Garden Visit: Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden
Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden is located 2 miles south of Ft Bragg and 7 miles north of the village of Mendocino, straddling 47 acres between Highway 1 and the Pacific. The spectacular beauty of the coastline in Mendocino County itself is a feature of the gardens, as the trails that meander through its’ meadows and woodlands terminate at the sea. The garden is in USDA zone 9B, in fact the same zone as Napa Valley. This indicates the limited usefulness of that particular zone map here on the micro-climate laden west coast. Tucson Arizona is likewise in zone 9B and it would be challenge to find any similarity in the climate of the desert southwest and the north coast of California. The Sunset climate zone map classifies this area as zone 17; mild, wet and mostly frostless winters with plenty of summer fog and very little heat. Growing a tomato in Mendocino can be futile, but your Fuchsias can sit out in full sun all day long.
MCBG is worth visiting in any season, the plant collections are varied enough to provide interest year round. These 6 photos below show the perennial borders that open out beyond the entry to the garden and the majority of them were taken in fall. The combinations of large architectural grasses, flowering plants and ground covers are beautifully designed and well maintained and labeled. These borders are dynamic and changing as the seasons progress.
The Heather Garden has been designated as a Collection of National Significance by the American Public Gardens Association, a professional organization for public horticulture. The climate conditions on the coast are particularly well suited to the heathers and heaths (the genera Erica and Calluna) planted in the garden and they thrive in the open meadow where the fog and moisture creep in from the sea. The plants mound gracefully like a tapestry of colored muffins; between the blooms and varied foliage the colorful display changes throughout the year.
The garden also is host to over 1,000 Rhododendrons, including species that are extinct or endangered in the wild. Spring is the best time to view these plants in peak bloom, and the annual juried Rhododendron show is typically held in the beginning of May.
Another popular destination is the Dahlia Garden. Located along the trail that leads the visitor to the coastal bluffs, and wind protected by a belt of Cypress, the Dahlias bloom June through October and most years look their best in August and September. This display is both a popular wedding and photography venue.
Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden is open year round, and there is much more to see beyond the sampling offered here. There is also a seasonal café, a gift shop and a small nursery. The gardens are dog friendly and picnickers are welcome. There is an admission fee, however members visit free and receive discounts at the gift shop and nursery. We encourage supporting public gardens so they may continue to provide beauty and inspiration to their communities.