In 10 acres, the Regional Parks Botanic Garden contains plants and landscapes from all over California, from the Pacific rain forest to the Channel Islands, and the Sierras to the southern deserts. A spiderweb of paths allows you to visit distinct regions of the state, while the deep bowl shape of the garden gives you scenic views of other garden sections across Wildcat Creek.
Three seasons of the year, something is in bloom, and as we are on the cusp between spring and summer, some of the plants, like the paddle cactuses and monkeyflowers, were holding on to late blooms even as others, like the mariposa lilies and columbines, were just starting their show.
To the right of the main entrance is the Southern California section, including cacti, sages and succulents. But as today was hot, we first turned left, past one of my favorite garden sections, a small rock garden planted with at least a dozen different kinds of buckwheat.
This shady path leads past a hedge of red-stemmed American dogwood to an open lawn surrounded by beds of Sierran plants like flannelbush and aspen. After a brief walk in the sun, we entered a stand of redwoods representing the North Coast. The Douglas irises in this section were mostly spent, but a shaft of filtered light set fire to a stand of orange leopard lilies.
Heading down and across the creek, we walked back through the stand of manzanita in the Central Coast section. A pair of hummingbirds squared off over who had rights to a patch of columbine, and cabbage whites danced above the trickling water. Although our legs were tired as we climbed back towards the entrance, we couldn’t resist visiting the Southern California section after all.
Getting there: The Regional Parks Botanic Garden is on Wildcat Canyon Road between South Park and Anza View drives.
Cool stuff in the neighborhood: Tilden Park is also home to the historic Herschell Spillman merry-go-round and Redwood Valley Railway.
More information: A map of the garden and information about what plants bloom when is available at the East Bay Regional Parks website. The Friends of the Regional Park Botanic Garden site has more information about the garden itself and native plant sales.