Fall is one of the best seasons for viewing the Giant Blue Whales while enjoying some of the mildest weather of the year.
Seasonal floral displays color the county, from the gorgeous gardens of Coronado and Carlsbad to the charming mountain daffodils of Julian and wildflowers of the Anza-Borrego Desert.
April showers bring May flowers to many parts of the country; however, San Diego's mild Mediterranean climate allows for spectacular horticultural offerings throughout the year. From the botanical splendor of Balboa Park and the San Diego Botanic Garden to the Nativescapes Garden at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, you can see unusual plants from around the world, as well as the variety and beauty of California's native landscape.
With more than 15 garden areas, Balboa Park is a verdant Eden and enchanted landscape. Garden and nature enthusiasts should explore the Botanical Building. The view of this unique lath structure with the lily pond and lagoon in the foreground is one of the most photographed scenes in Balboa Park. Inside the building, more than 2,100 permanent plants await, including fascinating collections of cycads, ferns, orchids, tropical plants and palms. The Botanical Building also presents vibrant seasonal flower displays. Free to the public, it’s open Friday through Wednesday, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM (closed Thursdays and holidays).
Another must-see is the beautiful Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, deemed one of the top 16 rose gardens in the world by the World Rose Society. This three-acre site displays approximately 2,500 roses of nearly 200 varieties, full of fragrance, color, and beauty. The garden is in bloom from March through December, with roses usually at their peak in April and May.
The Japanese Friendship Garden is a flower lovers favorite. Encompassing 12 acres in the heart of Balboa Park, the garden was designed as an expression of friendship between San Diego and its sister city Yokohama. The beautiful setting features year-round beauty but the don't miss event is the yearly Cherry Blossom Festival which happens each March.
Other gardens in Balboa Park include the 1935 Cactus Garden, Australia Garden, Desert Garden, Children's Ethnobotany Garden, Trees for Health Garden, and the Alcazar Garden, so named because its design is patterned after the gardens of Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain.
Every Saturday at 10:00 AM, trained volunteers offer easy-paced one-hour walking tours of Balboa Park with rotating themes. Themes include palm trees (second Saturday), other trees in the Park (third Saturday) and desert vegetation. There are no tours from Thanksgiving through the 2nd Saturday in January. Reservations are not required.
Balboa Park rangers discuss the historical and botanical treasures of Balboa Park at 11:00 AM every Tuesday and Sunday. Find more information on guided tours in Balboa Park or take a self-guided tour of the best photo shots.
Encinitas’ San Diego Botanic Garden is another nature retreat encompassing 37 sprawling acres and four miles of garden trails to explore. With nearly 4,000 plants from all over the world and the largest bamboo collection in the United States, the garden's diverse topography represents various microclimates. Wander through rare bamboo groves, desert gardens, a tropical rainforest, California native plants, Mediterranean climate landscapes, succulent gardens, herb garden, subtropical fruit garden and native coastal sage natural areas. For youngsters, there's the Seeds of Wonder Garden and Hamilton Children's Garden, the largest interactive children's garden on the West Coast.
An accredited botanical garden, the San Diego Zoo is lush with its 700,000 plants, representing more than 4,500 species. Prized collections include orchids, cycads, fig trees, palms and coral trees. The naturalistic animal exhibits are heavily planted and resemble the animals' native habitats. Some plants, such as bamboo, eucalyptus, acacia and hibiscus, are grown for animal food.
The third Friday of each month is Plant Day & Orchid Odyssey, when the Zoo spotlights its collection of flora with plant-related activities for guests:
From towering acacias and conifers swaying at lofty heights, to the prickly beauty of desert denizens and the astonishing hues of blossoms vying for the attention of pollinators, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is filled with an incredible array of plants. The Park's inland location and its varied elevations have allowed for an incredible diverse collection that few places in the world could duplicate. Whether you're a horticulturist, a gardening buff or a novice to things green and leafy, the Park displays plants that intrigue and delight.
The Safari Park's Conifer Forest, 1,000 plants, representing 400 species of conifers, is also home to one of the few North African cypresses left in the world, while the Nativescapes Garden shows the considerable variety and splendor to California's native landscape.
The Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College in San Diego's East County features five acres showcasing water conservation in the region's semi-arid landscape through a series of beautifully themed gardens, such as a native plant garden and a vegetable garden. Admission is free, and the gardens can be viewed on a self-guided tour; docent-led tours are held every Saturday at 10:00 AM.
A spectacular display occurs each spring in East County's 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The dry, rugged landscape is magically transformed by winter rains into a kaleidoscope of wildflowers, from tiny bursts of color no larger than the head of a pin to towering ocotillos with fiery spines of scarlet blossoms. Butterflies are also drawn to this spectacular floral pageant. When the wildflowers bloom is up to Mother Nature and the display varies in intensity year to year, lasting two to six weeks between February and April. The best way to catch the bloom is to call the Park's 24-hour Wildflower Hotline at 760.767.4684 before planning a trip to see this amazing desert flora.
Spring makes a colorful entrance in East County's charming Julian as an estimated 3 million daffodils color the historic mountain town, roadsides and meadows. Celebrating one of nature's most cheerful blossoms, the annual Julian Daffodil Show is a two-day event during which daffodils are also on display at the Julian Town Hall and Blue Heron Garden Shop. Flower fans can also meet experts from the National Daffodil Society.
At The Flower Fields of Carlsbad, a vibrant sea of giant ranunculus flowers transforms the 50-acre hillside into ribbons of brilliant color. From March to May, stroll past oceans of flowers and through the beautiful gardens, including a miniature rose garden, fragrant sweet pea maze, a garden featuring more than 50 All American Rose Selection winners and a spectacular display of red, white and blue flowers planted in the shape of a giant American flag.
Plan a visit to San Diego today and view some of these extraordinary display's of beauty!
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