I’d like to share a little known, beautiful botanic garden in nearby community of Thousand Oaks. I’m talking about the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden that is free to the public. The purpose of the garden? They want to show us how we can go native with plants around our home.
Unlike other botanical gardens such as the LA Arboretum or Descanso Gardens, the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden has no entrance fee. As a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization membership dues, grants, and tax-deductible donations from business and private sectors of the community financially sustain it. Parking is free also. Of course don’t expect to see large green lawns because it isn’t as large or as lush as the larger gardens. But then, that’s the message.
This is a nice relaxing place to take the family. In addition to plants the garden has a cute Kids’ Adventure Garden, a fun place for little ones to climb a tree house. Our grandkids had a great time romping all around the crooked house. There are trails to stroll, specialty gardens to enjoy, and a nearby picnic area. They offer floral design classes, watercolor sketching in the garden, and rare fruit walks. If you live close by, these activities might be of interest to you.
Since 1973 the thirty-three acre park has been run totally by volunteers without much fanfare and the entire operation continues to rely on a very dedicated staff of volunteers. When you see what the volunteers have accomplished you’ll appreciate the scope of their constant dedication.
The volunteers perform many tasks. They preserve the natural oak covered terrain within its border. They’ve established and maintain landscaped areas used as demonstration gardens with water-thrifty plants, developed specialty gardens as visual classrooms, and establish a center to encourage horticultural and environmental interests. They also offer information about horticultural resources and activities for Ventura County. (The Garden is part of the American Horticulture Society reciprocating garden program.)
There is a Nature Trail about three-fourths of a mile long that I like to walk. It winds through oaks and a variety of other trees. (One tree is labeled as Poison Oak. I take their word for it and keep my distance). If you want to sit and admire the view, stop at a bench along the path. When I hike these trails I always feel like I’ve stepped back into the time when native Chumash roamed the hills centuries ago.
Be sure to check out the various specialty garden areas especially when the plants are in bloom: the Desert Garden, Australian Section, Butterfly Garden, Salvia Garden, and Native Plant Section. The Salvia Garden, I’ve learned, displays about sixty different types. Maps are available to help you find the areas that interest you.
Of course, with Southern California in the grip of a severe drought and no relief in sight, it’s time for us to consider using native, water-thrifty, plants around our homes. That message is what makes this garden stand out from the others. Here you’ll find a variety of water-thrifty plants for us to observe up-close so we can imagine how our homes would look with different species. With that in mind, the garden show a variety of native plants with broad appeal.
By the way, the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden is adjacent to the Conejo Community Park. A play area and swings for the kids, a ball field, covered tables for lunches and snacks, and bathrooms are all readily available.
To get to the Conejo Valley Botanical Garden hop on the 101 Freeway to Moorpark off ramp. Go north on Moorpark Road to Gainsborough Road. Turn left on Gainsborough and proceed to the entrance at 400 W. Gainsborough Road, Thousand Oaks. Turn left and follow the paved drive to the parking lot.
Pack a picnic and get ready to have a nice morning or afternoon. The gardens are free. Visit their website at www.conejogarden.org for hours, calendar of events, a map of the garden, and tour information. This site also has their monthly bulletin and you can see pictures and slide shows of plants featured at the specialty gardens.
(This post was originally featured in the Calabasas Patch, April 26, 2012)
Links to Unique Places Around Los Angeles