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Northern California Landscaping

The San Francisco Botanical Garden

Five reasons to visit this welcoming and accessible public garden

  • Even in late winter and early spring, there’s something to see. The magnolia collection blooms brightly in the February landscape.
  • Modern design touches make the gardens fun to explore.
  • Asian landscape design is a style that can be adapted to any climate or region, and there’s ample inspiration at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
  • Succulents offer bold year-round interest with sculptural shapes, cheerful flowers and a variety of textures.
  • The wildfowl pond is the perfect place to relax with a picnic lunch and watch the kids enjoy the ducks.
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Visitors to the San Francisco Bay Area have a wide array of horticultural delights to explore, but one of the top places to visit is the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum. The garden is thoroughly welcoming to visitors of all ages, and almost the entirety of the garden is wheelchair or stroller-accessible. There is even a garden of fragrance that will be of particular interest to blind visitors, featuring plants to touch, sniff and enjoy.

The garden has a wide variety of landscape styles and regions covered, such as the redwood coast of California, Mediterranean and mid-temperate climates such as Australia, parts of Asia, South Africa and Chile. This means that anyone gardening in California will find ample inspiration to put into practice at home. Need more reasons to visit? Here are some popular features of the garden.

Magnolias in bloomVisit in spring to catch the glorious magnolias in bloom. The San Francisco Botanical Garden is known for its collection of magnolias, both rare and easily-purchased for the home garden. Because they bloom in very early spring when not much else is happening in the garden, their giant cup-shaped blossoms create a cheering show in the landscape.

Modern designThe gardeners on staff are always looking for new ways of pairing a modern design aesthetic with their plant collections, and you’ll come away from your trip with fresh ideas for containers, inspiration for combining foliage textures and colors, and design tricks to solve common garden problems.

Asian touchesBecause so many of the traditional garden plants used in Japanese landscape design styles suit the California climate so well, the botanical garden offers a number of different garden areas with Japanese-style ponds, pathways and seating that follow feng shui principles, and of course beautiful plants of Asian origin. The contrast between nature and human interaction make the Asian design style feel meditative and soothing, and you’ll find inspiration here for creating your own zen garden.

Succulent gardenWater-wise gardening is a huge emerging trend, and with good reason. So many of the techniques and plants used in low-water landscaping not only make sense from a financial and eco-friendly standpoint, but are also just plain beautiful to look at. This is certainly the case in the dramatic succulent section at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. The year-round interest brought by these sculptural plants make them a smart choice for nearly any style of landscape, and there are even hardy varieties which will perform well in cold climates.

Learn more about succulents: Landscaping with Succulents

Wildfowl pondEvery child growing up in San Francisco has fond memories of the wildfowl pond at the botanical garden. Ducks and geese swim in the pond daily, while periodic visitors such as swans lend a majestic air to the setting and help kids and adults develop a sense of awe and appreciation for wildlife. Just keep an eye on the under-four crowd. Those tall honking geese can be pretty scary when you’re a tyke!

As an added bonus, the botanical garden offers monthly plant sales during the growing season which are renowned for the unusual varieties offered. People travel from across the state to purchase these plants, so if you’re visiting on a plant sale day, be sure to leave plenty of room in your trunk for all your new acquisitions!

San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum

Contributing Author:

Genevieve Schmidt, contributing writer for Landscaping Network and owner of North Coast Gardening

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