huntington desert garden


Southern California Gardens Botanical Garden Tours


We've tried to visit and see many of the gardens of California, though time doesn't always permit for such wonderful adventures. With only a few hours you can drop by the smaller gardens and explore, or give yourself a half a day or more to enjoy the large gardens that grace sunny Southern California.


If you don't have much time, Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona del Mar is quite easy to tackle in just an hour. It features some unique palms, tropical flowers, and some blooming flowers that are lovely to look at. Located right on Coast Highway just south of Fashion Island shopping mall in Newport Beach, you can easily drop by during a visit, or on your way to Laguna Beach, Legoland in Carlsbad or San Diego.


Several additional small gardens worth a look are located in Long Beach at two historic ranchos operated by the city. Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos both offer garden settings with mature trees, a unique bamboo forest and some succulents and flowering plants. The buildings themselves offer rich histories into early California's rancho era, and the gardens provide somewhat authentic experiences of what they may have looked like over 100 years ago.  Each of the rancho gardens is easily covered in about an hour. These types of experiences are great when you have mobility  issues, or have children who become antsy.


The larger gardens that you need time to explore provide half day and day trips during a vacation, weekend garden getaways, or just a local jaunt in "your own backyard" in Southern California.


Our favorite Southern California gardens is the Huntington Library and Gardens, which features over 14,000 unique garden plants in over a dozen garden themed areas that include Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Shakespeare Garden, Camellia Garden, Jungle Garden, Palm Garden, Chinese Gardens, Subtropical Garden, Lily Ponds, Herb Garden, Desert Garden, Children's Garden, Australian Garden and Conservatory. Today the grounds are only one-third their original size but of the 200 plus acres that the complex spans, over 120 acres are landscaped and open to the public to view at your own pace.


There are several other major gardens in Los Angeles County you shouldn't miss. The grounds of The Getty, Descanso Gardens, and The Getty Villa, all offer entertainment, education and inspiration. While one L.A. garden will require a boat ride taking several hours from the mainland and back (an hour each way), the Wrigley Garden on Catalina Island is especially beautiful after a rain. Although there's a better known 4.5 acre rose garden at Pasadena's Tournament of Roses headquarters, I particularly like the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens on the island. The chewing gum king, William Wrigley, is honored with a hilltop memorial you'll arrive at after you pass by the Desert Plant Collection.

Heading south to San Diego,  the popular Carlsbad Flower Fields are in bloom each spring with ranunculus, and Quail Botanic Gardens in Encinitas are a true oasis not far from busy Interstate 5 Freeway.  Both are fantastic, and though the Carlsbad fields are strictly a seasonal offering, Quail Botanic Garden is open year-round.

Finally, when you arrive in San Diego and try to tackle a tour of the 13 museums of Balboa Park, one of the best free admission attractions is the "Lathe Palace" and reflecting pool with lily pads.


This is just a scratch on the surface of garden opportunities throughout Southern California. We haven't even mentioned the living desert, Joshua Tree National Park and so many more. California residents and visitors can spend a day, month, or lifetime exploring the gardens of California, but one great place to begin is in Southern California where the weather is especially conducive to year-round garden beauty.






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