Open year-round, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden boasts 78 acres of plants native to California. A U.S. News travel guide joyfully warns that it is not a typical, landscaped botanic garden. Instead, there are 5.5 miles of unpaved trails winding through a collection of unparalleled diversity. Visitors praise the peace and quiet that they find here. Many stroll through the grounds as a way to relax and recharge. Leashed dogs are welcome so it’s a great place to visit with furry friends. The garden features more than 1,000 types of plants ensuring that each visit will bring new beauty to your eye.
Make sure you don’t miss the Mission Dam and Aqueduct. It was constructed in 1806-1807 and is registered as a California State Historic Landmark. It is no longer functioning but has been well preserved.
While the garden boasts many huge boulders, the Blaksley Boulder is the symbolic center of the garden. It was dedicated in 1926 as a memorial for Henry Blaksley. Mr. Blaksley was the father of the garden’s founder.
The garden is split into 11 sections and displays:
- Arroyo: A special feature of the Arroyo is the “dripping rock” display. The display contains herbaceous plants that require constant moisture.
- Campbell Trail: The Chaparral Section is found along this trail. It’s the place to go for plants that like rocky, dry, and gravelly slopes.
- Canyon Section: Large areas of this section were burned in the Jesusita Fire in 2009. As a testament to the resiliency of nature, plants started regrowing in the area within three weeks of the fire. Only a few of the oak trees were lost in the fire; the rest are now lush and healthy. The Pritchett Trail (which ascends a steep canyon wall) and the Easton-Aqueduct Trail can be found in this section.
- Desert Section: One of the oldest sections of the garden, it is home to 24 cactuses. Late spring and early summer guests are treated to brilliant purple desert-willow and yellow palo verde.
- Manzanita Section: Manzanitas are one of California’s most distinctive, diverse, and widespread plants. All forms of the genus can be seen here alongside some of the garden’s oldest and grandest trees.
- Meadow: The heart of the gardens boasts views of Cathedral Peak and Santa Ynez Mountains. Many visitors stop to watch for turtles at Bessie Bullard Pond and Brook.
- Porter Trail: This is another area that was greatly affected by the Jesusita Fire. The loss of trees and large shrubs has opened up views of Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands.
- Redwood Section: These towering trees bring cooler temperatures even in the middle of summer. The oldest trees in the section date back to 1926.
- Teahouse Garden: An authentic Japanese teahouse resides amidst a uniquely Californian tea garden. The teahouse was built in Kyoto, Japan in 1949 and donated to the garden in 1998.
- Woodland Trail: No intensive cultivation is done in this area leading to a truly natural habitat.
- Water Wise Home Garden: Ready to try your green thumb at home? This section features plants that are easy to grow in California.