Martha Walker, originally from the Bay Area, Marin County, moved with her husband and four children to Napa in the early 1940’s. She had a natural love for the seasonal changes and the wonders of nature, which likely came from her mother. The latter’s botanical garden in Mill Valley was well known. Martha’s horticultural friends from that time visited here often after her move to Napa.
Throughout the years, Martha’s micro-gardening style evolved naturally. Her children describe the garden as a “free-form and least-disturbed layout.” A more traditional plan was applied when planting and tending their food gardens, especially the Victory Garden during the years of WW-II.
Shortly after moving to the valley, Martha shared her outgoing nature and wisdom with the public through her KVON talk show and her gardening column in the Napa Register, “Let’s Go Into the Garden”, which was intended to show the pleasures to be found in natural, self-designed gardening pursuits. Combining this with her weekly class taught at Napa College, “Adventures in Gardening," anyone with the slightest interest in seeing things grow would soon be “out there” creating his or her own garden.
Martha helped found the Napa Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) and encouraged the Napa Valley Naturalists. She was an active member of the Sierra Club and was a member of the Napa-Solano Audubon Chapter, when it formed in 1971. She led numerous field trips and was a frequent speaker for her causes and an adamant advocate for senior citizens. She also helped drive the Napa library Bookmobile.
Her expanded interests included growing native plants for natural dyes for her weaving. She enjoyed the magic of the Recorder instrument. A culinary library came alive with her use, and was enhanced by her extensive herb garden. Calligraphy supplies were always on her worktable.
Of utmost importance was her passion for Esperanto, her second language, which she learned by mail in just one year! Martha continued improving her knowledge and skill of Esperanto by attending summer courses and conventions throughout the world, thus promoting its appeal. She believed it to be an international language that would carry on beyond translated differences and help the world reach a common understanding and peaceful co-existence. To further those beliefs, she taught classes in Esperanto at Napa College.
But Martha’s main interest and love was her gardening. Her influence is manifested in the work of her students, the organizations she helped start and her readers. All these people learned that harmony, good humor, love of nature, creativity; personal understanding and communication can contribute to a very rewarding way of life.
The Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden invites you to refresh your spirits by roaming the paths to see the native plants that were planted there by volunteers. Many hours have gone in to the planning and creation of the garden. It is still expanding through the efforts of current volunteers, many of whom never met Martha. During your exploration, have a seat on the carved bench placed in Martha’s honor beneath the old Valley Oak tree and enjoy the loveliness of the Garden above its own small valley. Martha passed away in 1983 at the age of 78.
It is especially appropriate that the garden should be located within the spacious, natural setting of Skyline Wilderness Park and near the Growing Grounds of the Napa Valley Chapter of CNPS.