While they don’t always feature roses, this itinerary describes places to relax and enjoy the some of the finest publicly accessible gardens in Southern California. It includes gardens from San Diego through Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo County in the north. Be sure to plan your journey to allow for dense traffic conditions throughout the region.
Click on the red POI (point of interest) links for more information on each location.
San Diego’s Balboa Park is home to nearly 20 specialty gardens spanning the alphabet from Alcazar to Zoro. Thirty minutes north of the city, San Diego Botanic Garden, Encinitas comprises diverse plantings arranged by geographic region.
Orange County gardens span styles from the “magically landscaped kingdom” of Disneyland Park to the botanical collections of Fullerton Arboretum covering 26-acres of the California State University, Fullerton campus.
The modern architecture and landscaping of the Getty Center Museum offers a dramatic contrast with the Getty Villa in Malibu. This recreation of the Villa de Papiri at Herculaneum before it was destroyed in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius presents typical Roman plantings of nearly 2,000 years ago.
Santa Barbara County boasts some of the finest private gardens in the nation; Lotusland is one of the most exotic and one of the few in Montecito open to the public. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden was the first in the state devoted to the propagation, display, and study of native California plants.
The Leaning Pine Arboretum at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo showcases Mediterranean climate plants. The Cal Poly Tree project publishes a map of interesting trees on campus.
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Southern California: Where to “Stop and Smell the Roses” … Guide to the best publicly accessible gardens from San Diego to San Luis Obispo