If you are looking at an old California tour book or map and you find something labelled Quail Botanical Garden, you’ve found the San Diego Botanical Gardens. It changed its name in 2009. If you’re trying to find it on a GPS, your device will probably have the new name, but, if not, try the old one.
Talking about GPS, if yours is like the one I used to find the San Diego Botanical Garden it will probably take you to the wrong place. Mine insisted that I take Saxony Lane, which dead-ended in what I think was probably a locked service entrance to the botanical gardens. That is to say, I know it was a locked entrance to something. I’m only guessing it was for staff and deliveries to the botanical gardens.
If you want to be sure you are taken to the public entrance, rather than selecting “San Diego Botanical Garden” or “Quail Botanical Gardens” as a point of interest on your GPS, key in the address of the entrance: 230 Quail Gardens Drive.
And another thing about the San Diego Botanical Garden’s location. It’s not in San Diego. That is to say, it’s not in the city called San Diego. It is in the city of Encinitas in San Diego County.
Enough about the location. If you’re in the area, go. It’s beautiful.
Aging at the San Diego Botanical Garden
But before I get further into its beautifulness, a word to the marketing department of the San Diego Botanical Gardens: Borderline seniors don’t like to be reminded that they are seniors. At least, this one doesn’t.
When I drove in, the parking lot attendant collected both the parking fee ($2.00 at that time) and the admission fee to the gardens. After welcoming me, she told me that the total was $12. I had already checked the admission prices and knew that the price for seniors, which starts at age 60, is $10.
I was 62 when I visited the gardens. I used to tell myself that I look younger than I am. Apparently, that was not true. The attendant assumed I was a senior without asking. I’m happy to take the seniors’ rate. And I would have asked for it if it wasn’t offered, but 60 versus 62 is not that big a difference. I would preferred that she asked me to prove my age rather than being so confident I was over 60.
Talk about a depressing way to start my visit. But I digress. <Rant over.>
I visited the gardens in November. Where I come from, Toronto, if you see outdoor flowers blooming in November they’re almost certainly fake. The best you might find is some rotting remains of last season’s blooms. Even then, if winter comes early that year you may have to shovel away a little snow to see even that. Thus, seeing real flowers in bloom outside in November was a real treat for me.
The San Diego Botanical Garden covers 30 acres and includes 4 miles of paths. There are some hills to climb. The worst of the climbs are what I would call moderate and I’m a now 63-year-old who’s by far not the fittest in his age class.
The grounds are organized into geographical areas so you can get a sense of context as to where the plants come from. All of the plants on exhibit are well labelled, so a visit is an educational as well as aesthetic experience.
But, Wait. There’s More.
There’s more than just flowers, trees and bushes at the gardens. I don’t know if this is a permanent feature, but when I visited there were 40 sculptures scattered throughout the grounds. The sculptures were for sale, for later delivery. In addition to the artist’s name and the title of the piece, the sculpture’s sign included the date that the sculpture was leaving the Garden and the price. If I wanted to buy one, I could have had it delivered after that date.
At the highest point of the gardens there is a two-story lookout tower that you can climb to get a better view. In addition to the surrounding landscape, way off in the distance, I got to see Sam, an exceptionally large Galapagos tortoise. At least, I thought he was exceptionally large, but I can’t recall ever having seen a Galapagos tortoise before. So, in truth, he may have been the runt of the litter for all I know.
The public was not allowed to go down to Sam’s pen when I was there. However, a sign said that a future expansion of the Garden would provide a home for Sam that would allow people to see him more closely. There was no indication as to when that would be ready, so you might or might not be able to get up close and personal with Sam if you visit.
As if all of that is not enough, the San Diego Botanical Gardens also afford a couple of nice views of the ocean off in the distance.
All in all, it’s worth a visit, particularly if it’s the winter and you’re a temporary escapee from a more truly wintry climate.