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Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden California
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden specializes is an 86-acre garden dedicated exclusively to California's native plants. This place is unmanicured, overgrown and wild. We might as well have been walking in the wilderness off the side of the road. There were roughly paved walkways throughout but everything was crowding in on you to the point that you couldn't appreciate each native plant appropriately. Native plants are terrific but if you are going to have paid entrance and call yourself a botanic garden then some pruning and upkeep to show off these native plants should be part of Rancho Santa Ana's repertoire. And to prove how wild and out of control this place is, how many public gardens actually let a 5 foot plus working bee hive continue to grow and only a couple of steps from the walkway. They should at least warn customers about the bee hive, but maybe they don't even know about it. Jason spotted it immediately.
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is located near the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains. And during your walk through the gardens you can view the sometimes snow-topped mountains in the distance. The Botanic Garden is a private, non-profit organization that was founded in 1927. You can pick up a brochure for your self-guided walk when you pay to enter the gardens. Towards the back of the gardens are three distinct areas named Indian Hill Mesa, The East Alluvial Gardens, and The Plant Communities. While walking through this area there is basically no relief from the sun. Once you enter this plant area you will notice exit arrows painted on the sidewalk and signs that warn when the park closes. It could be difficult to find your way out if you didn't have any sense of direction.
The Indian Hills Mesa is wild and heavy with mature California native plants like the lilacs and Manzanitas and a riparian woodland. The East Alluvial Garden includes an oasis of California Fan Palm in which they have been allowed to keep their dead hanging palm fronds over their lifetime at Rancho Santa Ana. There is also a collection of native plants from the California coast and the Channel Islands. And then there is The Plant Communities where you can see more Manzanitas and the Crucifixion Thorn all untamed in their natural growth habit.
The garden's founder built a considerable personal collection in her lifetime and this collection continues to be the foundation of the library. The research library contains over 47,500 bound volumes, 750 current journals, periodicals, as well as electronic journals. The Living Collection encompasses the entire botanical garden. Through public horticulture, the Living Collection promotes the thoughtful utilization of the natural heritage. The Living Collection houses over 2,000 accessions of plants native to California and Baja. There is also a seed program. And of course there is a gift shop where you can purchase books and gifts from your visit.
Throughout the park there are some benches and water fountains which you will probably need to take advantage of. We walked slow, stopped to examine plants and flowers, took pictures, read signs, took a rest on a bench a couple of times, made a pit stop or two, and walked though their plants for sale at the end. We made sure that we didn't miss anything while and it took us 3 hours to complete our visit to at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens.
Jason's thoughts - Do not waste your time here. It is an overgrown forest of shrubs, unruly trees, and poorly laid out grounds. Most of the trees are left "natural" that is no branch is trimmed back. Each should be manicured in an effort to create the best view of the plants structure. However they seem to take the stand that since the plants are native to California they should be left alone in their native state. What you end up with is a stroll through acres of boredom and mass areas of unkempt trees tangled one with another so one can hardly tell where one starts and another ends. This is no garden. It is more like a giant expanse of underbrush, tangled, broken and worst of all, ugly.
Kelly's thoughts - This place really didn't do it for me especially when we had to pay $8 each. I expected this botanic garden to be manicured and trimmed to show off each native plant specimen. Unfortunately I felt like I was walking through overgrown bushes and weeds. My backyard looks better than this place.