Quail Botanical Gardens
Encinitas, California
January 2008

Coastal California has an amazing climate for gardening. The Los Angeles and San Francisco regions are rich in gardens so it's surprising how few public gardens there are in the San Diego area. Not that there aren't a lot of spectacular plantings around. The plantings in Balboa Park are beautiful, but it would stretch the definition of public garden to include them. Fortunately the one public garden around San Diego is a really nice one. From the beautiful entrance through the well-designed trail system to the Children's Garden, Quail Botanical Gardens has something of interest to everyone.

Quail Garden entrance

The garden concentrates on plants from the world's Mediterranean climate regions. There are amazing cork oaks, from Europe and North Africa. I don't know how old these trees are, but their contorted forms and pocked bark give the impression of being very ancient. Looking at the bark you can really see that it is cork! There are also incredible specimens of the dragon tree from the Canary Islands. It's really something to see a plant you're familiar with as a houseplant, grown to such incredible size and beauty.

Cork Oak Dracaena draco

South Africa is also well represented. The gardens have a great diversity of plants, many of which flower in the winter so make this a great garden to visit when most of the country is covered in snow. The collection of aloes is especially rich, ranging in form from ground huggers to trees.

tree aloe

The garden is also famous for its collection of bamboo. It's great to be able to walk through bamboo forests. The plantings are large enough to give a real sense of what the Asian bamboo forests must feel like.

bamboo forest

The garden also features displays of American desert plants, Australian plants and subtropical food plants. New displays are a very nice Children's Garden and what they call an "Undersea Garden" featuring succulent and other plants arranged to resemble a coral reef.

Childrens Garden topiary Undersea Garden

The garden is well laid out and easy to navigate. All the trails are well-maintained though handicapped access would be difficult on some. Overall the signage is very good. Most of the plants have a label identifying what they are and where they are from. There are also a number of larger interpretive signs that are very good. Sadly a number of these signs are showing their age and are in need of repair or replacement. That said, I'd still recommend Quail to anyone. You won't be disappointed.

climatic zones sign epiphyte sign

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