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If you haven’t visited the Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden in Skyline Park, you’d be amazed at its present state.

In the last three years, an enormous amount of work by volunteers has transformed the 25-year old garden.

The garden had gotten a little tired, but under curator Kathleen Chasey, a landscape designer who volunteers extensive time, it’s like a new garden  — except that it has taken advantage of many plantings long ago.

Among the changes are reorganizing the garden to reflect the habitats found here in Napa County.

One area shows the plants that grow in meadows, another in chaparral, still another in oak woodlands, one shows what plant life is among the redwoods, while still another shows a typical riparian (creek side) habitat complete with a spring-fed creek that runs year round.

The meadow, for example, replaces an area that was overgrown with tall  — and aggressive — thistles.

Many of those habitats can be found elsewhere in Skyline Park, though the huge oaks in meadows around the garden are its native environment.

Other areas show plants that attract birds and butterflies, show plants used by Native Americans for food, health and other parts of their life like baskets, and children can plant in the kids’ area.

The garden also has newly defined paths, new gates, but most of all, it’s acquired informative signs that explain each area. A stroll through the park-like setting beats reading books or even sitting in the classroom to learn about our environment.

The signs were supported by fines paid for wildlife transgressions.

The garden was founded by Ralph and Evelyn Ingols, and 99-year-old Ralph was there on the anniversary last September.

The garden was named after the late Martha Walker, a garden expert and longtime garden columnist for the Register.

Spring, of course, is a great time to visit, for many perennial and annual flowers are in bloom. Everyone one knows the California poppy, but many of these rarer wildflowers and flowers perennials are beautiful and fascinating, too, and a few are rare and endangered.

Quail patrol the garden — foundlings are released in the garden, and tall fences prove the garden’s appeal to local deer.

You can picnic at the garden, too. Just carry out your trash. Chasey also says the garden and nearby community hall can be rented for events, too.

There’s an admission charge if you drive into Skyline Park, which has been privately owned but is being acquired by Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District.

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The garden in Skyline Park is maintained by volunteer members of the Napa Valley chapter of California Native Plant Society, which also runs a nursery that grows native plants for use in the garden elsewhere in Skyline Park, other restoration projects and for sale at semiannual sales, one just past but another coming up in the fall, the best time to plant native plants.

The chapter will also sell plants in a planting and barbecue on Earth Day, Saturday, April 23.

It will also participate in the Bay-Friendly garden tour Sunday, May 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The tour features 12 gardens in and near Napa that provide inspiration for all kinds of home landscapes.

At the park garden, two workshops will be given, Gardening with Natives and Losing the Lawn. They’ll also give away mulch.

Register by April 24 at 353-0143 for more information. There is a $10 fee for the tour guidebook.

The chapter also holds weekly wildflower hikes each Tuesday. Go to the website or call 257-8389 for location.

Volunteers also work with children and school classes as well as maintaining and improving the garden and growing plants in the nursery.

For more information, visit, email or call 253-2665.

You can reach Kathleen Chasey at her business, Direct to Earth Landscape Design at or 320-8895.

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