Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden
Fort Bragg, California
July 2008

This 47-acre garden was founded as a private garden in 1961. It became a public garden in 1992.

Unless you happen to live along the coast north of San Francisco, it's not easy to visit this garden. We looked at a map and thought it would be an easy, beautiful drive up Highway 1 from San Francisco. Beautiful does describe the drive, but I sure wouldn't call it easy! It's 100 miles of hairpin turns at 20 miles per hour. Or at least it seemed that way. A five hour trip through beautiful scenery, but I thought it would never end.

Believe me though when I say the garden is worth it. I was a little skeptical when I saw the entry sign along the highway.

entry sign

It reminds me of typical roadside attraction signs from the 1960's. Things like "Alligator Land" or "Paul Bunyan" spring to mind. My wife thought it was cute, so it's probably just me.

Regardless, when you walk out onto the deck and look into the garden for the first time, it's magical.

perennial garden

The first view is perennial beds set in a bright green lawn. Each bed is large and the diversity of plants is impressive.

perennial beds

This is a great gardening climate, so there is a large and diverse plant collection. They have everything from a succulent garden

succulent garden

to major collections of rhododendrons.

Rhododendron maddenii

We were fortunate to visit when the dahlia collection was in full bloom. I've never been a big fan of dahlias, but seeing them in a mass planting, showcasing all the diversity and splendor they possess, it was impossible not to love them.

Dahlia Garden

Another spectacular collection is the heaths and heathers garden. The color and textures of the garden are really lovely.

Heather Garden

I also like the Heritage Rose Garden, featuring old-fashioned roses collected from old houses and homesteads in the Mendocino area. It's nice to see a garden focus on its local horticultural heritage rather than just growing the latest and greatest.

Heritage Rose Garden

There are also collections of Pacific Coast Iris (not in bloom, sadly), fuchsias and hydrangeas.

If the plant collections aren't enough for you, the other major feature of the garden is the Pacific Ocean that borders the property. It provides a pretty spectacular backdrop and more opportunities for interpretation and education, which the garden takes advantage of.

Ocean View

Overall, the garden is very well maintained and has done a good job of labeling the plants. There are a number of nice interpretive signs but too few explaining the different collections. I'd like to see signs that explain the importance of particular collections and why they have the plants they have. They have a great sign about the tender rhododendron collection, but nothing for the dahlias or heathers. But this is a mere quibble. This is a really spectacular garden. I'd highly recommend it to anyone. And when we drove back to San Francisco, we drove inland and took Highway 101. It's not as spectacular a ride but it took half the time.

To see more photos of the garden, click

here to visit the official website of Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden.

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