Garden Tour: South Coast Botanic Garden

If you, like me, are (im)patiently waiting for spring to really make her appearance, what better way to pass the time than virtually touring someone else’s garden (either in real life or virtually)? It’s time for another Garden Tour! (Previous garden tours can be found here, here, and here.)

When we were planning our visit to my in-laws’ last month I thought it might be fun to visit a botanical garden. Being Southern California, I figured we would be able to find one close and I was right! The South Coast Botanic Garden fit the bill perfectly: it was a close drive from my in-laws’ house (which was great for a toddler on a somewhat rigid nap schedule) and it was very reasonably priced (which was great for dragging said toddler and husband along who may or may not have as strong an interest in plants as I do).

picture of dad and daughter walking in South Coast Botanic garden

My two garden-touring companions. Good sports, both of them.

Not only did we all three have a lovely morning strolling through the gardens, oohing and aahing over plants that reminded us of the Phillipines and Argentina (places that my husband and I lived, long ago before we ever met, while serving as missionaries for our church), but we were also captivated by the history of the botanical garden.

flowering ceiba speciosa tree, palo borracho, silk floss tree

Silk floss tree, or Ceiba speciosa.

Ceiba speciosa flowers

A closer look at the Ceiba speciosa flowers.

palo borracho tree, ceiba tree, south coast botanic gardens

The intimidating trunk of Ceiba speciosa, the silk floss tree. Or, as I learned it while in Argentina: palo borracho (drunken stick).

Long (looong) before the garden was created, and long before anyone ever lived in the area, this part of California was once still under the Pacific ocean. In the early 1900s, the sediments the ocean left behind – diatomaceous earth – were mined by the Dicalite Company. Diatomaceous earth has many uses, and not all of them relate to bedbug infestations, such as were the circumstances under which we were made familiar with it. But that’s a story for another day. Today we’re touring gardens.

By the 1950s, mine production had stopped and the land was sold to the County of Los Angeles. The County had intentions of reclaiming the site, but in the meantime it was used as a landfill. That’s right. The South Coast Botanic Garden was built on a dump. Approximately 3.5 million tons of trash are underneath the gardens. It really is astounding to me that something so beautiful is built on a trash heap. Food for thought, and hope for more such projects in the future.

Of the 291 acres of the Palos Verdes landfill, 87 were converted into the South Coast Botanic Garden. In April 1961 the first major plantings occurred, beginning with donations of around 40,000 trees, shrubs, and other plants. Today there are over 200,000 plants in their collection.

The 87 acres are divided into distinct “gardens” such as the newly re-opened rose garden, the vegetable garden, the fuchsia garden (which I’ll have to go back and see when they’re all blooming; I imagine it’s stunning); “collections” such as the agave collection, the conifer collection, the palm collection; and “groves” such as the Banyan grove and the Redwood grove.

The palm collection at the South Coast botanic garden

A handful of the many palms at the South Coast botanic garden.

flowering fan palm

I’m not sure which fan palm this is, but seeing palm flowers is always somewhat unexpected and exciting.


The South Coast Botanic Garden is an 87 acre oasis of native and introduced plants.

gladiolus in the demonstration garden area at the South Coast Botanic Garden

The demonstration garden area, showing different plant combinations, trellising options, irrigation solutions, and composting (fitting I think for where the garden is situated).

banyan grove at South Coast botanic garden

The banyan grove. Also known was Ficus sp. Those aerial roots are just too cool.

a picture of the entrace to the desert garden at the South Coast botanic garden

It’s not all lush tropicals at the South Coast Botanic Garden. Pictured here, the Desert Garden showcases cactus, agave, yucca, aloe, and many other desert-hardy plants.

the Rose Garden of the South Coast Botanic Garden

The not-quite-yet-open newly redesigned Rose Garden. I loved the sweeping curves of the paths and how they were echoed by the trellises. When all those roses start blooming it will be something to behold.

child exploring the South Coast Botanic garden

Exploring the paths of the Children’s Garden. Or maybe it was the Volunteer Garden? Regardless, it was lovely.

Coral tree (Erythrina) and monstera deliciosa at the South Coast botanic garden

The internet’s favorite: Monstera deliciosa (perhaps more widely used around the United States as houseplants – just search #monsteramonday on Instagram) at the feet of a Coral tree, Erythrina sp.

Unfurling frond of a tree fern at the South Coast botanic garden

The unfurling frond of a tree fern, a Dicksonia I believe. If I’m wrong, please correct me.

blooming clerodendron at the South Coast Botanic Garden

I couldn’t find the name to this plant, but it was planted in the Butterfly Garden, which I thought was quite apt. (The internet tells me it is called Clerodendron, and I think I’ll believe it.)

snail vine flowers

Such a cool vine – Vigna caracalla, or snail vine. Honestly my picture isn’t the best, but you can see the namesake snail-shell coil in the lower flower.

In an area that can feel stifling with all its concrete, traffic, and masses of people, it was a welcome respite to spend the morning wandering the paths of the South Coast Botanic Garden. I do hope to get back on another visit.

Where are your favorite Gardens to visit?


  1. This place looks amazing! And built on a dump?! So awesome! I really love that idea. I’ve gotta keep botanic gardens in mind for traveling. I never think of them, but they look so great to explore!

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