Undersea Garden at Quail Botanical Gardens

The design and plants used in the Undersea Garden successfully imitate the look of a coral reef.

On a recent trip to Southern California, I spent a plant-lover’s dream day at Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas. I live and garden in northern New England, so visiting a public garden in Zone 10 is a rare and wonderful treat.

Located on 35 acres 20 minutes north of San Diego, Quail is designed as a series of themed gardens that feature plants from different regions of the world as well as special theme and activity areas. One of my favorite places is the Undersea Garden, which is planted with succulents and other plants to resemble a coral reef. The effect is so uncanny that I expected to see schools of fish swimming among the crested cactus and Euphorbia. The garden also demonstrates the creative use of water-wise and fire-safe plants for the drought-prone Southwest.

The Bamboo Garden contains the largest collection of bamboos in the Northern Hemisphere. Peaceful paths meander through the towering grasses. Signs along the path explain how the different bamboos are used in their native countries, how they grow, and which one is harvested to feed the Giant Pandas at the San Diego Zoo.

The Tropical Rainforest is a soothing retreat in this arid climate. It features a dramatic waterfall and river overhung with ferns, palms, and other lush plants. Benches in this area are perfect for reading, bird watching, or eating a picnic lunch.
The Seeds of Wonder children’s garden has lots to explore, too. It contains an amazing wind sculpture, animal topiaries, playhouse, and other nature-themed activities. The staff offers classes, camps, and events throughout the year.

For a photo tour of Quail Botanical Gardens, click here. And if you visit in person, don’t miss the plant nursery where you can purchase succulents and other plants for your own garden or sunny windowsill.

-Ann Whitman, Horticulturist