A Visit to Seaside Gardens

One of the very best days I spent on my California trip was an outing to Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria. Seaside GardensWhy?  Because it isn’t often at all that you find a retail nursery that devotes more than three-quarters of its space to a demonstration garden creatively highlighting the plants it sells by their geographic regions!Garden Map

In fact, having seen just the African garden the day before on my way north from LA, I decided to drive back south from Santa Barbara to spend several hours there. African Garden I went back into the African garden and surprised an Anna’s hummingbird nectaring on the Aloe maculata.Female Anna's hummingbird on aloe

The coast coral tree (Erythrina caffra), called kafferboom in South Africa, was in full, glorious bloom. Erythrina caffra-coral tree

Pretty purple and white African daisies (Osteospermum sp.) formed a flowery carpet under the leucadendrons.Leucadendron & Osteospermum

Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’ is an understandably popular cultivar of this member of the Protea family.Leucandendron 'Safari Sunset'

In the Native California garden designed by Tim Doles, California irises look lovely with lilac verbena (V. lilacina).Native irises & Verbena lilacina

And naturally, since it was late March, there were huge drifts of shimmering, orange California poppies everywhere (Eschscholzia californica).

California poppies-Eschscholzia californica

I was entranced by the flowers of the California plane tree (Platanus racemosa) with their dangling, red button flowers. A riparian species, it was sited appropriately along the wetland area.

California sycamore - Platanus racemosa


















In the Asian garden, a photinia (Photinia x fraseri) was attracting bees to its white flower clusters, and I was struck by how a plant one normally sees pruned into a tight hedge can redeem itself by appearing so beautifully au naturelPhotinia

As I walked on, I passed a woman walking her dog.  “Do you come here often?” I asked. “It’s so beautiful.”

“Yes, I do,” she replied with a smile.  “I’m the owner.” I had just bumped into Dr. Linda Wudl.  Both she and her husband Fred are prominent scientists and philanthropists, and Seaside Gardens is her retirement project. I mentioned I was on a self-designed California garden tour and had returned to Seaside to spend more time photographing the plants, which seemed to delight her.  She made sure to praise the staff — “it’s their hard work” — and then resumed her walk, adding over her shoulder:  “Just look at the Chinese fringe tree – isn’t it lovely?”  It certainly was. Chinese fringe tree-Chionanthus retusus

Bees were everywhere, like these honey bees nectaring on the statuesque pride-of-Madeira (Echium candicans) and foraging for pollen in the California poppies.Pride-of-Madeira & California poppy

There was a charming cottage garden, with lots of old-fashioned flowers and some new takes as well, like this pretty combination of Chinese ground orchids (Bletilla striata) and irises alongside white azaleas.

Bletilla & Pacific iris with azalea

I walked through the sunken terrace of the Mediterranean garden, past the splashing fountain and under the arch decked in Lady Banks roses (R. banksiae). Mediterranean Fountain

The path took me past a big ornamental grass collection, the Mediterranean fan palm, Mediterranean fan palm

and a curving path alongside a fragrant rosemary hedge buzzing with bees. Rosmary Hedge

In fact, as a honey bee photographer, I was delighted to see that bees were everywhere at Seaside gardens, on the ‘Marshwood’ Spanish lavender…..Honey bee on Lavender

and all over the pink rock roses (Cistus cv.) too. Honey bee on rock rose

Hours of bliss later, I suddenly realized I was hungry and it was time to drive back to Santa Barbara for a late lunch.  But I wanted to find a gift for my dinner host for that evening.

Would it be a plant from one of the geographically-arranged areas in the nursery? Australian-section

An extravagant creation from Seaside’s own talented designers?  Garden decorThat would have been nice but a little more than I needed.

In the end, I selected four $3 pots of succulents and a pretty aquamarine ceramic dish and assembled my own creation at a handy potting table, using Seaside’s free container Succulentssoil mix. What a great, generous idea, from a great, generous nursery!  And what a wonderful visit I’d had, learning all about the myriad plants that flourish in California’s benign climate.

7 thoughts on “A Visit to Seaside Gardens

  1. I love your new blog, Janet, and am always in awe of your encyclopedic knowledge of plant-and-critter genera. You are STAR!

    • Thanks, Aldona. I do research this stuff – not an encyclopedia! But I do believe that Gutenberg and Google are pretty much a tie, when it comes to revolutionizing the delivery of information.

  2. Janet,
    Your photography is spectacular! I love how you capture the diversity of bee attracting plants. This is a peak time of the year for blossoms and you seem to have found most of them. I enjoyed meeting you at Lotusland on our tour. Please come back at lotus flowering time in June and July.

    • Thank you, Carol. I would dearly love to come back some day to see those lotuses. Lotusland was much more impressive than I had imagined and I very much enjoyed the Santa Barbara area, too. (In time, I’ll be writing about Hearst Castle and Berkeley Botanic Garden, so do come back.)

  3. Maybe we passed in the garden, David. I was very impressed. I’ll get around to blogging my visits to Berekeley and SF Botanical Garden one of these days!