a spring rain, this property was brought to the market and presented by Holly Bennett at Sothebys International Real Estate in Sonoma.  Full details can be found here.

This welcoming screened porch overlooks the vineyard and basks in an abundance of afternoon light on a property that can trace its roots back to the beginning of the California wine industry.

Whether or not you choose to make your current home as beautiful and comfortable as these, it is my hope that you will have a beautiful Spring in the Wine Country and enjoy the holiday season.  Feel free to contact me anytime if you would like to discuss more ideas or to see properties in this area.

Celebrating Earth Day With Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens

Earth Day

Spring is here and Earth Day is fast approaching.  Sonoma Syrup Co. & Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance have joined with me to bring over 330 Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden Seed Gifts to anyone who is visiting Sonoma Valley from April 15th through the 25th.  These gifts, as seen above, will be available at the shops and wineries listed on the last post at no cost, only with the thought of helping our winged friends.

This lovely swing on a spacious wine country property’s front porch is the perfect spot to pop on a straw hat, pick up your binoculars, and enjoy the afternoon light while getting a closer look at the hummingbirds and butterflies who come to visit flowers in your garden.

We hope you’ll take a moment to read two fabulous articles recently published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that speak to the importance of butterfly & hummingbird gardens.

Jon Dunn has written a book about all things hummingbird: The Glitter in the GreenFind the review and story here.

The butterfly and pollinator garden at Jordan Winery in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, was designed to encourage a trip around property to view the sanctuaries created for our pollinating friends.  Read the wonderful overview here.

Earth Day

A simple, meaningful afternoon project with mentors and mentees.

It is a joy to see such happy faces and to understand that this effort is truly making a contribution to the community and our greater ecosystem.

We were inspired by our surroundings as we created with enthusiasm this gift to benefit butterflies and hummingbirds in the Sonoma Valley and beyond.

Earth Day Gifts

Tina Baldry, the program director at the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, spearheaded this project with Karin Campion Mattoon and myself.

We look forward to hearing from you with pictures and thoughts on how your garden grows.  Enjoy a beautiful Earth Day!

Butterfly & Hummingbird Flower Garden Seed Gift

Bring Beauty to your Home this Spring with a Butterfly & Hummingbird Flower Garden
Let’s Celebrate Spring, Earth Day 2021 and Help our Pollinator Friends!

I want to share with you a community outreach butterfly & hummingbird flower garden seed distribution program created just in time for Spring planting.

Hummingbird Flower Garden
Painting by Brenda McNeill

Butterly Garden

Gardens are an important element of homes here in Sonoma Valley.  In a spirit of celebration for Spring and mother earth, Brenda McNeill and friends will help you to enhance your own with a gift of seeds to create beauty and abundance.  These high quality seeds have been specially curated to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, treasured contributors to our larger ecosystem.  Whether in a personal garden or expansive field, they bring inspiring beauty and joy to our lives.  The garden above is my own, wisteria in full bloom, and is often visited by local pollinators.

The butterfly and hummingbird flower garden seed gift packets will be available to residents during the week before Earth Day 2021.  Each packet contains a mix of seeds ready for planting and chosen to promote beautiful flowers.  In addition to the seed packets, a complete list of flowers will be enclosed, as well as an overall information sheet and simple planting guidelines.

Brenda McNeill, Karin Campion, Sonoma Nature Club members and Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance mentors + mentees have lovingly created these seed packages for community gifting to be retrieved at local businesses. Our intention, in addition to helping the birds and butterflies, is that this Spring gift will serve to support our local Sonoma business community.

Explaining the idea to the wonderful members of Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, partners in this gifting program.

I love this picture of a mentor and mentee taking a closer look at a hummingbird nest I had found alongside the road recently.  Nature + Science + Curiosity are a bedrock of what I hope to encourage.

We all had a wonderful afternoon of filling seed packages and chatting about butterflies, birds and bees.  Here we are at Sonoma Garden Park.

These seed gift packages have been created and donated to the community by Brenda McNeill, local real estate and leisure lifestyle specialist + founder of Sonoma Nature Journal Club, with the help of the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance and the support of specialty food company Sonoma Syrup.

As local professionals who help clients with homes, gardens, families and food, we hope that you will call upon us if we can assist you in any way.  Or, visit us on Instagram: @artofleisuresonomanapa, @sonomasyrupco, @sonomavalleymentoring.

We will deliver the gifts to Sonoma businesses by April 15th.  The community can visit one of these local business participants to pick up a Butterfly & Hummingbird seed packet from the 15th through the 25th of April.  A few participating businesses are listed below.  This list will be updated regularly until the 15th.

In and around Sonoma, the Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden Gifts can be found at:

  • Baker & Cook
  • Bartholomew Estate Vineyards And Winery*
  • Basque Boulangerie Café
  • Caddis Wines
  • caféMac
  • Candlestick Shop
  • Chateau Sonoma
  • G’s
  • Half Pint
  • Off Broadway Cleaners
  • Prohibition Spirits Distillery
  • Refill Madness
  • Scott Nichols Gallery
  • Sign of The Bear
  • Sonoma Country Antiques
  • Sonoma Mission Gardens
  • Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau
  • Summer Vine
  • Sweet Scoops
  • Taub Family Outpost
  • The Corner Store
  • Tiddle E. Winks
  • Vinny’s A-1 Shoe Repair
  • Williams-Sonoma, Sonoma Store
  • Wine Country Garden Center
  • Woof!

Gifts will be available at Bartholomew Park beginning on Earth Day, the 22nd.

Brenda McNeill, Luxury real estate + leisure lifestyle specialist
Art of Leisure, Coldwell Banker Brokers of The Valley
Karin Campion Mattoon, Home design and specialty food company Sonoma Syrup Co.
Susie Gallo & Tina Baldry, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, Family support

The Butterfly & Hummingbird Seed Mix contains seeds that will grow some version of the following flowers from Spring into Fall.  Flowers reach about 3 1/2′ and create a meadow effect.

  • Eschscholzia californica – California Poppy (A)
  • Gaillardia aristata – Blanket Flower (P)
  • Gaillardia pulchella – Indian Blanket (A)
  • beris umbellate – Candytuft(A)
  • Liatris spicata – Blazing Star (P)
  • Lobularia maritima – Sweet Alyssum (A)
  • Lupinus perennis – Perennial Lupine (P)
  • Monarda citriodora – Lemon Mint (A)
  • Ratibida columnifera – Prairie Coneflower (P)
  • Rudbeckia hirta – Black-eyed Susan (P)
  • Salvia coccinea – Scarlet Sage (A)
  • Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Milkweed (P)
  • Callistephus chinensis – China Aster (A)
  • Centaurea cyanus – Bachelor’s Button (A)
  • Cheiranthus allionii – Siberian Wallflower (P)
  • Clarkia amoena – Godetia (A)
  • Coreopsis lanceolata – Lanceleaf Coreopsis (P)
  • Coreopsis tinctoria – Plains Coreopsis (P)
  • Delphinium consolida – Larkspur, Rocket (A)
  • Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower*

An example of wild California poppies ,which grow naturally and in abundance along Valley roads and open fields.

hummingbird flowers

Early Spring blooming lupine can be found in and around Sonoma Valley.  Both lupine and poppies are favorite pollinator plants for bees and butterflies and are included in the seed mix.

hummingbird flower garden

Sonoma has a beautiful pollinator garden at Sonoma Garden Park which is carefully tended by a few dedicated volunteers.

butterly flower garden

Nearby at the Garden Park is this very active bee hive.  Bees are one of our most essential pollinators.  California has close to 6,000 flowering plants, and bees perform a key role in the dissemination of pollen, allowing these plants to provide much of the produce that we consume.

These white pear tree blossoms are aglow in the late afternoon light.  I recommend the Picture This app which was well reviewed by a renowned gardener recently.  Capture a photo of a plant or tree with the app for immediate identification.

Simple Planting Guidelines:

DAYS TO GERMINATION: 10-28 days at 65-75°F (18-24°C)
SOWING: Direct seed (recommended).  Prepare a weed-free area or pot.  Broadcast mixture lightly and evenly over the planting area. Gently tamp seeds into the soil to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.  Plant no deeper than 1/8″.  Keep the area moist to aid germination.
PLANTING SEASON: Plant in spring, early summer, or late fall. For fall sowing, wait until the soil temperature is too cool to allow seed germination (below 40ºF/4.4ºC).
PLANT HEIGHT: 10-48″ Plant heights vary depending on species.
SOIL REQUIREMENTS: Average, well-drained soil.

hummingbird flower garden

A favorite food of the monarch butterfly is milkweed, included in our Garden Seed packs.

I wish you a lovely Spring and hope that you will stop by one of these Sonoma Valley shops or the Visitors Bureau to pick up your Butterfly & Hummingbird Flower Garden Seed Gift, beginning April 15th.

Those of us who are sponsoring this community gift would love to hear how your garden grows.  We are so excited to support our pollinator friends and look forward to making a contribution to the Sonoma community and our friends who own businesses in this area.

Feel free to message me at bmcneill@cbsonoma.com with thoughts and comments.

Paintings by Brenda McNeill, top painting was inspired by Caitlin McGauley

room to breathe, summer at the farmer’s market

Ahhhh, eating outside under the shade of a tree, with everyone who matters around, is pure delight!  The beauty of a garden filled with flowers, an abundance of food on the table (with maybe a few puppies under it), and at the end, a feeling of satisfaction which comes only from a moment in life well lived.  This is true Sonoma and Napa Valley living any day of the year, but especially simple in the summer.

Of course, the beginning all this is a visit to the local farmers market on Tuesday evening or Friday morning.  There we find the warmth of friends and farmers with just brought in from the field seasonal offerings of organic fruits and vegetables.  Summer is the time of plenty – every market stall bursting with flowers, peaches, nectarines, tomatoes and green beans- it is tempting to grab a child’s vintage wagon and bring home crates of everything!

If it’s the Friday morning market, a very late breakfast of a brioche donut with rasberry filling or a homemade baguette sandwich is the perfect way to start!  So many colors, smells, tastes and atmosphere – it is a wonderful lifestyle and way to buy food.

Brioche jelly donuts and baguette sandwich with brie, Meyer lemon & frisee by Harvest Moon Cafe and the most reasonably priced eggs, squash and dragon beans from Bee-Well Farms , Sonoma .

Lovely tomatoes from Quarter Acre Farm, delicious carrots and peppers from Paul’s Produce, Sonoma.

A stecca baguette and loaf of locally grown and milled Einka bread by Mike the baker of The Bejkr.

With over 500 varietals of organic fruits and vegetables, Long Meadow Ranch brings to the St. Helena market these baskets of melons, onions and so much more.  Gorgeous fragrant flowers are grown by Jesus just minutes from the stall in Sonoma.

Upon arriving home, you know that you are truly set for the weekend, at least.  Such an abundance of rich, bright colors everywhere to inspire an endless array of delightfully fresh dishes and floral arrangements for interior and exterior seating areas.  It is then that the cooking begins!  This is food and alfresco dining at its best, especially in the summer.

Mustard and Magnolia in Garden and Field

This time of the year, yellow mustard blankets the fields of Sonoma and Napa Valleys and much of our agricultural soil.  The vines are resting.  Soon this plant will be gently tilled into the land to provide valuable nutrients to the awakened grapevine roots.  In the garden, the tulip magnolia is in full bloom.  Such a welcome sight, with its large purple and white flowers it has a beautifully subtle fragrance as you stroll or ride a bicycle quietly by.

Sonoma MustardMustard in Kenwood

The brilliant yellow wild mustard signals that spring is upon us.  The days are getting a touch warmer and we see the sun just a bit more.  This mustard belongs to the Brassicaceae family of flowering plants. Broccoli, cabbages, horseradish, watercress and turnips are fellow members of this large and complex family.  Distinguishable by its sharp, distinct, somewhat sulphurus taste, it is most commonly grown here to bring nutrition to the soil.  A feast for the grape vines, it thrives just until bud break when it is then turned under to mulch and provide valuable phosphorus to the emerging vines.  When grown for it’s greens, as the weather becomes warmer, the hot flavor continues to develop.  That is why early spring, when it is still cool, is ideal for viewing and tasting this valuable flowering plant.

Napa Mustard

Legend has it that a Franciscan missionary first spread the mustard seed while landscaping church properties throughout California.  The seeds were simply carried in a large sack slung over his back, each sack had a small hole in it, as the missionary walked the seeds would fall to the soil and take root.  Today, much of that early mustard is still growing wild and is quite useful to hold steep hillside soil in place during heavy rains, such as we have had this year.  Of course, very smart vineyard managers also plant the seeds for soil nutrition reasons and for the simple beauty of the yellow, gold and orange blanket which it creates amongst the orderly march of the vines.

Sonoma Valley MustardNapa mustard after a storm

among the vines, small vineyard in Sonoma

red tail hawk with a watchful eye

speaking of Spring, the magnolia trees are just beginning to bloom

 Magnolia flowers in Sonoma

The magnolia is loved for its pretty foliage and glorious flower display; it is also heat resistant and tolerant of damp soil.  Although this slow growing tree can take some drought, they look their best only when amply supplied with water.  That was certainly the case this year in the Sonoma and Napa Valley.  With our record breaking amount of rain, the blooms of the trees shown here were especially abundant and lovely.

Watching the coming of spring is a miracle of reinvigoration.  It is always such a welcome and immutable act of joyful continuity.