- Author: Edie and Erich Warkentine
We are trying to continue our tradition of exploring the many wonderful public gardens located in the western United States. Recently, we made our first visit to the South Coast Botanic Garden, an 87-acre garden located on the Palos Verdes peninsula, near Los Angeles.
The entire garden is designed with walking paths and has a large circular trail so that visitors can cover the major gardens in about an hour. You could also spend the day! It is a popular location for weddings and other celebrations. (One of the highlights of the garden is a lake, which is currently being reconstructed. If you want to see that area, it will be done in another year or two.)
The end of the summer may not be the best time to visit — although some roses were blooming, there weren't a ton of other flowering plants. We were fortunate to view a special exhibition, “Hide and Seek: Art Meets Nature,” featuring eight sculptures (six contributed by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), carefully placed throughout the garden as a way to encourage nature exploration “with an artful game of hide and seek.”
For some reason, many people have not yet discovered the South Coast Botanic Garden (Edie went to high school and lived in Palos Verdes and didn't know the garden was there!) Now that we've found it, we definitely plan to return to enjoy other (and more flowery) seasons!
Visitor Information: The garden is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, notwithstanding the pandemic, but has added several requirements for a visit:
- online reservations at scheduled time;
- visitors must always wear masks; and
- mandatory physical social distancing from other groups.
More information and reservations are available at their website: https://southcoastbotanicgarden.org/
* Apparently, not really a secret.
- Author: Sheri Pueblo
New Zealand is known to be a gorgeous destination to experience uncrowded beautiful coastlines and rugged mountains which bring various climate zones and all 4 seasonal changes. Hamilton is 1½ hours south of Auckland, in a temperate area of warm summers, cool wet winters and occasional frosts, Zone 9 hardiness -4°C (30°F) - 29°C (85°F). The mighty Waikato River flows next to Hamilton Gardens with walking and bike paths that meander along the area. These beautiful, free public gardens are definitely worth a stop-over for at least a couple hours to explore. It includes many separate themed garden areas, a visitor center, café, performance areas and clean restrooms. The optional self-guided tour pamphlet costs $2 NZ which goes to support the gardens that are funded by the community and thousands of volunteer hours.
Historically the gardens were a city dump back in the 1960's, a sand quarry, go-cart track and long before European settlement, this was the home to a Maori chief Haanui and the indigenous people of the region. The site has been beautifully shaped into award-winning gardens and into the most popular attraction of the North Island's Waikato district, seeing over a million visitors per year. “Our collection of gardens don't just address the context, meaning and history of gardens, they also reflect the evolution of civilization”.
The Paradise Garden collection represents structured enclosed garden design traditions such as a Chinese Scholars' Garden, Japanese Garden of Contemplation, Modernist Garden, and my favorites were the English Flower, Indian Char Bagh, and Italian Renaissance Gardens.
The Productive Garden Collection highlights relationships of people and plants. It honors local Maori culture with Te Parapara Garden that features plantings of their staple food Kumara (sweet potato) and traditional elevated food and tool storage houses (Pataka). Kumara rot in wet soils so the mounds improve drainage, the riverbank sandy soil is ideal. I've grown sweet potatoes in Hammil Valley, placing starts in shallow trenches and drip irrigation. My challenges are critters eating the end of the vines and getting plants shipped to California. The Maori stored tubers in underground pits for the next year's planting.
I loved the large Herb garden, featuring Medicinal, Pot Pourri, and Culinary sections full of different plants. I felt inspired by all the useful means nature and herbs have to offer and couldn't keep myself from rubbing and smelling various plant leaves and flowers.
The Fantasy Garden Collection represents “different genres of garden fantasy each with a direct relationship to one of the arts”. A recently opened Surrealist garden featured moving parts of topiary pieces and distortions of scale. The (Katherine) Mansfield Garden honors this N.Z.'s writer who is credited with inventing modern New Zealand literature and has features from her book “The Garden Party”.
There are also outer Tropical, Rose, and Victorian Gardens and new theme gardens in development.
My recent visit was the end of summer for the Southern Hemisphere during an unusually hot and dry summer drought for the North Island, but the Gardens were still beautiful and worthwhile. I certainly plan to return in a Spring season to experience the different blooms and plant vigor.
- Author: Edie and Erich Warkentine
The garden is best known for its camellia, Japanese, and California native gardens. If you have children (or grandchildren) in tow, there is even a train ride to enjoy!
The tranquil Japanese garden is nestled among the camellias and has some beautiful koi ponds to enjoy. An interesting aspect of this garden is that it is located in a transition zone between urban and native habitats — hillsides dotted with oaks and California natives. I would recommend saving a visit to the California native garden for the spring or early summer, when the plants are in bloom.
Saving the best for the last, there is actually an art gallery at the top of a hill in the garden: the Sturt Haaga Gallery. This gallery contains revolving exhibits, but at the time we were visiting, there were several displays of particular interest to the gardener. (Several are shown on this page.)
The themes of the art on display were fruit and bees, tomatoes as fine art, and beehives — complete with bee sounds from deep inside the hive!
In another apple-themed display, a set of pictures by Los Angeles artist Jessica Rath documents her visit to Kazakhstan, the site of the original, wild apple forests from which all our domesticated apples originated. There is an ongoing effort to preserve the original forests, which are collocated with apple orchards in the area.
Less crowded than many other gardens in southern California, this garden can be well worth the effort to visit. Be sure to pop into the Dream House next to the gallery to see a well-stocked garden library as well.
- Author: Erich Warkentine
The Farm + Food Lab, located in the City of Irvine's Great Park, features themed raised-bed gardens, fruit trees, vertical gardening, a worm compost bin, and solar and wind-powered lights. It is operated by a partnership consisting of the City of Irvine, Solutions for Urban Ag, and the UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County.
During a recent visit to Southern California, we visited the Farm + Food Lab. It turned out that officially it was closed due to high winds, but we introduced ourselves to two of the people who were working on site and were privileged to be given a private tour! Everyone had their own tour highlights, but two on which we all agreed were (1) the survivor tree – progeny of a tree from the center of the 9/11 building complex – which is now growing big and strong; and (2) three progeny of the Manzanar Pear Trees.
Some of the themed beds include the Pizza and Spaghetti Garden, Butterfly Garden and chicken coop, and pollinator garden.
The Orange County Master Gardeners present classes to the community on such topics as garden tool care and maintenance and fruit tree pruning and berry planting. Orange County Master Food Preservers have presented classes on food preserving.
For more information, see:
- Author: Erich Warkentine
Every Saturday, volunteers from the Los Angeles Master Gardener program are available at The Huntington Ranch Garden in San Marino, California, to talk about sustainable gardening, to share gardening tips and to sample produce. On December 21, 2019, we had the privilege of meeting some dedicated volunteers who gave us a personal tour and some seed samples to take home!
The Huntington Ranch Project describes itself as:
...an urban agricultural garden project that explores and interprets optimal approaches to gardening in our regional ecosystems and climate – the semi-arid landscapes of Southern California. Part classroom and part research lab, the Ranch Garden draws inspiration from Huntington's and the region's agricultural heritage, while making connections with gardeners, native plant enthusiasts, landscape professionals, educators, and researchers throughout Southern California… The Ranch Garden is envisioned as a community resource to help bolster L.A.'s capacity to establish a sustainable and equitable food system.
The Ranch Garden includes a mixture of edible landscapes, including fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables. Master Gardeners, working with The Huntington staff, have designed special raised beds, including some fully enclosed beds, designed to protect against squirrels, rabbits and other hungry critters. The Ranch Garden also features a hydroponics demonstration.
Although any trip to The Huntington is well worth the time, the Ranch Garden is a feature that should not be missed by gardeners who raise edible crops.
It is only open on Saturdays from 10-1.