University of California Botanical Garden
Berkeley, California
June 2008

Garden entrance

This botanic garden was established on its current 34 acre site in the 1920’s. Its collections are largely laid out to reflect geographic origins, so there is an Asian area, a Southern Africa area, a Mediterranean area and more.

The garden is set in Strawberry Canyon, an absolutely beautiful setting that gives the garden lots of topography to deal with. They've done a great job of incorporating the hills and valleys into the garden's design.

scenic view

The entry courtyard is a wonderful introduction to the garden. I like the clean, open design of it. It also features an interesting representation of the garden's collections.

entry courtyard

The first display you come to is the Arid House. It is full of amazing plants from arid area around the world. It's disappointing that more than half of the plants are in a giant cage so you can't get a close look at them. The security is probably necessary to prevent damage and theft, but there should be a better way of securing the collection. Also, the plants are just laid out, almost haphazardly, on the benches with little attention to aesthetics or interpretation. It is my least favorite part of the garden, especially since arid-region plants are so well represented in the outside collections.

arid house

Right behind the Arid House is the South African garden. Here's a collection of arid plants that is well-interpreted and laid out in a beautifully aesthetic display. The garden takes great advantage of the topography, with winding trails that get you within a few feet of every plant. The collection of plants is very diverse with bulbs, succulents and woody plants mixed in a naturalistic way. All of the plants seem to be thriving.

South African Garden

Across from South Africa is the New World Desert garden, featuring plants from the deserts of the Americas. Here again they have done a great job of melding the topography with the garden. Most of the plants are thriving, but some of the cacti from the hottest and driest areas of Mexico and the United States seem to have trouble in this climate.

American deserts

Continuing uphill past the South African Garden, there's a lovely small pond in the Asia Garden. It's home to endangered newts.

Asiaan Garden pond

It seems that most every garden has a rose garden but Berkeley has created an especially interesting one. The Garden of Old Roses features rose cultivars from the 1800's and early 1900's, rather than concentrating on modern cultivars. There are shrub roses, rambling roses and climbing roses together creating a rather unruly but throughly interesting rose garden.

rose garden

They've also taken an interesting approach to the herb garden, combining a traditional Euro-style Herb Garden with a Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden. Having the two next to each other provides an interesting contrast in style and plants, and a beautiful bridge connects the two.

herb garden bridge

This is probably my favorite public garden. They have an amazing collection of plants with enough diversity that a visit at any time of year is rewarding. The signage is excellent, the setting is spectacular and the garden is beautifully maintained. A place not to be missed by any garden lover.

here to see more photos of the garden.

Click here to visit the Berkeley Botanical Garden website.

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