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Get Inspired on National Public Gardens Day
updated: Apr 28, 2012, 9:45 AM
By Billy Goodnick
Don't go looking for a card at the Hallmark store, but National Public Gardens Day is Friday, May 11 this year. That's just two days before Mother's Day, which is why the American Public Gardens Association picked that day. Sounds logical: Moms generally like gardens, so why not start the celebration early and treat her to a colorful, fragrant, low-impact, horticultural romp?
Public gardens hold a special place in my heart, having spent more than twenty years with the Parks and Recreation Department. I got to put my two-cents in at places like Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, the Mission Rose Garden, Franceschi Park, and other green public open spaces. For some visitors, public gardens can be the gateway to a life filled with beauty and the spirit of stewardship of the environment. I enjoyed holding the gate open for them.
But don't take my word for it.
"Gardens are a critical part of both a healthy and quality life. National Public Gardens Day is a celebration of that, and Santa Barbara is extremely fortunate to have so many wonderful public garden spaces," said Dr. Steve Windhager, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.
|Santa Barbara Botanic Garden meadow
||Casa del Herrero fountain
He's right. You can't find a better place to satisfy your horticultural jones than right here in Santa Barbara, which is ramping up to participate in NPGD for the first time ever. Not just ramping up, but pulling out all the stops. Tours and special events will pepper our area. Everything is listed at a shiny new website: sbpublicgardens.org. Here's a bit of what's in store…
The Big Deal of the Day
The main feature of our local National Public Gardens Day is the FREE 5-1/2 hour Garden Lovers Tour, making stops at four locations:
• Casa del Herrero in Montecito, described as "A National Historic Landmark, the estate garden is one of the few remaining as originally designed during the Golden Age of American Gardens (1895-1940)." I wrote about its exquisite charms in an Edhat blog post a few years ago.
• Ganna Walska Lotusland, a 37-acre botanical estate garden containing subtropical and tropical plants from around the world. Related Edhat blog.
• Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, our mountain oasis and keeper of all things native. Yet another Edhat post.
• The Old Mission Santa Barbara, including La Huerta, a collection of plants dating back to pre-1830s.
There are a limited number of spaces, so call (805) 565-5653 beginning May 1 at 9:00 AM and claim your space (limited to two people per reservation).
|Alice by morning light
||The exotic Aloe garden pool
For a town with a reputation of being laid back, the folks at the American Public Garden Association must think we're a bunch of overachievers. It seems that Santa Barbara's is the first such collaboration in the country.
Aside from the heavy hitters opening their gates to the bus tour, special events will be held at a number of other venues:
The Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens offers two free horticultural tours with a paid admission, with none other than Billy Goodnick leading the 2 PM foray…
Tours of Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, including a book signing of Alice's Garden, written by Ann-Marie Castleberg, wife of the garden's designer, Grant Castleberg…
Docent-lead tours of the exotic, palm-punctuated County Courthouse
Free carousel rides at Chase Palm Park, generously underwritten by the PARC
And tours of Mission Historic Park and the A.C. Postel Rose Garden, where flowers will be at their peak bloom.
|Agricultural crops dating back 200+ years
I got involved in this endeavor when publicist and friend, Julia McHugh, approached me asking if I'd lead the zoo tours. Next thing I knew, I was running around town for four mornings with videographer and director Brandon Davis, shooting a 30-second public service announcement you'll be seeing on KEYT for the next few weeks.
If You Miss It
I have to be honest with you - I'm less than thrilled that this event falls on a Friday. Folks unwilling to play hooky from work and school kids are going to miss out on a great event. To make up for this bump in the road, visit the website and find out about discounts or free admission some of the venues are making available.
And big thanks to the generous organizations who are helping to staff, underwrite, and publicize the event, including Rain Bird, Master Gardeners, Santa Barbara Beautiful, the PARC Foundation, the Santa Barbara Foundation, the Independent, and KEYT3.
I guess when you come down to it, given the wealth of inviting, public gardens we are blessed with, every day is public garden day in Santa Barbara.
Billy Goodnick is a nice guy who knows a lot about plants and garden stuff.
Looking for design ideas and cool plants? Subscribe to Billy's e-mail newsletter by dropping him a line at
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