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California Botanical Gardens That Are Too Beautiful To Miss
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California Botanical Gardens That Are Too Beautiful To Miss

The Golden State houses the most beautiful gardens in the country, each one more sensational than the last.

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6 min read

June 02, 2021

While state parks have the most kaleidoscopic display of wildflowers in spring, you don’t have to travel far (or wait for the right season) to see California in bloom. The Golden State houses the most beautiful gardens in the country, each one more sensational than the last. The spectacular landscapes are so diverse that you can immerse yourself in natural wonders in every region.

Sticky phacelias, whispering bells, and California poppies complement the pathways and arched bridges at these oases. So, whether you want to get acquainted with plant life or are planning a unique date, find your way to these California botanical gardens for peace of mind. 

Northern California Botanical Gardens

The San Francisco Botanical Garden has several specialized collections with a particular focus on Magnolia species and high elevation palms.

San Francisco Botanical Garden

Location: 1199 9th Avenue, San Francisco

If you ever take a morning walk at Golden Gate Park, make a detour at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Housing almost 9,000 different kinds of plants, this botanical garden in California has the most magical display of magnolias and high elevation palms.

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As you’re exploring the striking garden, you’ll come across cloud forest species from Central and South America, as well as Southeast Asia. While the Mediterranean and mild-temperate climate plants are impressive, it’s the montane tropic species that steal the show. Feast your eyes on the large variety of flora and immerse yourself in a symphony of nature.

Featuring a decent collection of drought-tolerant plants, the Ruth Bancroft Garden is gorgeous. Photo courtesy of Ruth Bancroft Garden.

Ruth Bancroft Garden and Nursery

Location: 1552 Bancroft Road, Walnut Creek

Home to over 2,000 cacti, shrubs, trees, and succulent plants, the Ruth Bancroft Garden and Nursery is a world-renowned 3.5-acre wonderland. Gardener and landscape architect Ruth Bancroft created the garden on her husband’s grandfather’s fruit farm. Bancroft started out with a single succulent plant and soon expanded to a larger and greener space. Now, visitors flock to the California botanical garden, which showcases fabulous blooms and highlights plant structure and texture in robust plantings.

From aloes and aeoniums to Yuccas and Butia palms, you’ll find countless plants native to Mexico, Chile, South Africa, and Australia. As one of the best botanical gardens in California, this tranquil sanctuary features the most beautiful photo ops in the Bay Area

The Heath and Heather Collection is a magnificent sight to behold—especially when it's in bloom. Photo courtesy of Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Location: 18220 Highway 1, Fort Bragg

47 acres of canyons, wetlands, coastal bluffs, and a closed-cone pine forest make up the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Established in 1961, this Northern California botanical garden features the most scenic landscapes in the entire region. Rhododendrons, fuchsias, and camellias radiate botanic bliss as you discover the depths of this natural wonder.

Visit any time of the year and you’ll see native species blooming in their natural habitat, with verdant areas brimming with heaths and heathers. Stroll along the trails, marvel at the flora, and soak in the stunning ocean views at this IG-worthy spot in the Golden State

Central California Botanical Gardens

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a 78-acre botanical garden designed by noted landscape architect Beatrix Farrand.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Location: 1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara

Sure, you include all the Santa Barbara beaches in your itinerary, but no getaway to the American Riviera is complete without a visit to this hidden gem. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is 78 acres of pure bliss—more than a thousand species of rare and indigenous plants are displayed in their natural settings.

Landscape architect Beatrix Farrand designed the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden with several main features including the historic Mission Dam and an authentic Japanese Teahouse and Tea Garden. Explore the five miles of hiking trails on your visit and experience the tranquil cool of the redwood grove on a hot summer’s day.

The Cactus Garden at the Clovis Botanical Garden is lovely to stroll. Photo courtesy of Clovis Botanical Garden.

Clovis Botanical Garden

Location: 945 North Clovis Avenue, Clovis

Curious about drought-tolerant landscape plants in California? The Clovis Botanical Garden is your ultimate guide. The three-acre demonstration garden is a wonderful Central Valley attraction to visit with your family. When visiting this California botanical garden, you’ll learn about the Sensational 70, a collection of plants friendly to the region’s landscapes. These include succulents, cacti, shrubs, vines, perennials, ornamental grasses, and of course, trees.

Lavender, junipers, and agave are perhaps the most popular flowers at the Clovis Botanical Garden. If you’re looking for ways to give back to the community, volunteering at this garden is one of the best and most fulfilling things you can do in the Central Valley

This Arboretum is a garden of endangered and extraordinary plants from around the world. Photo courtesy of UC Santa Cruz Arboretum.

Arboretum And Botanic Garden at the University of California, Santa Cruz

Location: 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz

Visiting the Arboretum and Botanic Garden at the University of California, Santa Cruz is a can’t-miss thing to do in Surf City. Preserving collections of rare and threatened plants, this fantastic botanical garden in California is a 135-acre living and breathing museum full of lilacs, monkeyflowers, acacias, and more. Visitors love exploring the Eucalyptus Grove, which consists of specimens donated by Max Watson, an admirer of the genus.

The Butterfly Garden of the arboretum is especially fascinating—this area creates an inviting environment for the numerous species of butterflies that inhabit the botanical garden. If you're looking for incredible photo ops, the Aroma and Succulent Gardens are the most eye-catching of them all.

Southern California Botanical Gardens

Baldwin Lake surrounding the Queen Anne Cottage is a major attraction at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Location: 301 North Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia

Are you really surprised that the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden made this list? The arboretum, botanical garden, and historical site is one of the best attractions in L.A. County. This unique 127-acre wonderland boasts a number of thematic gardens with unique features all over the area.

The Rainbow Serpent Garden winds through an impressive selection of plants from the Land Down Under. The Rose Garden is perhaps the most romantic place to pop the question. Plant moms love checking out the 180 different species of aloe and vibrant plumerias. Whichever plant collection piques your interest, this botanical garden in Los Angeles County has something for everyone. 

The Huntington's botanical gardens cover 120 acres and showcase plants from around the world. The Desert Garden is the most breathtaking of all.

Huntington Botanical Gardens

Location: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino

The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens (aka the Huntington Botanical Gardens) feature some of the most awe-inspiring collections of flora in SoCal. Covering over 120 acres, the Huntington Gardens are divided into numerous themes—but the Japanese, Desert, Rose, and Palm Gardens are must-sees.

The magnificent Desert Garden is one of the largest and oldest outdoor collections of cacti and succulents in the world. The Japanese Garden features a lovely bonsai collection with hundreds of trees. Whether you’re relaxing by the lily ponds or admiring the colorful camellias, the Huntington Gardens in Los Angeles County are not to be missed.

California Botanic Garden 

Location: 1500 North College Avenue, Claremont

Claremont’s botanical garden is a must-visit whenever you’re in the area. The California Botanic Garden impresses visitors with its curated collections of over 22,000 native plants spread across 86 acres of lush grounds. A wonderful oasis away from the bustling city, this peaceful botanical garden offers plenty of paved paths for strollers and wheelchairs.

The walking trails take you through a myriad of different landscapes as you learn about native species, hybrids, and cultivars. Make sure to check out the Living Collection of the California Botanic Garden that focuses on the long-lived perennial plant life of both SoCal and Baja.

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