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Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens California
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens California - dahlia season should be in your travel plans. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens California is absolutely the most awesome gardens we have experienced in quite some time. We toured the entire 47 acres, saw turkey, deer and fawns, fabulous plants and flowers, and ended the day with a picnic amongst the dahlia garden. We consider ourselves the luckiest travelers sometimes. Going to Fort Bragg to go horseback riding in the forest and on the ocean for Kelly's birthday was planned. We knew that Fort Bragg was a small coastal town but what a treat to have these awesome botanical gardens right on the PCH. Another spectacular place along Highway 1 that we went while in northern California was at Point Reyes National Seashore which is only 50 miles north of San Francisco. Highlights of this national seashore was the beautiful coastal bluffs and hiking the Tomales Point Trail and seeing Tule elk.
Above: Picture Sea Palms barely holding on to the coral and rock along the Pacific Coast at Mendocino Botanical Gardens.
The gardens extends into the Pacific Ocean and to get there you walk a cool and shady trail full of pines and conifers. We came across a mother deer and her two fawns. They were a little cautious but we were able to follow them for a bit and watch them feed and play. The coastal bluffs is a beautiful place to hang out at. If you spend any amount of time on the coast you will most certainly come across kelp and the sea palm. The sea palm looks like a miniature rubbery palm tree and believe it or not it is harvested as an edible seaweed; not at the park though. Certain times of the year you can see California Gray Whales migrating. If you are visiting in February you might see them migrating with their babies north to Alaska.
In 1961 a retired nurseryman and his wife founded the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and it opened in 1966. The botanical gardens was purchased with grants in 1992 from the California Coastal Conservancy and transferred to the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Park District. The tender species of the rhododendrons is what this garden is known for. Because of the moderate climate along the northern California coast, in which there is a considerable amount of fog, they thrive here. In March and April you can experience these towering hybrid rhododendrons that were planted over 40 years ago.
I was stunned when we came across the collection of heaths and heathers. They were wild and growing tall but still had this strange uniform shape from one to the next, like miniature rolling hills blooming with purple and lavender colored flowers. In the past when I have seen heather it was in someone's front yard landscape and there was only one one or two plants. Obviously home landscaping with one or two heather plants does not show off this plants full potential as you can see from the picture.
With it's list of over 150 bird species the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden has a become become a haven for bird watchers. Of course each season brings on a new collection of flowering plants. When we were at the Gardens it was in August which is the beginning of dahlia, fuchsia, heritage rose, perennial, heather and hydrangea blooming period. In early spring you can see rhododendrons, camellias, and magnolias in bloom. The cacti, succulents and lilies bloom in May, June, and July. And if you want to see some wild mushrooms popping up then visit from November to January.
Entrance to the Gardens is through the store where there is a selection of garden related books and gifts. They also have a nursery where you can purchase rhododendrons and native plants. The Mendocino Coast Gardens offers tours as well. And if you didn't bring a picnic lunch, that's okay, there are some sandwiches and handmade ice cream at Cowlick's in the Garden. They are closed three days out of the year at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Saturday following Labor Day in September. Their hours vary depending on what part of the year it is. The main trails through the gardens are wheelchair accessible and this trail does lead to the ocean. And if you have a well-behaving pooch then leash up and let your doggie enjoy the gardens too. It is always encouraged to call the gardens to make sure they are going to open and operating on the day you plan on visiting.
Jason's thoughts - I have never seen flowers like this in my entire life. Absolutely the most beautiful garden I have ever been in. Call ahead to make sure the Dahlias are blooming and if they are GET HERE! You also get to explore many acres of other plants and the oceanside rocky cliffs as well. We even saw baby deer bouncing through the grounds. You will not be disappointed.
Kelly's thoughts - Stunningly beautiful. I would encourage visiting during dahlia season for sure. We were flabbergasted at the varieties and colors of these beautiful flowers. In Florida it is just too hot to grow dahlias so this was a first time experience for me, and one I will never forget.
Travel info - Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is at 18220 N Highway 1 in Fort Bragg, California. Click for California beaches
American Road Trips - reviews & pictures of places we visited on $20 a day - food, gas and lodging.