Let's Go! UCSC Botanic Gardens Spring Visit

Last week we browsed a few botanical highlights of my recent Santa Cruz trip, so now I'm going to share the lion's share of the botanical wonders. University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanic Garden's mission is connecting people with plants - so let's see if a few colorful plant photos will make you feel connected.

From their website: With a 135 acre living museum full of rare and unique plant species, dedicated staff, committed volunteers, and a voluminous history of contributing to conservation research, the Arboretum inspires botanical stewardship in students, the community, and the world at large.  

The first time I visited it was winter, which was lovely, but this visit in mid-spring really wowed me. Of course. I took far too many photographs, did not see as much as I wanted, brought the inferior but portable camera and visited during hot mid-day sun but even with all of those checks against me, it really wowed. For your benefit I have distilled it all down into the "best of" as far as photography is concerned. OK, here we go - a look at UCSC's fabulous botanic garden in early May.

I vow to spend a lot more time in this garden on my next visit. This area is the succulent garden.

Anigozanthos 'Bush Ranger', a dwarf selection of the species kangaroo paws.

Oh, my. This is what Oscar my Agave parryi would do if he lived in California. I'm a little frightened. Agave parryi var. truncata.

Wide shot of the edge of the South African garden with California poppies sprinkled in for good measure.

Leucospermum cordifolium, I did not note the variety. The orange of these flowers is unbelievable. I wish I could grow them in my garden. Sadly, they are not hardy for me.

A fine looking Melianthus major in, of course, the South African garden. This is familiar as we have one at Chickadee Gardens. Great plant, smells like peanut butter.

When I visited this sculpture last time by artist Jayson Fenn  it was not covered in flowers. What a joy to see!

I am uncertain of this plant's i.d., however it could be a leucospermum. Please feel free to chime in if you know.

Leucospermum cordifolium ‘Balls of Fire’ - more orange goodness. What flower arrangements could be made with these beauties!

Leucadendron discolor ‘Pom Pom’

A wider shot

This plant baffles me. It looks like an aster but of course is not. No label that I saw. Feel free to chime in if you know.

My friend Robin noticed all the cool details. What seed pods! Nature is the best artist.

Cannomois grandis - giant river reed

The edge of the South African garden.

Aloe striata

Eucalyptus caesia subsp. magna 'Silver Princess'

The bottle tree, Brachychiton rupestris.

Pimelea ferruginea 'Bonne Petite'

Hardenbergia violacea 'Mini Haha'

Beautiful grove of eucalyptus.

Xanthorrhoea fulva, swamp grass tree

A wider shot of an open area. This place is huge - remember it's 135 acres. You can easily spread out and not run into another soul.

Banksia integrifolia and its infinitely weird and cool seed pods. They kind of freak me out, looking like singing mouths.

Callistemon macropunctatus

Banksia integrifolia, I believe.

Eucalyptus cosmophylla, bog gum and its beefy trunk.

Micromyrtus ciliata, spreading fringe heath myrtle

The Australian rock garden area with so many unusual beauties tucked in there. Most of these I have never heard of outside of this garden.

Lechenaultia biloba - that blue!

Verticordia plumosa 'Pink Lace' 

I don't have a lot to say about individual plants because I have very little to zero experience with them. I just appreciate them and the ecosystems created. They are perfect for the mild Santa Cruz climate and many just aren't hardy for us in Oregon. Also, it should be noted that there are other gardens within the property I did not cover, it's just too vast and we had places to be. No worries, however - I'll definitely be back and have someone drop me off for the day.

Places like this are so incredibly valuable to not only preserve plants and introduce them to a wider audience, they also feed the soul. If you are ever in the Bay Area - specifically Santa Cruz - I encourage a visit. The gift shop and nursery are fantastic, too. The next time I go, I'm renting a car, driving down and filling up with treasures from here and from Annie's Annuals. Anyone interested?

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always thank you so much for reading and commenting! We love hearing from you! Happy gardening, wherever you do so!


  1. Thank you for sharing! Such an unusual, beautiful, awesome display! It's on my bucket list of things to do now.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Marilyn. I'm thrilled you enjoyed it and yes, I hope you get to go someday!

  2. What a cool place. Love the flowers of Leucodendrums. Are Protea in the same family? The unidentified one looks like a Protea. Banksia are cool trees especially their seed pods. Apparently they are highly sought after by woodworkers for projects. Thanks for the great tour. So many gardens on my travel list.

    1. I think they are related....can anyone confirm that? That's really interesting about banskia seed pods. There were hundreds all over the place! Such unusual and cool gifts of nature.

    2. Yes all in Proteaceae--South Africa: Protea, Leucospermum, Leucadendron, Adenanthos, Mimetes, and more

      Australia -- Grevillea, Banksia, Hakea, Macadamia, and more

    3. Once again, Hoover Boo to the rescue! Thanks for the positive i.d.s on the plant families and genera.

  3. Wow, indeed! I love it. Even though I'm a native Oregonian, I spent much of my life in California; the scent of eucalyptus haunts me....

    1. Oh man, you are so damned poetic! It haunts me, too and I love it. xo

  4. I REALLY must get there. I can grow some of those plants but certainly not all. I loved the woven wood structure graced with flowers.

    1. I hope you do get there sometime soon, Kris. I think you'd dig it.

  5. Looks like another wonderful visit to the botanica gardens. I loved the photo of the seating sculpture in bloom! Spectacular!

    1. Dawn!! So glad to see your sweet face in my comments. The sculpture...glad you got to see it in bloom for a change ;)

  6. Take me with you! I think it would need to be a van though for both of us to squeeze in all of our treasures.

    1. OK! Let's plan something. A van, yes. A BIG van. A very very big van.

  7. "I am uncertain of this plant's i.d., however it could be a leucospermum."

    Yes it is.

    Great post, enjoyed seeing the place in spring--have only seen it in person in October. Beautiful place full of botanical wonders. The New Zealand garden plants must be more in line with what grows well for you in the PNW.

    1. It is so lovely, glad you've had the chance to see it. You know, you are correct about the New Zealand assumption - we do have a lot of parallels and I for one am most happy about it - love those NZ plants! Thanks for the i.d., by the way! :)

  8. I believe the plant that baffles you is a variety of Pacific Aster, Symphyotrichum chilense (syn. Aster chilense). It looks a lot like the ones I have, though more purple. They're supposed to be fall blooming but occasionally with our recent weather they seem to get confused, if that one didn't die back in the fall it probably just kept going.

    1. Aaah, indeed! THANK YOU for clarifying, I was wondering.

      It was most confused - and incredibly beautiful and floriferous. Wow. I hope the weather gets back on track. I appreciate the i.d.!


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