Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, part 2: Succulents, Ocean Trail, and Dahlia Garden


In my last post I showed you the Perennial Garden and Heath and Heather Collection at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Ft. Bragg, California, which I visited in early August. Today let’s continue the tour, starting with the Succulent and Mediterranean Gardens.

My first thought upon seeing this beautiful garden of agaves, cactus, and other dry-loving plants was, Not fair! How is it that they can grow cool-summer plants like fuchsia and heather and heat-loving desert plants? The gardening world lacks justice, but I enjoyed the scene all the same.


Both succulents and Mediterranean plants appreciate good drainage, and mounded and gravelly planting beds keep their feet dry — a trick we can use in Austin too, to keep desert plants from drowning in rains like Hurricane Harvey just delivered.


Spikes and hot color!


Variegated agave and a winecup-looking flower, with Australian peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa ‘Jervis Bay Afterdark’) in the background.


Aloe, aeonium, and pig’s ear (Cotyledon orbiculata) succulents


Agave stricta, I think, and its fish-hooked, black-flowerbud bloom spike


A closeup of the agave flowers. Most agaves bloom once and then die, going out in a blaze of glory.


Houseleeks (Sempervivum calcareum) in bloom


On the Mediterranean side of the path, Australian beauties like grevillea spread their feathery foliage and curlicued, peach blossoms.


Touchable texture


Now at last we were ready to take the ocean trail to the Pacific, a half-mile walk through an extensive natural area populated by deer. This rustic gate made of branches helps keep deer out of the main gardens.


The ocean trail leads through a lush wooded area with ferns and a trickling stream. Crocosmia were growing wild here.


Farther along, a coastal pine forest of craggy trees makes an essential windbreak that protects the main gardens from the punishing wind and salt air of the ocean. I spotted a trod-on flower, pressed into the trail as if pressed between the pages of a book.


It was a pleasant stroll to reach to the coastal bluff offering views of the Pacific Ocean. In winter and spring you can spot migrating gray whales, I read. The trail meanders through a coastal prairie atop the bluff before circling back past an event lawn and then to…


…the Dahlia Garden, which was in full bloom in early August. The garden is located outside of the deer gate because dahlias are deer resistant, according to the garden’s website. I used their photos to try to identify the dahlias I photographed, starting with peachy-orange ‘Marmalade’.


‘Victoria Ann’ dahlia


An unknown pink ball dahlia


‘James Albin’ dahlia


‘Honka’ dahlia


An unknown red


‘Gonzo Grape’ dahlia


‘Victoria Ann’ dahlia


‘Crossfield Ebony’ dahlia


‘Ryan C’ dahlia


Hot-colored beauties


‘Bright Star’ dahlia


More ‘Bright Star’


Unknown red dahlia


More ‘Ryan C’?


A bee doing a split to get in there.


Unknown yellow


Unknown red


Unknown pink and white dahlia


‘Sterling Silver’ dahlia


Shades of red


One last closeup of these gorgeous flowers


Heading back to the main gardens, I spotted some naked ladies (Amaryllis belladonna), pretty pink-flowering bulbs I’d seen blooming all along the coast at the ends of driveways and by mailboxes, clearly a popular passalong plant.


Prehistoric-looking Gunnera manicata was in bloom too, its low-growing flowers resembling spiky ears of corn.


Back in the perennial garden, my daughter found a bench to lounge on, surrounded by lush foliage including…


Melianthus major ‘Antonow’s Blue’


Richly colored flowers dazzled my eyes.


Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’


‘Harlequin’ French marigold (Tagetes patula ‘Harlequin’)


Bidens ‘Beedance Painted Red’ and Bidens ferulifolia ‘Goldmarie’


A yellow Helenium and dark-blue salvia


Lavender-headed alliums atop mossy green stems


If you’re smitten with a particular plant in the gardens, you might be able to find it in the on-site nursery, which is appealingly displayed.


I longingly browsed but did not buy for my Death Star-blasted Texas garden.


In the gift shop, I was thrilled to find a copy of my book The Water-Saving Garden for sale. Thanks for carrying it, MCBG!


Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens wowed us, and I’m so glad we were able to visit during our road trip.

Up next: Supersized trees in Redwood National Park and a hike in Fern Canyon. For a look back at part 1 of my visit to Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden, including the colorful Perennial and Heath/Heather gardens, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Cactus & Succulent Society hosts its Fall Show and Sale on September 2 & 3, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, at Zilker Botanical Garden (2220 Barton Springs Road). Come see rare and beautiful cacti and succulents and shop for plants and handcrafted pottery. Admission is free with paid entry to Zilker Botanical Garden ($2 adults, $1 children and seniors).

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

14 Responses

  1. What stunning gardens no matter where you look. I was in Mendocino in 1972 and I am sure there was no garden there then. Just hippies who all went to the edge of the cliffs and played flutes and danced at sunset. Quite romantic and a lovely memory.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I think it was established around 1980, Linda. I’m smiling over your romantic memory of the hippie flute playing and dancing on the cliffs. It does sound lovely — thanks for sharing. —Pam

  2. All that and a nursery too?! Okay…I’m going to start trying to wear Andrew down. We must visit.

  3. Kris P says:

    Mendocino does seem to be in one of those magic gardening zones that allows anything and everything to thrive. Even the Grevillea ‘Peaches & Cream’ looks more robust than mine. And the dahlias! As if I needed anything more to feed my growing dahlia addiction, you just added a few more to the growing list of varieties I’d like to try.

  4. That first picture is a knock-out. What a phenomenal mixture of plants. I love seeing those cacti towering over what appears as a cottage garden. Then the dahlia garden….be still my heart. So many different shapes and colors.

  5. Carol says:

    Just beautiful! Was there some sort of support system for the dahlias?

    • Pam/Digging says:

      If there was staking, it was well hidden. I only noticed a support on the ‘Honka’ dahlias. But I wasn’t really looking for that. I was pretty focused on the top view! —Pam

  6. Alison says:

    Gorgeous photos of their Dahlias! I love them, and I plan to put in a cutting garden this fall, so this just adds more fuel to that fire. I can hardly wait to start planting it up, if only our rain would return and this blasted heat and smoke from wildfires would go away.

  7. Peter/Outlaw says:

    So gorgeous! How nice to have the trail out through the meadow with views of the coast along with the fab garden and nursery.

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