- Author: Bud Veliquette
From Bohemian Highway, the spa Osmosis doesn’t look like anything special. You see a well-landscaped parking lot, and a faux Victorian building that was built in 1976. But once inside the “welcome garden”, where you can help yourself to a selection of teas, the view begins to change. Located in the historic town of Freestone, Osmosis is a treat to the senses, with 6 acres of gardens connected by a meandering and very private path, and edged by Salmon Creek, which flows from Occidental to the sea near Bodega Bay.
The main meditation garden is the most dramatic. It boasts a heart shaped pond with Koi, and a waterfall that was engineered to emit just the right kind of sound to put you in a meditative state. The owner, Michael Stusser, led a horticultural tour earlier this month in which he talked about the experience of the garden as an enhancement of the experience for his guests, after a massage or a cedar enzyme bath. Co-hosting the tour was Michael Alliger, a master pruner in the Japanese tradition. There are the expected Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum, many varieties), topiaried Pines (Pinus, many varieties), Heavenly Bamboo, (Nandina domestica), and color contrasting red barberry (Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea). And the shrubs were meticulously manicured, including native Manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.) Along the edge of the area is a row of tall bamboo, and a large Strawberry tree (Arbutus menziesii). In the background is the forested ridge of a surrounding hill, adding to the utter tranquility of the scene.
The experience of the tour was a reinforcement of the notion that a well-tended garden can nourish the soul.