One of the benefits of living in a state with practically year round sunshine is our botanic gardens continue to grow through the winter and bloom early. With heavy rain this year, gardens, hillsides, and yards are bursting with color and verdancy.
The Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens are a model 78 acres of California natives hidden away in a canyon setting. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a gem in a city known for its beaches, downtown shopping district, and glamorous hillside homes. Despite growing up only an hour south of Santa Barbara, I've not spent much time there aside from a few day trips as a child and visiting my sister when she was a graduate student.
With over five and a half miles of trails and over 1,000 taxa of plants, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll. Walk through several featured environmental zones: arroyo, canyon, desert, manzanita, and redwood. The garden includes a tea house, nursery, and garden shop.
Not only does the botanic garden feature an excellent display of California native plants, it is home to a number of historic landmarks: the mission dam and aqueduct, Indian steps, caretakers cottage, information kiosk, Blaksley library, Campbell bridge, and Clara Small Smith Entry Steps. When we went this weekend, the recent rains had destroyed several creek crossings and bridges. The creek swelled to four times its normal volume. It was unclear if there was damage to the 1806 Mission Dam.
The garden allows dogs, parking is free, and the entrance fee is $10 per adult with a discounted rate for children and seniors. Just keep your cephalopods leashed; we wouldn't want them getting into the ceanothus.
From the south, take Highway 101 north and exit South Salinas Street. Follow South Salinas Street to Mission Canyon where you will arrive at your destination. The drive winds through a neighborhood of mansions and manicured lawns and awards the driver with spectacular views of Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands.