Let's Go! UCSC Arboretum and Botanic Gardens Part II

Let's continue our visit of the Botanic Gardens and Arboretum at University of California Santa Cruz. We glimpsed last month the Australian Gardens so this week we'll explore the general grounds, Norrie's Gift Shop and finally the California Natives Garden.

As you make your way to the gift shop and nursery, the Aroma Garden perched on a small hill is a welcome respite of color from a weary Oregon gardener. At nearly 150 acres, there is plenty to explore.

The map of the arboretum at the entrance, showcasing the Australian Gardens in yellow-green, South American in light pink, California Natives in orange and New Zealand in purple. The hot pink section is the Sensory Garden. 

 OK, how's this for a dreamy shopping experience? I am planning some kind of road trip this spring to buy a few beauties here at Norrie's Gift Shop and at Annie's Annuals, also in the Bay Area. Maybe add a few more stops along the way. Serious California dreamin' here.

Norrie's offer well-done succulent wreaths. 

And plants from each region of the gardens represented - South America, Australia, California natives, etc.


They were having an open house the day we visited and offered hand-made items from several vendors. These pots, made by Joseph Hidalgo, a Bay Area potter, captured our attention. The one on the far left with the turquoise glaze came home with me. I am very pleased. 

Joseph uses natural materials to create patterns in his work. Here, a seed pod of a plant that I cannot recall was used to make patterns in clay in the pot behind my hand. Such a nice person, too, and a gardener! 

Another cool thing at the arboretum is this, the "Future Garden" -  

 Designed by artists Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison, it is an experiment and an art piece to determine what plants might survive environmental challenges of the near future. 

 General view near one of the parking lots.

Oh, those spikes. 

 Salvia lanceolata in the Aroma Garden.

 Wonderful earth works sculpture called Spirit Nest by Jayson Fenn.


An overall look at the path through the California Natives garden. Remember, I visited in December, so naught much was blooming. I can imagine the plethora of California poppies, lupines and other lovelies blooming in the Santa Cruz sun. You'll have to use your imagination, but, still, being among plants was fantastic, any time of the year.

Explanation of Berberis pinnata ssp. insularis - Island barberry.

Berberis pinnata ssp. insularis - Island barberry from the Channel Islands, now only present on the island of Santa Cruz in that archipelago. Extremely rare, it is examples like this that make our botanic gardens invaluable, as they keep the species alive.

Gorgeous Arctostaphylos viridissima 'White Cloud'.

Cupressus guadalupensis, Guadalupe Island cypress tree.

Native bees need our help!

A native pollinator nesting tower/box.

Another Arctostaphylos, this one is A. pajaroensis, paradise manzanita.

Although I could find no label, I believe this to be Salvia apiana, white sage. So many people use this for smudge sticks and similar purposes. Best then to buy your own and make your own smudge sticks rather than buying from unknown sources who may have taken them from wild places. It's a lovely plant.

I think this is Fremontedendron californicum, California flannel bush. I have this in my garden, although it has struggled to take off. I'm hoping 2020 is its year. With sunny yellow flowers and evergreen foliage, this is a very cool, large shrub.

That, my friends, is Arctostaphylos 'Pacific Mist'. Yes, it gets that large in the right conditions. I thought mine was getting large. I'd better watch out. In any event, it's a wonderful prostrate manzanita with a silvery leaf color and low habit. It would make a good ground cover for a well-drained or hilly site.

Festuca of some kind, likely F. californica

Eriodictyon crassifolium or felt leaved yerba santa. Apparently, a great butterfly plant when it blooms with lovely lavender blue flowers in spring or summer. Interesting leaves, too.

Lastly, Arctostaphylos pumila or sandmat manzanita. This prostrate and very handsome manzanita specimen came from an ancient sand dune near Monterey airport, according to its label.

There you have it, a tour of another slice of the UCSC Arboretum and Botanic Gardens. I think I have enough photos for a tour of the South American garden and a few bits from the New Zealand garden to share next time. I will make it a goal to visit in the future during the spring or fall seasons when much more is in bloom.

Any botanic or public garden is so worth exploring for many reasons: To give gardeners, homeowners and the public ideas for what plants might work well in similar climates, to help preserve endangered plants, to offer green spaces for the community and wildlife, for peace of mind, education, exploration and evaluation, and to understand plants and their ecosystems from communities different than your own. They are worth supporting and exploring.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens where the current snowfall has me California dreaming again . . . thank you for reading and until next time, happy gardening!


  1. I so need to visit. Where's that bullet train we've been promised for decades?

    1. Exactly! Only if....but it's worth a visit. And you could hit Ruth Bancroft, Annie's Annuals, etc. Could be a fab trip!

  2. Looks like a wonderful garden. The manzanita bark is such a wonderful colour. I grew up with Arbutus menziesii another type of manzanita. It has lovely shredding copper coloured bark. Wish I could grow either in my climate. Thanks for the great tour.

    1. Isn't it cool? Those Arbutus menziesii are SO FAB! We have two babies growing now, hoping they grow to maturity. So far so good! Wish us luck, they are so pretty as you well know. Where did you grow up?

  3. The Cupressus guadalupensis is so beautiful. I fell in love when I saw it. Cistus sometimes sells a selection of Mahonia pinnata ssp. insularis, named 'Schnilemoon'. It's a lovely plant.

    1. Oh, isn't it lovely? I'll look for that Mahonia, thank you for the tip! ;)

  4. The Cupressus guadalupensis is so beautiful. I fell in love when I saw it. Cistus sometimes sells a selection of Mahonia pinnata ssp. insularis, named 'Schnilemoon'. It's a lovely plant.

  5. Love the Cali natives section. One of these days. California is so diverse and this is one I've missed.

    1. Oh, those California natives are such stalwarts for even this far north. Tough and gorgeous!


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