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Finding Inspiration: Bay Area Botanical Gardens

Visiting the local botanical garden in Encinitas saved my sanity last year. I went almost every week since it was one of the few places remaining open during the lockdown. Hiking around the gardens, surrounded by nature, reduced my anxiety and gave me sense of calm. Each week I noticed changes in colors and texture, flowers starting to bloom or fade and the abundance of birds and butterflies . I kept a sketchbook in my bag to capture the transient beauty and random doodles.

As a recent Bay Area transplant (forgive the pun!), I’ve set off exploring new gardens for inspiration. Here are a few of my favorites:

Filoli House and Gardens: While locals flock to Filoli during the spectacular tulip and daffodil bloom, I like visiting several times a month. The gardens are gorgeous any season and the hiking trails around the estate offer equally inspiring vistas. After each visit, my phone is overflowing with photos of roses, wisteria, camellias and magnolias as well as pathways and fountains. Before heading out, I stop at the quaint Quail Café to have a cup of tea and to fill a page or two of my sketchbook with the day’s highlights.

San Francisco Botanical Garden: Located in a lush corner of Golden Gate Park, the 55-acre garden attracts nearly half a million visitors a year – that’s a lot of foot traffic! On a recent visit, I discovered you can enter 90-minutes before the official opening time (7:30-9:00am) and have the whole place to yourself. Winding around the various trails, you encounter redwoods groves, cloud forests, cactus gardens and so much more. The early morning light is amazing as it filters through the quintessential San Francisco fog. There are lots of nice benches to stop and admire the changing scenery.

There are a couple more local gardens in Palo Alto on my list as well as venturing a bit further north to find my next garden to explore...Stay tuned!


Bay Area Botanic Gardens

1. Filoli House and Garden, Woodside

2. San Francisco Botanical Garden

3. Stanford Cactus Garden, Palo Alto

4. Gamble Garden, Palo Alto

5. UC Botanical Garden/Rose Garden, Berkeley

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