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Northern California Landscaping

The U.C. Botanical Garden at Berkeley

Five reasons to visit this world-class garden

  • The U.C. Botanical Garden at Berkeley features water-wise gardening inspiration from around the world. (Photo credit Genevieve Schmidt)
  • Majestic succulents and cacti create a dramatic display and provide design inspiration for bringing structure to your garden. (Photo credit U.C. Botanical Garden at Berkeley)
  • The Japanese pond attracts all kinds of wildlife and creates a meditative setting to enjoy the seasonal delights of the Asian garden. (Photo credit U.C. Botanical Garden at Berkeley)
  • Lush tropicals growing among a rainforest-like setting brings a sense of adventure to your indoor gardening. (Photo credit Genevieve Schmidt)
  • The plant sales, events and classes offer numerous opportunities to learn more, get involved and bring home some of the unique plants found in the garden. (Photo credit U.C. Botanical Garden at Berkeley)
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This world-class botanical garden showcases a variety of unique collections, such as a Chinese medicinal herb garden, crops of the world, a garden of old roses and a carnivorous plant greenhouse.

Of course, when you visit a botanical garden, part of the joy is in seeing what makes that particular region different than all the other places you’ve visited, and in this the U.C. Botanical Garden at Berkeley shines. Their California native sections take up almost a third of the garden and are grouped by plant communities, so whether you live in the heat of the desert or on the rainy redwood coast, you’ll find ideas for bringing a sense of regional character to your own garden. Need more reasons to visit? Read on.

Water-wise planting ideasIf you’re looking for water-wise plant selections and design inspiration, the Botanical Garden at Berkeley has you covered. With collections from summer-dry climates such as South Africa, the Mediterranean and Australia, you’ll find specific plants to select for your garden as well as insights about how to combine them for best effect.

Sculptural succulentsFor first-time visitors, the succulent garden is a revelation. The dramatic forms of the cacti and succulents look more like an art installation than living plants. If you’re looking for a low-care garden with bold appeal, the strong lines of cacti and succulents can be used effectively even among traditional flowering perennials. For the best effect, intersperse groupings of succulents or cacti throughout the garden to add year-round interest. By clustering these plants in groups, it’s easier to water appropriately (or not water, as the case may be!).

Asian design ideasGardens influenced by Asian styles are very popular, and with good reason. The style can be adapted to suit any region, as it emphasizes the use of local plants and materials as well as some iconic plants which help set the scene. Asian landscape design also emphasizes a meditative connection with the land and the seasons.

As you walk through the Asian section of the U.C. Botanical Garden at Berkeley, you’ll hear the rustling of the trees and the sounds of water, enjoy the swimming newts in the pond and the tweetling of birds, and you’ll feel inspired by the artful pruning and design used to achieve this peaceful space.

Tropical gardeningBring a sense of adventure to your indoor gardening by seeing familiar houseplants as well as rare varieties in a more realistic setting. The tropical house is packed full of exotic, colorful beauties in a jungle-like display. The warm, moist environment and the waterfall make you feel as though you’re vacationing in the rainforest, and seeing some of your houseplants in a more natural habitat will give you new insights into how to design with and care for them at home.

Plant salesNot only does the garden feature a year-round nursery in which you can purchase a variety of proven performers for your garden (both California natives and plants well-adapted to the region), but the garden also holds spring and fall plant sales which are a mecca for plant geeks. Call ahead to plan your trip around these dates.

Of course, don’t worry if you’ve just missed a plant sale. The garden is a research and teaching facility connected to the U.C. Berkeley campus, so there are numerous tours, classes and events happening every week. Bring a bag lunch and make a day of it, because the garden is large enough that you’ll want enough time to savor and explore.

For more information:
The U.C. Botanical Garden at Berkeley

Get more Northern California landscaping ideas

Contributing Author:

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

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