Big Springs: A garden with a lasting impression |

Big Springs: A garden with a lasting impression

Dick Tracy
Special to The Union

Not many of us have had the pleasure of visiting Giverny, the fabled home and gardens of French artist Claude Monet.

"All my money goes into my garden," he once wrote of the place where he lived from 1883 to 1926. "I am in raptures."

Amidst that floral grandeur, spanning a section of his renowned water garden, is a green bridge which was a copy of some he had seen in Japanese gardens.

That bridge at Giverny supplied the inspiration for Don Phillips to build another similar one on his shimmering pond at Big Springs Gardens.

And, since it's a scenic two-hour drive from here, all of us have the opportunity to visit.

Hailed by Sierra Heritage Magazine as, "Monet of the Mountains, a Masterpiece in Sierra County," the 30-acre site just beyond Sierra City on Highway 49 opened its gate again June 16 through September.

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Visitors are invited to walk along two miles of groomed trails amid huge rock outcroppings and an old growth forest of cedars, firs and pines inter-planted with thousands of flowering annuals, perennials, shrubs and specimen trees.

And Don Phillips' blue eyes twinkle knowingly when he parrots Monet about where his money goes.

It's hard to believe that when he first purchased the property some 50 years ago, it was an incredible tangle of vegetation.

"It was impossible to walk straight across the property without crawling over fallen trees and fighting your way through the undergrowth," he nods.

The one-acre pond that showcases water lilies, aquatic plants and rainbow trout didn't just "happen" because of the giant 5,000-gallon-per-minute springs farther up the mountain.

Bulldozers created it in front of where Phillips would build a stately two-story summer home.

The same goes for the plantings that make it a world-class garden.

All of that, and much more, can be visited for an admission price of $15 per person.

And then, depending on individual preferences, the treat for the eyes and spirit expands further into delights for the stomach.

White canvas umbrellas shade diners who come to enjoy either a noon buffet on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, a Saturday noon BBQ buffet or Sunday buffet brunch.

Plus, the ambiance: "Big Springs is here for all of us to enjoy," Phillips says, "It's a place of peace in a troubled world and it welcomes us to immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature … rejoice in each other's company and add to our treasure of special memories."

If only Claude Monet were here to capture it on canvas.

Dick Tracy is a freelance writer in Nevada County.

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