Califonia Bountiful

Pat's Garden Travels: Best public gardens to visit in any weather

September/October 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.

Japanese gardens are beautiful throughout the year: The fall foliage is spectacular, the different colors of green in the spring are beautiful, the shapes of the tree branches in winter are inspiring, and all summer there are gardens of quiet green.

Japanese Tea Garden
Golden Gate Park
75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco

Probably the first thing that catches your eye is the beautiful, curved bridge. Everyone wants to walk over it as soon as they get to the garden.

The Japanese Tea Garden was created by George Marsh as part of the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. It was so popular that landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara and superintendent John McLaren decided to make it a permanent fixture inside Golden Gate Park. It has grown from its original 1 acre to 5 acres today.

A tranquil respite in the middle of a big city, it is the oldest public Japanese garden in the U.S. There are pagodas, paths to explore, stone lanterns and a koi pond.

Best times to visit: All seasons are beautiful, but the fall foliage is spectacular and spring cherry blossoms are beautiful.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, by TheCatalyst31

Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens
270 Arlington Drive, Pasadena

The garden dates to 1935 when Charles and Ellamae Storrier Stearns hired Kinzuchi Fujii to build them a Japanese-inspired garden. Fujii built several gardens in the area, but this is the only surviving one. It covers about 2 acres and features a traditional teahouse (the original teahouse burned down in 1981). There's also a 25-foot waterfall, a couple of ponds and plenty of beautiful plants to admire, including some stately oaks. It may not be the biggest Japanese garden in California, but it certainly ranks among the prettiest.

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