About Us

Kate Frey

Kate grew up in Berkeley, California. Her father was a librarian at the University of California, Berkeley and he instilled a love of reading and literature. She began her career of working with plants and interest in nature as a seasonal employee with the State Forestry, Federal Forest Service and California State Park system, where she worked fighting fires, on timber crews and on trails.

Kate Frey is a noted garden designer, eloquent advocate for pollinators, and popular garden speaker and educator. She designed and managed noted and widely admired gardens such as the famous organic public garden at Fetzer Vineyards, the Melissa Garden in Healdsburg, and the gardens at Lynmar Winery in Sebastopol. Her gardens illustrating many elements of biodiversity and sustainability in agricultural systems won one silver-gilt medal and 2 gold medals in 2003, 2005 and 2007 at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, a rare honor for an American designer. They were visited by Queen Elizabeth and many other members of the British Royal family.

In 2009 she competed in the World Garden Competition in Hamamatsu, Japan, and in 2011 in the Floria Garden Show in Malaysia.  She and her husband Ben consulted and worked in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on a Prince’s organic farm for two years. In 2009 to 2014 Kate directed  the Sonoma State University Sustainable Landscape Program.

Kate currently writes two gardening columns for the Press Democrat newspaper and her book, The Bee-Friendly Garden, was published in 2016 by Ten Speed Press and was selected as one of the best gardening books of the year in 2017 by The American Horticultural Society.

Her newest educational venture, The American Garden School, made its debut in 2017. Kate holds a B.A. Summa Cum Laude with Distinction in English at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California.

Kate writes two gardening columns for the Press Democrat Newspaper.

Her book, The Bee-Friendly Garden, co-written with Professor Gretchen LeBuhn was published February, 2016 by Penguin Random House.

Kate earned a B.A. Summa Cum Laude with Distinction in English at Sonoma State University in 2006.

She currently works as a consultant, educator designer and a freelance writer, specializing in sustainable gardens and small farms that encourage biodiversity. She is a frequent and popular speaker for the University of California Master Gardener Programs, garden clubs, garden shows and horticultural groups.

Kate enjoys spending time with her grown children and grandchildren as well as writing, reading and traveling.

Ben Frey

Ben Frey is a rescuer of wood. Blackberry patches, burn piles and bone yards are favorite scouting grounds for rescue, to bring wood back to useful life, recreated into towers, tasting rooms, gates, furniture, bird houses and other items. Ben is the 10th of 12 children, and both parents were doctors. He began building with recycled materials at age eight when he helped his father and older brothers tear down Garrett Winery in Ukiah, California, to use the wood to build their own winery on the family ranch. His inspiration came from his father who converted a barn into their rustic house that included bits and pieces left over from table factories, Mendocino State Hospital, and burnt out redwood and oak stump and log furniture. At home and the winery nothing was purchased new, but was re-fabricated from old wineries, buildings and equipment.

Ben has spent 30 years rebuilding barns, wineries and old houses, and making rustic furniture and gates, transforming and reinterpreting the old, worn wood back into vital elements in the landscape.

He worked on the Bonterra ranch in the McNab valley, Jeriko Winery in Hopland, as well as building and remodeling many houses.

In 2003, 2005 and 2007, 2009 he built rustic furniture, towers and barns for gold medal winning gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show in London and the World Garden Competition in Hamamatsu, Japan.

He believes wood is a still living entity that can be transformed from one purpose into another functional element that expresses its organic past as a tree and its journey through the years with weather, lichen, livestock, woodpeckers and even rodents. He lives with his wife and their four dogs in a rustic house he built in Hopland, California and loves to spend time with their three grown children and grandkids.