Foothills Regional Park, Windsor

IMG_6106adjSpring is the perfect time to visit regional parks wherever you live. Here in Sonoma County wine country, Foothills Regional Park in Windsor is full of wildflowers just waiting to be enjoyed!

You can take a guided walk during March and April so you’ll leave actually knowing the names of the lovely flowers you see.  This weekend we walked with Phil Dean, from the Master Gardener program, who introduced us to some beautiful plants and identified each for us:IMG_6070adj

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The walk is casual with only one hill, the top of which sports a beautiful field of Lupine! I hung out there photographing so long I’m sure we missed many more flowers but since I’m in love with Lupine it was worth it.

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Mid day on a sunny day is not the best time to photograph flowers but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of a good shot:

1.Use a shade for those blossoms in glaring bright sun.  It might be as simple as standing in such a way as to block the sun. You can  carry a small white poster board (which can also be used to bounce light into shadows) or you can purchase a translucent fold up disk which is what I carry.

2. Use a lense shade to cut glare on the lense used in bright sun.

3. Focus on the brightest part of the flower so you don’t blow the highlights. Focusing on the darkest part of the flower makes the camera want to lighten it up and makes the entire image too bright.

4. Try to photograph the same flower in shade and sun to see the difference.

5. Get low and try different angles instead of just shooting down from the top.

6. Try to get a log, rock or some other item in the photo to add interest in some shots.

7. You may need to bump up your ISO to make sure the speed is at least 125 or higher to stop a flower blowing in the breeze, while closing down the f stop to 8 or so to retain detail.  (Or you may want to use a larger opening to blur all but the flower…artistic choice)


Next to Lupine I really love the wild Iris that grows all over Sonoma County from the beach to the foothills:


One of the less attractive plants (but certainly the most interesting) was the Soap Plant. It only blooms at night since it needs moths to pollinate it, so we didn’t see any flowers. And while the plain green leaves aren’t much to look at, if you look closely at the ground around them you’ll see little “brushes” coming out of the ground.  It’s actually part of the root and Indians did  make brushes from them! ( See what cool things you learn on a guided hike!)

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Along with the wildflowers you’ll see some animals:

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If you’d like to bring a picnic, there are tables scattered around the park for your dining pleasure and  lots of beautiful,

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peaceful views…

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And a few more flowers..

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For more information to to:

There are a few guided hikes left this spring and I plan to do all I can!IMG_6125adj

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Muir Woods…The Redwoods Next Door

Here in Sonoma County we are fortunate to  have the  beautiful Armstrong Redwoods. In Marin County they have Muir Woods. Similar, but worth the trip down the road to see more majestic giants in a quiet, cool forest sporting a babbling creek and myriad shades of fresh green foliage.

With wooden walkways through most of the park it is stroller and wheelchair accessible and well worth the $7.00 entry fee. A small store and lunch spot surrounded by beautiful decking makes a nice spot to sit and visit after your stroll through the redwoods. Our trip today, on a Monday in May, shows how popular the forest is. We arrived at 10 a.m. and had to park in overflow parking! When we left at noon cars were parked along the roadway for at least half a mile.But, here is why it was worth the short walk back to the entrance:

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Armstrong Redwoods…Mushroom Season is Here!


Armstrong Redwoods State Park is beautiful any time of year but now, in January, there’s a little something extra to enjoy! Mushrooms are popping up all over.  Though we didn’t score a find this time like we did years ago when we came across a bright red mushroom, we found some lovely little patches along the walkways.


We went out on a sunny Sunday and the parking lot was full of hikers. It’s a great place to take children for a safe, level hike among the trees.  Set them free to look for mushrooms (but warn them to never touch….do not eat!) There are different kinds they can search for:

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Benches where you can stop and take a break:


Signs to warn them about traffic (I love this one!):


More mushrooms:

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The little “caves” created by past fires are spooky and irresistible to children:


The amphitheater is a wonderful place to stop and read or relax for  a while.  We took our Bibles but after a few minutes our fingers were numb from the cold this time of year! As we sat there reading a young couple came up talking about what a wonderful place it would be to get married and how lovely the sound would be in the “theater”. Suddenly we were surrounded by beautiful opera as the young woman ran to the stage area and sang her heart out! Such a sweet moment!


Following the path back to the parking lot we came upon more mushrooms:

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The “icicle” tree:


and more beautiful paths to take back along the stream bed to the picnic area:

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It’s a truly beautiful and peaceful spot. A nice place to rejuvenate for the week ahead. Even with the parking lot full we had the path to ourselves at times, and met nice people to chat with at other times. Walking to the end of our time there, I spotted the light breaking through the forest to create this beautiful shadow….there but moments….like the troubles in this life if we hold them with an open hand….

IMG_5609adj The redwoods are a treasure, something I would miss terribly if I ever had to live somewhere else. Take time to make a trip to Guerneville and walk among the big will satisfy your soul.

Note for Photographers: It’s dark inside the forest. You’ll need a tripod to get the best images…which I forgot to take.  Many of these photos needed an ISO of 1600 because it was so dark…barely passable for a blog…and certainly not suitable for printing enlargements. If you have that in mind, to get the very best results, you’ll need a tripod so you can use an ISO of 100 or 200 and take a long exposure without flash.  I was forced to use  bounced flash lighting to get some of these images and a high ISO for the rest – Don’t wake up like I did, and decide to run out to the woods in such a hurry that in the  excitement over your wonderful idea,  you leave your tripod behind!

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Livermore Valley…The “Other” Wine Country!

Living in the center of Sonoma County, right in the middle of wine country, I didn’t know there was another wine country an hour and a half away! Invited to spend the weekend with my niece and her new husband we took off early on a Saturday morning.

After a nice visit, we headed out to explore “the other wine country”! First stop, the beautiful Concannon Vineyards for lunch on the patio-really nice!



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After lunch you can walk around the garden and out to see the beautifully restored Victorian house on the property…

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Next we visited a winery called “3 Steves”. Founded and run by three men who all left the corporate world to open their own winery, and who all share the name Steve…really! Not only was the weather perfect for relaxing on the patio, but we received quite an education on different kinds of wine! There’s something special about visiting with the owners while learning about the making of the wine you’re tasting.

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Admiring a photo on the winery wall, it was fun to find out it was taken by my niece…with her cell phone! It’s beautiful…just shows you it’s the photographer and not the camera that makes a fine photo!


As we left 3 Steves the sun was getting nearly low enough in the sky for good photography so we drove all around through the vineyards stopping to photograph the country side…not missing Alden Nursery, a truly beautiful garden center…

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Evening sun is wonderful for making vineyard images…

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After a great dinner we mapped out our photo trip for sunrise the next morning. The two best times of day for vineyard photography are right at sunrise or sunset so we were off by 6:30 a.m. to find whatever presented itself in front of the lense in this beautiful light. The Livermore valley has much to offer besides vineyards, including old barns, parks and gorgeous neighborhoods, all nestled in the grapes! A few early morning images to wet your appetite for a little weekend trip…enjoy!

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We were fortunate to have a personal guide in my sweet niece…if you’d like to check out “the other wine country” for yourself  find out more at:

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New Blog is UP!

I’ve started a new blog about gardening and I’d love to have you check it out! You can find it at  . Hope you’ll enjoy that too… we’ll be back to posting more “wanderings” shortly!

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New England Fall Colors…A Thanksgiving Reflection…

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:2

During  a recent 12 day trip through New England to photograph the famous fall colors we were  a struck by the incredible beauty and serenity . Driving through the Berkshire mountains or traveling winding roads through the countryside of Vermont, the trees stand shimmering in the sun or sparkling in the dancing light of raindrops, an unimaginable array of color.

As we set up our  tripods and prepared to shoot a particularly colorful scene with sugar maples reflected in a small pond out in the middle of the New York countryside, others began to pull over to photograph it as well.  A man came over to tell me he drives by this pond every single day and always thinks to himself, ” I should really stop and take a picture of that-it’s so beautiful”….but he never had, until now.

His comment made me think about how often I fail to appreciate beautiful and praise worthy things that surround me and how often I forget to thank the one who provides them…

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28


Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15

Give thanks in all circumstances…1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good His love endures forever. Psalm 136

…whatever is true  whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Philippians 4:8

…he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul…Psalm 23 :2,3

Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Santa Rosa JC Neighborhood Jewels…

Looking through the pile of papers and books next to my favorite reading chair, I came across an article I had saved from the June 2nd Press Democrat about the “unique garden sights” there are to see by walking through the JC neighborhood in our town. Not wanting to put it off any longer and miss a chance for a fun horticultural outing, I called a garden friend and we set off on foot to see what there was to see along Orchard, Benton and Beaver Streets in Santa Rosa. The weather was lovely, the sunset warmed the sky and my little dog Chloe was up for a walk so off we went. It’s truly amazing what you see when walking, that you would completely miss driving by!

Right away we came upon a front yard that had been seeded with wild flowers. It was a  riot of color and texture…poppies, bachelor buttons, coreopsis and lupine all tumbled together in a cheerful mass of color.

The little pink and blue bachelor buttons brought back memories of my grandmother’s garden. It was full of them – mixed with baby’s breath and zinnias – all planted for us to pick and arrange in tin cans covered with foil to put on relative’s graves on Memorial Day!

On Benton Street we came upon the huge pepper tree mentioned in the article and admired the St. Catherine’s Lace and Vitex…truly stunning!

Walking a little further we passed by a fig tree loaded with fruit and a picturesque old artichoke flower that proves aging can be beautiful!

The article mentioned another garden on Benton St. belonging to Paul and Lynette Scolari, so we walked a little further to find a real gem. Exclaiming over a new treasure every few feet we were in horticultural heaven! The best part was meeting the owners who came out just as we were swooning over their garden. They have worked together to create a garden the Wildlife Federation has deemed a Wildlife Habitat and as you peek into their garden with us you’ll see why!

Part of the garden has a unique low edging, a willow “fence” woven by Paul from their own willow tree!

Asters bloom along the sidewalk in beautiful sky blue…


and Cone flowers in a soft pink…

While this garden is a perfect habitat for wildlife it’s a charming and cozy habitat for people too! We took away so many good ideas!

After a neighborly chat and a generous garden tour with directions to another garden gem we were on our way! Next up a gorgeous hydrangea hedge with a sign that made us smile! I’m glad people obey it so others can enjoy the beauty..

The next garden was also designated a Wildlife Habitat, with a wild and natural look along with some bright and beautiful Cleome….

Since it was getting dark quickly and our car was…well, we weren’t sure anymore where it was parked…we headed back in the general direction…and came upon some a row of bright dahlias…

…and then something that made us both say, simultaneously….I want to do that!!! The owner, probably wondering about these weird women running around taking pictures in the near dark, came out and graciously spoke with us.  His wife made these with a piece of rebar and five pots and he assured us we could do the same!

The owner also told us about the huge magnolia tree in the front yard. Planted by a Civil War Captain it’s said to be the second oldest tree in Santa Rosa! (Since it was getting too dark, even for my 2000 ISO, I  went back before work  the next morning to take a better photo!).

I love the way the tree seems to loom over the house almost protectively. It’s a good thing it’s so beautiful since the owner mentioned that the upkeep is a lot of work!

Finally back to the car, we realized we only covered a few blocks of this wonderful neighborhood so we’ll be going back! Next time you have a free evening take a leisurely stroll through the JC neighborhood, meet some nice people and admire some lovely gardens!

Copyright Donna Jones Photography



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Summertime Garden

The summertime garden is my favorite place to be! Each morning I take my coffee outside to see what’s growing, what’s blooming, which plants are setting fruit. It’s a living, changing place always full of color and fun….not to mention tasty!

This year, thanks to my handy husband, everything is growing in raised beds, surrounded by fresh bark and hooked up to a automatic drip system! If you love gardening as I do (and what’s not to love!), come with me on my morning walk and enjoy!

A potting bench is handy! And flowers are essential…

Veggies are best picked fresh!

And mixing flowers and veggies….well, that’s a garden!

Part of the fun is watching the critters that visit! The garden is a busy place. Our squirrels can be destructive if they don’t get dinner on time but other than that they’re fun! The birds aren’t quite as demanding!

If you have a bit of unused ground….plant a garden! It will give you hours of pleasure and each day there’s something new to look forward to!

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.  Gertrude Jekyell




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Armstrong Redwoods – A Perfect Place for Quiet Reflection

On a recent early morning walk through Armstrong Redwoods , with my husband of 27 years, I couldn’t help but reflect back on all the times I’ve walked through this amazing grove.

Beginning in the 1970’s walking through this quiet and beautiful place has been something I love to do.  I’ve played here, prayed here, brought my children here, conducted tours through the majestic trees for our foreign exchange students…it’s become my go to place in times of sorrow and joy!

If you need to work through a problem or just get away to do some serious thinking, this is the best place in the world to reflect….Or, you can just enjoy the coolness of the air, the babbling of the brook and the wonderful fragrance as you walk along the bark strewn path. Throughout history writers have had much to say about nature…Often inspired by such a place as this….

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.   Robert Lewis Stevenson


All things are artificial, for nature is the art of God.    Thomas Browne


In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.  Charles Lindbergh

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.     George Washington Carver

 For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.     Martin Luther

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.   Abraham Lincoln

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Ferrari-Carano Winery – Tulip Gardens

In Sonoma County wineries and beautiful gardens often go hand in hand. Ferrari-Carano on Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg is one of the most beautiful, especially in the spring when daffodils and tulips blanket the grounds. The immaculate gardens are laid out with precision, color coordinated and a lovely sight to behold. On a recent morning walk through the gardens the spring bulbs were just at their peak though there’s something new to see in the gardens any time of year…

Enjoy a short walk through the spring bulb gardens…






Summer will bring roses and other beautiful blooms…it’s worth a trip and a lovely day’s outing!

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