What is it about botanical gardens or other large, planned gardens that makes them magical places? The kind of place where you can wander in relative silence, revel in the beauty of plants that you have never seen before (or even ones you have seen, though now viewed in a different light), where you can stop and sit on a bench in a hidden spot to soak it all in, or even read, or think? Who designed the spaces, mapped out what types of plants would be featured where, and planned the spots that would lure people and bees and butterflies and birds? They, and the current-day keepers of those gardens, are magicians.
If not already obvious, I love wandering in those kinds of gardens. I like everything about them: the flora, the fauna, the paths and stairs and benches and arches and bridges and streams. The University of California Botanical Garden has many of those features, and is a veritable outdoor museum. It is home to collections of plants from nine major geographic regions around the world, including a large area devoted to California–a biodiversity hotspot that contains more than 40 percent of the world’s plant species. To all this, add special collections including orchids, ferns, cycads, palms, roses, and herbs.
A plant lover could spend days roaming the 34 acres. I only had 5 hours, but I made the best of it; I signed up for a 1.5-hour tour that was being offered (Secret Paths of the Garden), which got me off to a great start via paths less traveled, and then I spent the remaining time wandering to my heart’s content. It really was a magical day.
Here are some of my favorite photos (and plants) from the Garden: