ISSUE 19  |  Outdoors In

Shopper’s Diary: The Gardener in Healdsburg

May 14, 2014 6:30 PM

BY Cynthia Salaysay

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly visited the jewelry store on bad days. She admired “its quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.”

And if Ms. Golightly were a nature girl? She’d have gone to The Gardener–just as quiet and proud, and capable of reassuring visitors that nothing bad could ever happen there. Bedecked with enormous, handmade wooden bowls, lusciously dyed textiles, and exotic rare orchids, the stores in Berkeley and San Francisco are well-known in the Bay Area. 

But comparatively few beat a path to The Gardener’s quietest location in Healdsburg, deep in wine country, off the main tourist drag. The Healdsburg shop has a garden which is responsible for the stores’ flower arrangements, handmade sachets, and gift decorations. It also feeds the store’s owner, Alta Tingle, and provides inspiration and rest for employees and visitors alike.

Photography by Liesa Johannssen for Gardenista.

The garden, open to customers, feels personal because the store’s owner, Alta Tingle, lives next to the shop. The garden grows many uncommon varieties of tree and flower. “We want the stores to have things that are not like everything else. The garden helps us do that,” says Alta’s daughter, Donna Tingle, who handles The Gardener’s operations and curates the Healdsburg shop.

Above: Hammocks and lawn chairs in the shade of a giant tree outside the shop’s entrance. It’s a favorite hangout spot for Alta and for kids.

Above: A colorful hammock dares customers to take a nap.

Above: Originally, the garden was three-quarters of an acre of weeds, with two cars abandoned on the property; Alta’s house was originally a biker bar. There’s now a cutting garden, currently filled with poppies, and intermediate euphorbia. Artichoke forms a border behind the cutting garden. To the right, a lane of persimmon trees–three varieties each of Fuyu and Hachiya–produce swags for the stores. To the left, a path of decomposed granite leads to the open-air ramada.

Above: The garden path is lined with furry Roman chamomile, creeping thyme, and low-growing sedum.

Above: “We tell stories with our merchandise. They’re not just things–they are part of a lifestyle,” said Donna. A sculptural chair by local artisans gives visitors reason for pause on the garden path.

Above: The ramada, where visitors have been known to linger after the store has closed. The clean, well-defined lines of the chairs balance the softer texture of the poplars in the background. In the summer, the field behind is covered with nodding red dahlias. 

Above: A patch of collards and other edibles skirts the perimeter of the store, feeding Alta and the store’s employees. Beyond the edible garden, a collection of locally made topiary frames and trellises.

Above: Classic Fermob French bistro tables in bright colors. 

Above: A collection of three plants at the shop’s entrance. Mixing woods is a signature look at The Gardener.

Above: A rear view of the garden. The shop is housed in a converted barn, and contains the handmade and the hard-to-find. “We try to approach retail like you approach a garden–you edit,” says head gardener Cindy Pugh.

Above: Inside, a hanging sculpture of wire mesh and tillandsia anchors the room. Gray-green serrated leaves from a garden cardoon fill a planter. 

Above: The Gardener is at 516 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448.

Looking for an excuse to plan a trip to wine country? See MIX Garden, Healdsburg’s Well Considered Shop with a Mission and A Modern Grange Opens in Healdsburg, Kombucha Bar Included on Remodelista.