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When we travel there is almost always a side trip to a garden involved and I look forward to seeing the gardens, plants and operations of botanic gardens in different parts of the country. I think Mike might think it is a key part of my planning, but with so many great public gardens around the country there is no reason to skip visiting any of them!   During our trip to the Rose Bowl to watch my Iowa Hawkeyes (yes, they lost… badly), I was lucky enough to sneak away with my aunt for part of a day to visit one of these gardens. Our morning visiting the South Coast Botanic Garden was a great way to become more familiar with the California landscape and see some amazing tree collections.

Flowers at South Coast Botanic Garden

As we entered the South Coast Botanic Garden we stopped first at the small Japanese Garden. I think it was good for us to start with these smaller gardens because once we got out on the walking trails in the tree collections it would have been hard to come back in to explore these intimate spaces.

South Coast Botanic Garden


An early January visit means that several of the South Coast Botanic Gardens’ collections are not in bloom. Specifically, the fuchsia and dahlias were resting. Both of these plants grow very poorly in Florida because of the humidity so it was a little disappointing that we didn’t plan better. I understand that this is the way it goes for gardens and was able to find one little fuchsia flower that made me very happy!

South Coast Botanic Garden


The uniquely warm, but dry climate makes good growing conditions for plants from similar Mediterranean conditions. Many, but certainly not all, of these plants have a lovely cool, silver color to their leaves and stems. You can see here how impressive this is in mass.

South Coast Botanic Garden

Just past the Mediteranean Garden the succulents and cactus were a welcoming sight– exactly the kind of thing you come to California to see!  I am enamored with these plants and spent quite a while photographing the different species and admiring this beautiful collection. You can read more specifics about the agaves and aloes here.

South Coast Botanic Garden

This Crassula ovata ‘Hummel’s Sunset’ was absolutely glowing!

Crassula ovata 'Hummel's Sunset'


As we left the formal gardens and started to explore the vast tree collections I was absolutely amazed to come across this White Silk Floss tree– certainly the largest of this species that I’ve seen in person!

White Silk Floss tree

These walking trails allow you to spend as much, or as little, time as you please exploring the expansive collections. We crisscrossed our way through the South Coast Botanical Gardens, coming across some absolutely beautiful specimen plants like this Queensland Bottle Tree, Brachychiton rupestris.

Queensland Bottle Tree, Brachychiton rupestris

And this Scrub Bottle Tree, Brachychiton discolor.

Scrub Bottle Tree, Brachychiton discolor

The gardens map reads that if you have one hour to visit, “If you have a little more time and can explore further, you might want to walk the tram road. The loop is just under one mile and has some slight inclines; just right for a mild workout. Follow the green stripe on the road. There are many trails that bisect the Garden. You can take a side trip on one of the many trails, just be sure to wear comfortable shoes.” My advice: Do it!

If you just stay in the gardens near the Visitor’s Center you won’t find this Buddha’s hand citrus tree in the Rare Fruit Orchard!

Buddha's hand citrus

White Silk Floss tree


Brisbane Box, Lophostemon confertus cv. variegatus


And if you are in California to see magnificent succulent displays, don’t worry. The long beds of mixed succulents throughout the South Coast Botanical Gardens will quench your thirst for these beautiful plants.




Do you have an upcoming trip?  To find gardens close to your destination or route, visit the American Public Gardens Association Garden Map for ideas or the American Horticulture Society’s Garden Directory.

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