4 Unique Gardens in San Diego

It’s no secret that San Diegans love the outdoors. With beautiful weather practically year-round, outside activities are popular and well loved by many – and that includes touring gardens, much like the ones in Balboa Park and on the La Jolla Historical Society’s annual Secret Garden Tour. Check out this list of the most unique gardens in San Diego! You’ll never guess where some of them are located.

1. Queen Califia’s “Magic Circle” Garden

unique gardens in san diego

This fascinating garden is the only American sculpture garden and the last major international project created by Niki de Saint Phalle, a French artist and sculptor with numerous works on display internationally. The garden is named after Califia, the legendary black Amazon queen who was believed to rule a terrestrial island paradise full of gold and riches. The space consists of nine large sculptures, a circular “snake wall” and maze entryway, sculpturally integrated bench seating, and native shrubs and trees planted within the interior plaza and along the outer perimeter. The wall is covered mostly in Mexican pebble stones, while the sculptures are made of thousands of hand-cut glass, ceramic, and stone mosaic tiles. The garden is situated within a 12-acre natural habitat in the Sankey Arboretum in Kit Carson Park (3333 Bear Valley Parkway, Escondido 92025).

SEE ALSO: Myths and Secret Spots of La Jolla.

2. OB’s Hidden Garden

unique gardens in san diego This little gem is one of the best-kept secrets of the Ocean Beach/Point Loma area. Located by a restaurant and tucked behind an unassuming little house, this whimsical garden belongs to Louie and Kathi Williams. It’s completely open to the public, and the front gate at the entrance bears the name (aptly so) “Hidden Garden.” The place is filled with antiques, old treasures, and the occasional stray dog.

There’s no shortage of natural beauty – lovely plants, bright flowers, and running water infuse the area with a serenity and tranquility that seems out of place in such a busy suburb. Stained glass windows and a few mirrors add to the aura, and if you forget exactly where you are for a minute, it almost feels like something that exists within a fairytale.

Located at 4980 Niagara Avenue in Ocean Beach.

3. The Topiary Garden

Located at 3549 Union Street in Mission Hills, this extremely well kept – and extensive – topiary garden looks like something out of Edward Scissorhands and never fails to surprise the average passersby. About 10 years ago, the couple who owns the property obtained a garden filled with merely a few basic shrubs and some greenery. After a few months, the couple decided to create a shape for each plant and began to sculpt the trees – each one inspired by the various placed the two have traveled. Included countries are Asia, Europe, North Africa, Hawaii, and a few places in the heart of North America.

They’ve visited gardens in Thailand, several Botanical Gardens in Portland, Maine, as well as the famous Bouchard Gardens in Victoria, BC. Their most recent trip was to the Pyramids of Giza – displayed as three quite remarkably lifelike pyramids in the garden. The garden is totally free to visitors, and is done purely out of a love of traveling and creating something that people will enjoy! Head over to Mission Hills and take a look.

4. Balboa Park’s Desert Garden

Venture across the Balboa Park Pedestrian Bridge and turn left – not right, like most visitors usually do in order to see the roses. Tucked away down the path are more than two acres of drought-resistant plants in unique and varying shapes and sizes. 

Blooming season is especially incredible, though it’s recommended to go at any time of year simply for the interesting plant variations and shapes. You’ll find an expanse of more than 1,300 plants, including succulents and other cactus-like species.

[Images courtesy of everytrail.com, obrag.org, thebohemianluxelife.blogspot, flikr.com, roadsideamerica.com]

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One thought on “4 Unique Gardens in San Diego

  1. The Queen Califa garden isn’t always open anymore. Because of problems with vandalism, they’ve had to put locks on the gates. Last time I went to show the garden to someone in the middle of the day, it was locked up. And I’m not sure who you would check with beforehand to find out when it will be open. You can still see a fair amount from outside of the gates, but it’s not the same as wandering through it, unfortunately.

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