A Sunny Afternoon at South Coast Botanic Garden

Thanks to our rainy winter I’ve been able to enjoy the famed dessert wildflowers of Anza Borrego and Joshua Tree. But what about the flowers that aren’t so wild? Sometimes I forget that we have a wealth of botanical gardens in Southern California and they equally benefit from the rain. Eager to visit a blooming garden I decided to head to South Coast Botanic Garden on a recent sunny afternoon.

South Coast Botanic Garden located in the heart of the Palos Verdes Peninsula has a unique history. For over 50 years the site was used to mine diatomaceous earth from the ocean floor and when the industry declined in 1956 the area became a county landfill. Five years later Frances Young and a group of concerned citizens convinced the county to replace the site with a botanical garden. Now, over 50 years later its thriving with over 200,000 plants and no evidence of its former use.

I visited on a recent weekday afternoon and was one of only a handful of visitors allowing me to really immerse myself in nature. There are a variety of gardens on the site with most of the manicured ones near the entrance. I started in the fuchsia garden and was happy to see several plants blooming.

Fuchsia really is one of my favorite flowers – it’s so vibrant!

The remaining flower gardens were filled with bright blooms and were a joy to wander through.

I especially loved the children’s garden filled with the cutest figures from nursery rhymes.

Soon the colorful flowers gave way to desert blooms and I was impressed by the variety on display.

After making my way through the Desert Garden I continued to explore and found myself in a much wilder area of the park. The orderly gardens give way to groves of trees and wandering nature trails and I decided to just start exploring.

In hindsight this may not have been my best decision. The botanic garden may not show any evidence of it’s former life but it very much shows signs of its age. Once you leave the front of the park the signage becomes sparse and what does exist is broken down and inaccurate. I followed one sign directing me to a lake only to find it long since dried up. Before I knew it I was hopelessly lost and found myself trekking through overrun trails trying to find my way back. I decided I was walking in circles and resorted to the map app on my phone. Thanks to the “parked car’ feature I was able to use it to navigate my way back to the front. It was around 90 degrees and I was sweating up a storm but I was no worse for the wear. Plus, I had a pretty good workout!

While the lack of clear signage in the back area was a bit frustrating I did see evidence of recent upgrades. Park admission is $9 and, hopefully, that will help with further improvements. Overall it’s a lovely area filled with beautiful blooms. To think it once was a landfill is astonishing and makes South Coast Botanic Garden a fine example of the old adage “from trash to treasure.’


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