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Frey Vineyards

Molly Frey
June 9, 2009 | Farm & Garden | Molly Frey

Interview with Katrina Frey at her Perennial Flower Garden

Katrina grew up in Michigan, enjoying the blooms of her mother’s flower gardens. She spent summers working with her grandfather at his perennial flower nursery in Vermont, and came to appreciate her family’s floral heritage. When Katrina first came to California in the 1970s, her impetus for the adventure West was to learn organic gardening with the eccentric green thumb, Alan Chadwick. Her love of flowers blossomed there in the cultivating of perennial borders, as well as her love for her future husband, Jonathan Frey, who was also working in the nascent organics movement. Together they moved to the Frey Ranch in Redwood Valley, married, and began to grow their kinder garden of organic California children. In those formative days the winery was forged out of their mutual adoration of organics, and Katrina partnered with another Chadwick gardener, Charlotte Tonge, to give birth to a perennial flower nursery on the winery land in Redwood Valley. At the height of their propagation glory, the ladies had over 100 varieties of flowers producing, and they continued to bloom for 6 years. When the winery and its organic fruits needed more tending than there was staff, the flower women became the backbone of the Frey Vineyards office.

Katrina Frey standing amidst her perennials.

Today, Katrina plants colors on the canvas of her garden landscape, sticking to the tradition of her Eastern relatives, while incorporating organic gardening into the heart of her mission on the Frey Ranch. Additionally, she’s become one of the ranch’s Melissa, forming an intimate bond with the honey bee Bien (the being of the bee hive, including all the flowers that they take pollen from, the environment where they fly, and of course the bees themselves). You can see Katrina in her garden throughout the year, tending her hives and painting with the palette of possibilities as she plants out her garden. She recommends to aspiring perennial borderist the following suggestions:

When arranging your motif, consider the overall appearance of your border as it will look over the course of the seasons. Your aim is to create the illusion that there are always flowers in bloom. To do so, stagger plantings so that each area will have something to show at any given time. Consider placing the shorter blooms in the front of the border, and the taller behind. Besides probable heights, imagine the bloom itself, and mingle different textures together, i.e. plant side by side the umbel heads of valerian with a bush, showcasing the softness of rose petals. Planting in clumps gives a rich thickness that helps create the physicality of the border and intensifies the floral drama of a particular color or form.

Detail of Katrina's perennial garden.

In the last few years Katrina has added to her repertoire of flower wisdom, a love for the bees, and the plants that they seek out. For instance, since Katrina started to keep bees, she has included‘Gaillardia’ in her border, and looks out for flowers to especially please her wee friends. Interviewing Katrina in her late Spring garden is a delight, seeing her revel in the crescendo of culminating blossoms, cheering with the bees (native pollinators and honey bees alike) for the fertile florescence of a sunny day in May.

Flower close-up

Edge of garden.


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