Califonia Bountiful

California bursts into bloom

Mar./Apr. 2014 California Bountiful magazine

California Bountiful's springtime escapes

From daffodils to day lilies, spring is the perfect time to get outdoors and be inspired by California's gardens, many designed to take advantage of the state's diverse growing climates. But gardens are more than carefully designed and cultivated growing environments. Many local gardens offer one-of-a-kind plantings and special collections. Some offer free admission, others provide a glimpse of history and all provide good grounds for a family adventure.

Here are some of California Bountiful's favorite gardens. Are there "hidden" gardens near you? Tell us the name, location and any other pertinent details. If you can, please include photos. We'll share your ideas with readers and check them out for future visits.

And, if you've ever wondered where the beautiful blooms found at florist shops come from, check out these free, behind-the-scenes tours of coastal flower greenhouses on March 29 and June 21.

Amador Flower Farm

22001 Shenandoah School Road
Plymouth, CA 95669

Located about an hour east of Sacramento in the Shenandoah Valley, Amador Flower Farm includes 14 acres of commercial production fields, as well as display gardens devoted to a wide variety of day lilies. Check the farm's "Bloom Report" online to see what's popping. The farm's nursery also offers a selection of drought-tolerant and deer-resistant plants. Pack a lunch, munch at the picnic tables, take a long stroll through the gardens set among heritage oaks.
Season: Year-round, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: Free
Tip: Consider visiting any of the 39 Amador County wineries. Details at
Take a Peek:

The Flower Fields

5704 Paseo Del Norte
Carlsbad, CA 92008

This 50 acres of giant tecolote ranunculus offers extraordinary color and beauty. Families can walk the fields or view them by farm wagon. Also includes a nursery, garden and gift shop by Armstrong Garden Centers, in addition to festivals and casual dining throughout the season.
Season: March to May, daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: $12 for adults, $11 for seniors 60+, $6 for children 3-10, children 2 and under are free
Wagon Rides: $5 for adults, $3 for children 3-10
Tip: Tickets available on-site and online.
Take a Peek:

Humboldt Botanical Garden

7351 Tompkins Hill Road
College of the Redwoods Campus
Eureka, CA 95501

Ornamental gardens move from one band of color to the next—from red to orange to yellow and on— reminiscent of rainbows that regularly grace Humboldt's coastal sky. Plants have been selected for their foliage or flower color, hardiness and overall quality and then organized based on their strongest color attributes. The garden is handicapped accessible, but pathways are not paved.
Season: Year-round, Wed.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and by appointment at 707-442-5139.
Admission: Non-members $5, children under 13 free
Tip: Humboldt Botanical Gardens Foundation is a member of the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admissions Program (RAP), which offers discount admissions to gardens nationwide. More information at   

The Japanese Garden

Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant
61000 Woodley Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91406

Adjacent to the City of Los Angeles Water Reclamation Plant in the San Fernando Valley, this traditionally designed Japanese garden uses recycled water to maintain its authentic landscapes. Includes a "dry" garden, as well as stroll gardens with combination plantings of spring flowers—azaleas, cherry trees, magnolias, wisteria, iris and lotus.
Season: Mon.-Thur. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on all City of Los Angeles holidays. Closed in case of rain. Call to confirm opening.
Admission: $3 per person, $2 for seniors 62+ and children under 10
Tip: Docent-led walking tours, by reservation only on Monday through Thursday mornings, include an overview of the water reclamation process. Evening tours offered during the summer.

Lotus Land

695 Ashley Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93108

A series of gardens, with subtropical and tropical plants from around the world, draws visitors from surprise to surprise on the two-hour docent-guided walking tour. The tour includes both horticultural and historical information, with time to visit the Garden Shop at the end of the tour. Because Lotusland is a public garden operating in a private, residential neighborhood, reservations are required to visit.
Season: Year-round, by reservation only at 805-969-9990
Guided tours: 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Wed-Sat, Feb. 15-Nov. 15
Admission: $45 for adults, $20 for children 3 to 18, under 2 free
Tip: Group tours available.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden

1552 Bancroft Road
Walnut Creek, CA 94598

The Ruth Bancroft Garden was once part of a 400-acre fruit farm started in the 1880s by Hubert Howe Bancroft, a famous historian and publisher who amassed a huge personal library of books related to the American West. Bancroft sold his collection to the University of California, which became the nucleus of The Bancroft Library. The garden was created by Bancroft descendants and is an outstanding example of a water-conserving ornamental landscape. It houses collections of aloes, agaves, yuccas and echeverias.
Season: Year-round, Tue.-Sun., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: Adults $10, seniors 65+ $7, students (with valid ID) $7
Tip: Admission fee includes self-guided tour booklet or a guided docent tour.

Daffodil Hill

Closed for the 2014 season:
Damage caused by a March 26 hailstorm put an early end to the season, which is typically mid-March to May.
Be sure to check back in 2015!

McLaughlin Ranch
18310 Rams Horn Grade
Volcano, CA 95689

Outside the tiny Sierra foothill community of Volcano, Daffodil Hill is exploding with blooms. Staff working at Daffodil Hill are local volunteers, and the hillside garden can be crowded at peak season. Show up early for the best photo opportunities. Make a day of it and check out nearby Amador Flower Farm, below, which offers a profusion of day lilies.
Season: Mid-March to May, daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: Free
Tip: Visit mid-week to avoid crowds. 

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