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SHARING SECRETS: Favorite Garden Tours

Edited by Dayle Cheever.

With our spring garden walk season just around the corner, what is your favorite garden walk/tour event and why?

Kate Engler: Best walk, by far, last year was the Hort Society’s.

Carol Moseley: I took a FUN trip this month (January) with the Lawrence Family JCC to the former Annenberg Estate, located in Rancho Mirage, CA. It is a 200-acre estate currently run by the nonprofit Annenberg Foundation Trust. We went for a private house tour, but the gardens were amazing, and I wish we’d had more time to do those. There is also an excellent café on site. “Explore nine acres planted like an impressionist canvas. Enjoy 1.25 miles of walking paths and 50 species of plants. From November through April a free one-hour guided garden walk is offered.” (

Vivian Black: The flower fields and the lavender field.

Suzy MacGillivray: Well, this one isn’t much of a secret, as it is just not remembered much. It is where I go to get a garden fix as well as re-centering from outside chaos. Breathe deeply as you wander through a Zen cocoon of tropical and koi. Walk up to the top of the hill and meditate between pockets of succulents and yucca; the sea below puts troubles into perspective. A balance of beautiful flora, roots, and twining vines along with shady nooks and shimmering sunshine, Swami’s Garden is just a wonderful place to walk and it is available year round to take when needed! Open most days but Monday, it is in Encinitas. A treasure, for sure.

Stephen A. Zolezzi: I would like to see a garden history board posted at each location to include garden age, soil composition and challenges, something about the garden owners, sources for plants and their philosophy, watering methods and frequency, and what is the future plan for the garden as it matures.

Liz Shopes: Mission Hills. But, I don’t get to do many garden walks.

Lili Walsh: The Presidio.

Susan L.: The Secret Garden Tour in La Jolla because it is so beautiful and includes artists.

Ruth Sewell: Walking through the commercial venues to see what is new this spring.

Barb Huntington: I love the Water Conservation Garden.

Susi Torre Bueno: In addition to the SDHS garden tour, which I think is the best, I have also enjoyed two tours of native gardens. One is by the California Native Plant Society. It takes place over a weekend, with some gardens open both days and most only open one day. The gardens are always excellent. There is also a walking tour of native gardens in Oceanside each spring, and sometimes those gardens are small jewels. Some are on the tour just as walk-by gardens, with the front yard being all that is on the tour, while other gardens are ones you can walk in.

Cindy Sparks: My favorite is the marketplace. Vendors and non-profits know that a garden tour brings out the plant geeks. So they march out their best and wildest merchandise for the occasion. That makes it a great place to shop. It’s even better if the stuff for sale is somehow coordinated with the gardens featured on the tour.

Dayle Cheever: I have several that I look forward to every year. Fortunately, many have different themes and different homeowners from year to year, so they never get stale. The Mission Hills Garden walk is always fun and beautiful. I often enjoy the walk through Mission Hills between stops as much as the actual homes on the tour. The SDHS does a fantastic job also and features amazing gardens. The San Diego Master Gardeners Spring Seminar is also a great event because of the classes that are offered and also the marketplace with fantastic plants and other garden art at great prices. If you feel like a bit of a drive, the Borrego Springs Garden tour is interesting and certainly presents a very different approach to landscaping and decorative gardening. The homes are spectacular and the plant palates very interesting.

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