Located along one of the most scenic highways in Northern California, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is a little out of the way, but it’s definitely worth a visit. From San Francisco it’s about a 3½-hour drive north to the Fort Bragg garden, so if you get an early start you can even do it as a day trip from the City by the Bay.
And the best part about this botanical bonanza is that it’s accessible to everyone. From slow walkers and wheelchair users to wheelchair-pushing parents and even folks with walkers and canes, everyone will love this gem of the Northern California coast.
The great thing about this garden is that it’s a year-round attraction, as the coastal climate is mild, so there’s always something in bloom. Of course they’re known for their award-wining Rhododendrons which spring forth in bloom from February to July; however the rest of the year also offers a good selection of blooms. Here’s what you can expect to find throughout the year.
February – April
• Pacific Coast iris
May – July
• heritage roses
August – September
November – January
• late perennials
• winter heathers
• wild mushrooms
Truth be told, my favorite time to visit the garden is in late summer, when the dahlias and fuchsias are in full bloom. Not only are they gorgeous, but the mild coastal weather is a welcome retreat from the Central Valley triple digit temperatures. The Dahlia Garden features over 120 cultivars, and the delicate fuchsias just thrive in the damp coastal climate.
And although they certainly have fuchsias for sale in the garden shop, don’t even bother if you live inland. Although they’re beautiful, it’s just too hot for them to survive in most places. You’ll just have to settle for a few pictures to remind you of your visit.
The perennial garden is another great color spot, as it filled with bulbs, flower and grasses throughout the year.
And don’t forget to take the trail out to the coastal bluffs for a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean.
Access throughout the garden is good, as the main trails – including the coastal access trail – are level and feature barrier-free access. There is also good access to most of the gardens, and even the picnic area. Electric carts are also available for loan on a first-come basis. And you’re welcome to bring along Fido too, as long as he remains on a leash.
So make plans to visit this botanical treasure this summer. It’s a great way to beat the heat and enjoy the beauty of Northern California.
Photo credits: Charles Pannell. Post contributed by Candy B. Harrington