Sunset Garden Editor Kathy Brenzel looks back at her Sunset career – and ahead to Celebration Weekend

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on May 28, 2015

Sunset Garden Editor Kathleen Norris Brenzel

Editor’s note: On June 6-7, the last Celebration Weekend will be held at Sunset Magazine’s iconic Cliff May-designed offices in Menlo Park. Last December, the magazine’s owner, Time Inc., announced that it had sold the seven-acre campus of  gardens and 1950s ranch-style buildings to Embarcadero Capital Partners, a San Francisco real estate investment and management company. The location of the magazine’s new offices will be at Oakland’s Jack London Square. We stopped by to talk to two of the editors key to the weekend, Garden Editor Kathleen Norris Brenzel and Food Editor Margo True.

Sunset Garden Editor Kathleen Norris Brenzel has known no other employer nor office space. She landed at the magazine immediately after graduating from college, working first in the art department before being named Garden Editor in 1982. “This is where I always wanted to work,” she said.

Kathy, as she is known, has overseen hundreds of projects from idea to print and watched all kinds of vegetation take root and grow. But she says her prime joy is connecting people from all over the world who are avid gardeners.

“They’ve run the gamut from European royalty to a landscape architect from Japan who was just discovering the gardens of the American West,” she said. “There seems to be a common bond.”

The Sunset gardens have long been a prime destination for gardening enthusiasts. They were originally designed by Thomas Church, the dean of Western landscape architects. Chris Jacobson and Beverly Sarjeant oversaw a renovation in 2000 but kept much of the original border, with distinct areas representing the major climate zones of the West. Self-guiding walking tours are available between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday (except during the two weeks leading up to Celebration Weekend).

Among the particularly highlights at this year’s Celebration Weekend is a pocket garden with permeable paving that lets water through it, as well as a landscape design by Kathy’s colleagues Johnna Silver and Lauren Dunec Hoang that’s “low water, high design.” It draws inspiration from Zen gardens and takes into account the local, dry Mediterranean climate

Kathy herself is an avid home gardener. The Menlo Park resident says she likes to “go with nature.” “We have Redwood across the back and a Mediterranean border as well as raised vegetable beds. It’s a wildlife garden. We have lots of critters.”

We couldn’t leave our visit with Kathy without one practical takeaway for our own gardens. When photographer Irene Searles expressed dismay that the squirrels were eating the fruit from her backyard trees, Kathy suggested using old panty hose to wrap around the ripening fruit. “It looks silly but really works!” she said.

Photo by Irene Searles

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