Califonia Bountiful

Pat's Garden Travels

March/April 2020 California Bountiful magazine

California offers a wealth of public gardens to discover. Join our gardening expert Pat Rubin as she travels up and down the state, bringing you the best of her travels to inspire yours.

If you're like me, you can't wait for the first days of sunny spring weather to get outdoors. It may be too early for gardening to be in full swing, but take advantage of nice weather when it comes along and visit public gardens for a dose of the outdoors. These are two of my favorite gardens in busy urban areas, offering convenient oases with places to walk, sit, enjoy the scenery and escape for a few hours.

Capitol Park
California State Capitol, 10th and L Streets, Sacramento

The state Capitol building is certainly a gem for the city of Sacramento, but for gardeners, the main attraction is the 40 acres around the building that comprise Capitol Park. Luscious lawns, grand old trees, flowering shrubs, plenty of benches, friendly squirrels, and many specialty gardens and memorials make up the park. Many of the huge trees have identifying labels. It's a great place to walk around, sit and have coffee or lunch, and also meander through the gardens.

There are more than 450 species of trees and flowering shrubs represented in the park. A popular attraction is the World Peace Rose Garden. It showcases about 650 roses representing 140 varieties of colors and fragrances. There's a path that leads to the center of the garden with a heart-shaped wall and the Peace Pavilion. The garden's intent is to promote peace among nations. Don't miss the Vietnam Memorial and the California Veterans Memorial. 

The park is open to the public year-round and lovely in any season. I particularly love winters in Capitol Park. I love the way the wind and rain whips through the trees, and it's always amazing to find roses and other flowers blooming when the calendar says they should be asleep for the winter. Fall is also fun with all the colors of the leaves. And if you are a rose fan, go in May.

Descanso Gardens
1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge (Los Angeles County)

My first visit to Descanso Gardens was when the dahlias were blooming: huge yellow spoon dahlias, sparkling white spider dahlias. I couldn't take my eyes off them. But I did manage to leave the entrance where the dahlias were in pots so I could tour the rest of the garden. There's a fabulous rose garden inside, a replica of an ancient forest and an oak woodland. Even though the day was hot, the California and Mediterranean natives held their own against the strong Southern California sunshine. The gardens were designed for home gardeners to be able to take ideas into their own gardens.

Though the gardens are both educational and interesting when the temps are high, it's also pleasant to stroll them when the weather is more cooperative. Go any time of the year.

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