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The Gardens of Santa Barbara

Our online tours begin in Santa Barbara because we used to live there and are very familiar with the many public and private gardens in that city.  Since then, we have visited many other gardens in the West. 
Links to other online garden previews are listed near the bottom of the page.

alice keck park garden vista A vista of the older, central part of the Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden . Low water usage is not the dominant theme of this area.

 If your summer includes a  trip to Southern California, consider visiting the many gardens in the resort town of Santa Barbara.  While there are beautiful gardens everywhere in the city, here are four extraordinary gardens to visit and enjoy.

Several years ago after the very severe, prolonged drought in Santa Barbara, their Parks Department converted a large part of the Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden to a low-water usage botanical demonstration garden. 

alice keck park garden dry creek bed In the outer sections of the garden the emphasis is on drought-tolerant plantings.  You will see beautiful examples of flower borders and dry creek beds, as well as plants to use in dry shady areas. 

Dry, shade is one of the most challenging environments for low-water usage gardens because plants that like shade usually like lots of water.

The photo, left,  shows drought-tolerant fescue lining a decomposed granite path leading to a rocky dry creek bed.

Happily, the Park Department includes a brochure and detailed plant list in a box near the southwest corner of the garden to aid visitors in plant identification and horticultural requirements of the plants. 

The Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden is appropriately located at Garden and Arrellaga streets in Santa Barbara and there are plenty of places to simply sit and enjoy the beauty of the garden.  There is no entry fee at this public park.

santa barbara mission and rose garden As you make your way from the Alice Keck Park Memorial to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, you will pass by the Santa Barbara Mission Rose Garden. It is definitely not low water usage, but the roses are especially beautiful in early summer.  If you are a rose lover, this garden is worth a stop.  There is no entry fee.

The route to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden from the Mission Rose garden is well marked.  Just follow the signs up Mission Canyon.  This 80+ acre botanic garden is devoted to native plants of all regions of California and you can preview the Botanic Garden on this website.  

Near the entrance, there is a small area devoted to plants of the  Great Basin, Mojave, and Sonoran deserts.  But because the mission of this botanic garden is to show all ecosystems in California, their desert garden is modest in size.  To see more of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, including the redwood grove and spring meadow, go here.

santa barbara adobe brick restoration As you make your way back down into the city on Garden Street, you will see the restoration of the old Presidio of Santa Barbara in progress. No garden to note, but an excellent glimpse into the original European settlement of the city. The Santa Barbara Historic Society is a block away on Garden.

The photo, left, shows a stack of adobe bricks for use in the rebuilding.

You will have to call ahead and make reservations  to visit the Lotusland, the amazing garden of opera singer Ganna Walska in the Montecito area of Santa Barbara.  The two daily tours of the garden are lead by docents and there is a fee. Demand for the tours--the only way to see the garden-- is high so call well in advance.

On part of her estate Miss Walska created a traditional formal garden with high hedges, a rose walk and reflecting pool.  But it is her private plant collections that are astonishing!  If she liked a plant, she bought dozens of them no matter what the cost or rarity.  Palms, bromeliads, cycads, aloes, a blue garden, a water garden, a Japanese garden, an Australian garden, topiaries -- they all reflect her personal gardening passions and they will take your breath away.

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Take these Hot Gardens online preview tours:    

Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden  - Arcadia
Huntington Gardens Desert Garden - near Pasadena 
Descanso Gardens - near Pasadena 
Arlington Garden - in Pasadena
Getty Villa Gardens - Malibu
South Coast Botanic Garden - southwest Los Angeles  
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden - Claremont, California
Santa Barbara Gardens - Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden  - Santa Barbara, California
Tucson Public Gardens  - Tucson, Arizona
Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden  - Phoenix, Arizona
Balboa Park Gardens - San Diego, California
Tropical Garden in the Dominican Republic
Shore Acres Gardens - Coos Bay Oregon
San Luis Obispo Creek Park - San Luis Obispo, California
Japanese Garden - Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California
Japanese Garden - Long Beach, California
San Gabriel Mission Gardens - near Los Angeles
San Fernando Mission - Los Angeles

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Our 8 Most Popular Hot Gardens Newsletters:   

1.  Flowering plants that reliably bloom in scorching mid-summer heat.

2.  Australian plants and trees that grow well in hot, dry climates.

3.  Weather-proofing palms for winter; cold weather palm trees.

4.  A white garden for night time viewing.

5.  Topiary can be easy to create and add charm to your garden.

6.  Techniques to combat death by heat exhaustion of plants in pots.

7.  Cactus as security barriers for your property.

8.  South African aloes for brilliant late winter color in your garden.


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