I finally made it to the grande dame of Mendocino area nurseries… Digging Dog Nursery!
Having admired Digging Dog from afar for the last couple decades, their plant offerings felt familiar to me upon arrival, from the many times I’ve perused their mail order catalog, and during the Bay Area day trips when I’ve squeezed my way through through their people-packed booths at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show.
Getting to Digging Dog from our vacation rental in Mendocino Village should have taken us 20-30 minutes, but when we asked Siri to take us to 31101 Middle Ridge Rd, we hadn’t anticipated losing cell coverage. We missed our turn and ended up overshooting our destination. In a flicker of connectivity, we were able to call to the nursery… because cell coverage is as fleeting on the coast as a good hair day… and we were guided back down the hill to the nursery.
Why I never found my way to Digging Dog on my many pilgrimages to Mendocino, CA eludes me. Digging Dog is a magical place. That “magic” is what you get when a hardworking nursery woman, who admitted that she is happiest outside, and her visionary landscape architect husband are let loose on several acres of land in a garden-friendly banana belt surrounded by a picture-perfect backdrop of California redwoods.
Owned and operated by amiable husband and wife team and fellow UC Davis alums Deborah Whigham and Gary Ratway, the two have been developing and tending Digging Dog for 35 years. While their attractive homestead is only a short walk from the business, the pull of the outdoors is clearly strong for this horticultural power couple.
Their daughter Zoe was raised at Digging Dog, and later brought her nursery skills to Sacramento, where she now, coincidentally, works at my nursery, The Plant Foundry. Zoe helped arrange this tour for me and my vacation posse of two aunts, their partners, and my fiance Kim.
Deborah and her crew keep the mail order business humming along, while Gary’s landscape architecture projects regularly take him to Sonoma County and other parts of northern California.
Digging Dog’s gardens marry the formality of an English estate garden with the rustic charm of a Tuscan or French garden, but with undeniably nor Cal roots.
May I please come here each summer, when it’s a thousand degrees in Sacramento?
Gary’s work has been featured in Gardens Illustrated and Pacific Horticulture. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was Gary who designed the Perennial Garden at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, where the lawns and perennial beds add a touch of serene formality to the wilder parts of the gardens.
A new building under construction near the main home at Digging Dog will host visitors and fun classes like cut flower arranging. Sign me up!
Gary, Deborah, and The Sacramento Travelers
Digging Dog Summer Hours:
Tuesday by appointment only
Phone: (707) 937-1130