What a lucky bunch of gardeners we are! Fifteen of the San Luis Obispo Master Gardeners were taken by van to “Camp Hill”, hilltop home of Hearst Castle and guest houses. The intent of the tour was to show us progress of the renovation of the two original greenhouses used by Hearst employees.
The Lord & Burnham steel “kits” were shipped from New York to San Simeon in the 1930’s and assembled on the hill to be used for propagation of plants in the formal gardens. Steel beams on the dilapidated structures were disassembled and repositioned and the bald cypress siding restored to its original condition. New cement walkways were poured inside the greenhouses and new work benches installed.
These greenhouses were not the ornate variety you might expect of Mr. Hearst, but utilitarian and functional; appropriate for his “ranch”. I saw these greenhouses in the early 2000’s when serving as a garden docent at the castle. I was convinced at the time that these structures were beyond repair. I was pleased to see that they had been brought back to life and were serving castle staff once again.
Mr. Redig went beyond the greenhouse tour and guided us through the grounds of the castle, pointing out the latest endeavors to restore the landscape to its original design. Many of the older trees have died and replacements of all plants are required to be of the variety specified in Mr. Hearst’s original landscape design of the 30’s. We strolled through some of the rooms of Casa del Mar, and saw the “hidden terrace”, sealed and undiscovered for years when the main terrace and entrance had been extended and expanded.
This was a real experience for the Master Gardeners of San Luis Obispo County. We’re lucky to have this resource so available to us.