View: Balboa Park's Spanish Desert Garden.
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Desert Garden came about through as much human perseverance as plant
persistence to thrive in extreme, arid, inhospitable areas.
Succulent gardens had been in at least four different places in Balboa
Park since 1916. Donations filled the separate cactus and aloe-agave
gardens that Kate Sessions helped establish for the 1935 Exposition,
after which the gardens gradually fell into disrepair.
It wasn't until 1976 that the current 2.5-acre wedged parcel of land
officially become Balboa Park's Desert Garden. Specimens were free
because they came from the city nursery, but funding was necessary
to move and replant them. Bulldozers moved 12,000 cubic yards of earth
to regrade what was a flat plateau with a steep cliff into a gentle
slope ending in a berm and a simulated dry stream bed. Pathways are
gentle to accommodate wheelchairs.
The garden was designed in bands—trees, larger more rugged trees,
a low natural fence of adobe brick, massive stone boulders interspersed
throughout the garden, some placed to form benches, paths, a rocky
dry pond and stream bed surrounded by palm trees where the cliff was,
chaparral near the bottom toward the Florida Canyon.
Visitors who define cacti as tiny, thorny plants in nurseries or gift
shops, and aloes as hard-to-find small plants, will be surprised at
the variety and to realize that although a cactus is a succulent,
succulents aren't only cacti. The dramatic Dracaena draco is nearly
20 feet high.
The garden has more than 150 species of cacti and other desert plants
from North and South America and about 1,300 sculpturesque cacti,
aloes, and other succulent flora and drought-resistant plants from
around the world. Specimens are planted as they would be found geologically,
rather than geographically, therefore in unusual growth patterns.
Each season has something to offer. Amazing flowers bloom January
North of the footbridge that crosses Park Boulevard from the Natural
History Museum. Easily accessible, but not readily seen from the road.
Park Avenue and Village Place, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101
Open 365 days a year, free.
Phone: (619) 233-9050
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