The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a living museum where collections-based research preserves rare and native plants and displays them in a beautiful setting. SBBG is one of only 30 gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums as a living museum. Arranged in stunning displays and interpreted through signage and docent-led tours, the Garden’s 78 acres with more than 1,000 taxa of California native plants illustrate the remarkable diversity of California’s flora, fauna and vegetation.
Widely regarded as a model botanic garden, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is dedicated to research, education, and conservation of California native plants. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (SBBG) is highly devoted to indigenous California plants. More than 5.5 miles of meandering trails and terrain including desert, meadow, ridge and redwood forest all sit peacefully along the winding Mission River and offer glimpses of prickly cacti, huge trees, ravenous wildflowers, and much more, many arranged in representational habitats or landscapes. Established in 1926 and beautiful in all seasons and throughout the year, it’s said that you’ll catch the pinnacle of colors and aromas just after the Santa Ana winds wash out.. yet wash in the heavy spring showers…
Garden enthusiasts will savor the over 70 acres of native regional plants at this popular attraction. SBBG is like no other botanical garden you’ll see; it consists mostly not of labeled gardens but of trails through the California woods. It is, albeit, a stunning walk and a serious piece of natural beauty with amazing exhibits of succulents, orchards and more.
In terms of education, the Garden strives to provide successful conservation education programs at the local level. Doing so increases environmental knowledge within the community and develops the skills, expertise and commitment needed to address local and global environmental challenges. Educational programs range in age and coursework so that there’s something for everyone. One can take a variety of courses with different themes, from classes and lectures to field trips, workshops, camping trips, certificate programs and more. For example, some of the coursework ranges from Botany, Natural History and Gardening to Bird Watches, Craft Workshops and even Docent Training! The School Programming is also impressive, and includes everything from seasonal nature walks, garden and habitat hikes, to tree walks, informational focus labs and ecology classes using real life species and examples as projects.
And in terms of research and conservation, the Garden is even more serious. As a center for world-class scientific research, the Garden inventories and monitors California flora, conducts experimental recovery studies and assists with policy decisions that enable environmentally conscious planning locally and nationally. As a steward of California native flora, it’s one of only 33 botanic gardens in the entire country that are members of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), a national coalition dedicated to conserving and restoring rare native plants of the US.
Preservation is a big part of the Garden as well; as part of a community that reveres its cultural and architectural heritage, preserving the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s rich legacy is of great importance. Formal recognition began several years ago when the Garden’s Mission Dam was named a State Historic Landmark. To further this preservation effort, the Garden initiated a request for the dam to be designated a Santa Barbara County Landmark, which was granted in 1983. In 2003, a remarkable partnership between the Garden, the community, and the County of Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission resulted in the adoption of a resolution granting County Historic Landmark status to 23 of the Garden’s 78 acres, the Aqueduct, Indian Steps, Entry Steps, the Information Kiosk, the Caretaker’s Cottage, the Blaksely library, and the Campbell Bridge.
Throughout the year, pollinators can be found at the Garden. This is a haven for hummingbirds, native bees, introduced honeybees, flies, and many beautifully colored moths and butterflies. It is fascinating to watch them and to observe which flowers they visit.
The Garden is currently still in a rebuilding phase as in May 2009, part of the Botanic Garden was destroyed in the Jesusita Fire, which burned most of the front country of the Santa Ynez Mountain range behind the city. Thousands of flowers were killed, and among the buildings destroyed was the century-old Gane House, which contained the overstock for the garden library as well as many of the tools used for garden upkeep; the home of the garden’s director; and a wooden deck overlooking the creek. The Garden is currently rehabbing that building and the vast other parts of the burn.
You’ll still find plenty to see at SBBG. Aside from the sights and sounds and smells, check out the popular “tall trees” which provide ample shade to kick back and relax on a picnic or break. There’s also a store where you can purchase popular spices, teas and aromas like Yerba Buena, Lavender and Oregano. Located in the foothills just above the city, all of SBBG’s features are exquisite, from the exhibits of California native plants displayed in beautiful landscaped settings to the formal gardens. Walk along a meadow, through a canyon and redwood forest, across a historic dam, and along ridge tops that offer sweeping views of the Channel Islands.
Visit the oldest botanic garden in California dedicated to the study, conservation, and display of native flora. And next time you stroll through this historic and renowned Garden – be sure you take this list; it’s the Top Five Attractions at SBBG. Use it as an appendage to any informational packets or brochures you receive on the grounds, or simply use it as your “to-do map!”
1. Discovery Children’s Garden
Bring your class for a guided exploration of the unique, fun and educational Discovery Garden. This garden is a microcosm of the Botanic Garden and provides interactive opportunities to focus on the ecology of California’s oak woodlands and wetland habitats. Through the use of exquisite interpretive materials and fascinating props, students learn a great deal about food webs, plant adaptations, life cycles of animals and plants, ecology, plant and animal interactions, uses of plants by native peoples and much more.
2. The Blaksley Library
The Blaksley Library was established in 1927. It began outdoors under the oaks as a quiet resting spot to read about plants, animals, and geology. Since then it has grown to over 15,000 volumes! The Blaksley Library building, designed by a local architect and completed in 1942, provides stunning mountain vista views in a lovely courtyard setting. The Library is open by appointment only.
BioBlitz is a quick intensive ecological survey meant to catalog as much biological diversity as possible in a concentrated period of time and defined area. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is owner of the Central Coast’s first-ever BioBlitz! They discovered and celebrated the incredible biodiversity around the area while bringing the event to the community. This is a wonderful opportunity to engage the public in understanding and appreciating the incredible diversity surrounding the city and region while emphasizing the importance of conservation measures to preserve diversity. Visitors are invited to interact with scientists and enjoy fun, educational activities through learning and discovery!
4. Plant Sales
An annual occasion, the Plant Sale at SBBG is one-of-a-kind. With well over 2,000 plants, trees, shrubs, grasses, flowering plants, flowers, herbs, perennials, and more for sale, this fundraising event is one popular draw for all Californians. It’s oft covered in the regional media and people hail from all over the Southwest to scoop up the beautiful, aromatic, sensual herbs, plants, bushes and trees that are sold at this event. Some exotic and common species for sale at the famous Plant Sale include California Mock Orange Shrubs, Little Coyote Mint, Island Oaks, Pink flowering Sumacs, Lemonadeberry, nearly 40 types of sage, nutmegs, Violets, Thyme, Verbana, Redwoods, Stonecrops, Elderberry, Ferns and giant California Sunflowers!
5. Great Garden Shoot Out Exhibit
Each year the Garden hosts the Shoot Out, a photography contest for locals and visitors. The photos entered are judged and prizes awarded for first through third place. View the Gallery to see absolutely exquisite photography and to view nature at its very best in the entered and winning photos.
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
1007 Mission Canyon Road
Santa Barbara, CA 93105