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Magnificent Bay Area public gardens that inspire, inform and delight.

Inspiring Bay Area Public Gardens | Pacific Nurseries
As a landscape pro, your clients look to you to create a beautiful, water-wise, and fire-resistant landscape. So where do you look for inspiration that provides fresh ideas, innovative design concepts, and unique use of plants that you can integrate into your projects?

Fortunately, we are blessed with many world-class, Bay Area public gardens that demonstrate the beauty, diversity, and opportunity of what a landscape can be.

Inspiration within reach at Bay Area public gardens

If you need to look at a landscape challenge a bit differently, or if you just need some landscape inspiration from those who have accomplished award-winning success, the list of renowned Bay Area public gardens below is a great place to start.

Plan on spending some quality time at any one of them—or all of them—to recharge your spirit, find some green relief, or just enjoy the result of inspiring landscape design


  • | 34 acres
  • | +10,000 plant specimens
  • | 9 geographic plant regions
  • | Workshops
  • | Exhibitions
  • | Tours
  • | Events
  • | Rentals
  • | Garden Shop
Established in 1890, this one of a few Bay Area public gardens that serve as a resource for horticultural study, international research and conservation.

University of California Arboretum + Botanical Garden has a mission to develop and maintain a diverse living collection of plants, to support teaching and worldwide research in plant biology. Their goal is to further the conservation of plant diversity and promote public understanding and appreciation of plants and the natural environment.
University of California Arboretum + Botanical Garden | Pacific Nurseries
Over 10,000 plant specimens in 9 geographic regions | UC Berkeley Arboretum + Botanical Garden
As a 34 acre Botanical Garden, it offers one of the most diverse landscapes in the world. There are thousands of plant types featured in the garden including many rare and endangered species. This sprawling garden is organized geographically and features nine regions of naturalistic plantings including a major collection of California native plants including:

  • | Pacific coast iris | Iris spp.
  • | Poppies | Eschscholzia spp.
  • | Manzanitas | Arctostaphylos spp.
  • | California-lilac | Ceanothus spp.
  • | Flannel Bush | Fremontodendron californicum

The garden was formally established in 1890 by E. L. Greene, the first chairman of the Department of Botany. His intent was to form a living collection of the native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants of the State of California. He also gathered many species from neighboring Pacific Coast states and within a decade, the garden expanded to encompass plants from all continents and over 10,000 species.

Today, the Garden offers many classes and learning opportunities including:

  • | How to prune trees
  • | Cultivating succulents
  • | Garden Design
  • | How to prune trees
  • | How to prune trees

Both landscape pros and garden enthusiasts will find these rich presentations educational and informative. To learn more about the UC Berkeley Arboretum or to make a donation of financial support, just click the button below.
Walnut Creek


  • | 3.5 acres
  • | Focus on drought-tolerant plants
  • | Workshops + Seminars
  • | Tours
  • | Events
  • | Rentals
  • | Garden Shop
Ruth Bancroft Garden is one of the most outstanding examples of a garden that is focused on water conservation. It reflects many of the best plants and practices for use in our drought-prone, Mediterranean climate here in the Bay Area. The garden also houses important collections of aloes, agaves, yuccas, and echeverias.

The mission of the Ruth Bancroft Garden is to preserve an exceptional example of garden design and to continue to develop its collection of water-conserving plants for both education and public enjoyment.
Ruth Bancroft Garden | Pacific Nurseries
Amazing collections of aloes, agaves, yuccas, and echeverias | Ruth Bancroft Garden
The garden occupies land in Walnut Creek that was once part of a 400-acre fruit farm that produced walnuts and Bartlett pears in the Ygnacio Valley.

The farm was started in the 1880s by Hubert Howe Bancroft, a famous historian, and publisher. From 1930 through the late 1960s, the farm remained in operation while being passed through to generations of Bancroft’s. The last walnut orchard on the property was cut down in 1971, and Philip Bancroft, Jr. gave the land to his wife, Ruth, to plant a new garden using the large variety of succulents that she had collected.

She enlisted Lester Hawkins, co-owner of Western Hills Nursery, to design the layout of pathways and garden beds. Ruth started many of the plants from one-gallon containers and by trial and error, she discovered how to use succulents in the landscape and protect them from winter rains and the occasional hard freeze.

The result of her work was a unique, one-of-a-kind landscape that features exquisite combinations of contrasting textures, forms, and colors of water-wise and drought-tolerant plants.

The Garden offers an array of workshops, tours, and seminars for the professional and the home gardener. These programs range from special tours of the Garden to all-day Dry Garden Design Seminars.

To learn more about the Ruth Bancroft Garden or to make a donation of financial support, just click the button below.


  • | 20 acres
  • | Focus on flora + plants of Asia
  • | Workshops + Lectures
  • | Tours
  • | Events
  • | Gift Shop
The Sonoma Botanical Garden is one of the most exotic and biologically diverse environments in Sonoma County and the Northern Bay Area. As one of the Bay Area public gardens, it’s recognized worldwide as a unique botanical garden that has thrived for over 30 years in the remains of an abandoned quarry in Sonoma Valley.

The garden’s mission is to advance the conservation, study, and cultivation of the flora of Asia, encourage the enjoyment of open space, and foster an appreciation for the cultures, traditions, and aesthetics of East Asian countries.

The result is a rare and beautiful collection of unique plants, in one location, that provides an ideal place for plant research, education, or just a peaceful place for an afternoon picnic. And best of all, the garden escaped the 2017 wildfire catastrophe in the surrounding Sonoma area.

Sonoma Botanical Garden offers over 25 acres of of mature, flowering plants including: Magnolias, dogwoods, maples, birches, roses, lilies, rhododendrons, and many other familiar and exotic species.
Quarryhill Botanical Garden
Over 25 acres of of Asian plantings + landscape design | Quarryhill Botanical Garden
Surrounded by ponds, waterfalls, and vistas of the Sonoma Valley, the garden welcomes visitors year-round to enjoy their focus on Asian plantings and landscape design. There are many meandering paths with hidden places to sit and relax while taking in all that this unique garden has to offer.

Education at Sonoma Botanical Garden takes many forms including docent-led tours about the garden, lectures, and workshops on worldwide plant extinction crises, the importance of conservation, and the effect that trees and plants have on our daily lives.

Additional seasonal workshops focus on more local gardening topics including:
  • | Garden Design for Year-round color
  • | Basics of Drip Irrigation
  • | Form and Foliage with Minimal Care
  • | Designing with Ornamental Grasses
  • | Long-lasting Floral Arrangements
  • | And More

To learn more about the Sonoma Botanical Garden or to make a donation of financial support, just click the button below.


  • | 654-acre estate
  • | 16-acre formal gardens
  • | 10-acre orchard
  • | 36,000 sq ft Georgian style home
  • | 700 feet of espaliered apples + pears
  • | 300′ English style perennial border
  • | 224 formally pruned Irish yew trees
  • | 3 English fruit cages
  • | Reflecting pools
  • | Sunken garden
  • | Pavilion and terrace
  • | Bowling green
  • | Walled garden
  • | Woodland garden
  • | Tennis court
  • | Rose garden
  • | Cutting garden
  • | Vegetable garden
  • | Formal hedges + allées
  • | Estate Trail
  • | National Registry of Historic Places listed
  • | Workshops + Classes
  • | Tours
  • | Events
  • | Rentals
  • | Cafe
  • | Gift Shop
Filoli (pronounced “Fie-low-lee”) was designed and built as an enduring country estate for prominent San Franciscans, Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn II. The garden is dedicated to the preservation, interpretation, and stewardship of the cultural traditions and natural history of the estate for public education and enjoyment.

Filoli’s extensive formal garden was built between 1917 and 1929. After the Bourn’s passed away, it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth, owners of the Matson Navigation Company. In 1975, the Roth’s donated the house and formal garden to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations.

It remains remarkably preserved as one of the few surviving and best examples of an English Renaissance-style garden.
Bay Area public gardens | Pacific Nurseries
A stunning example of an English Renaissance in one of the many Bay Area public gardens | Filoli
Local artist, Bruce Porter is given credit as the designer of the gardens but his exact contribution to the garden’s architecture is somewhat unclear. Local horticulturist, floral designer, and early plant broker, Isabella Worn located large specimen plants for Filoli and Hearst’s San Simeon. She was an authority on the selection of flowers and foliage used in the design of Filoli.

The Bourns cherished the native live oaks which flourished at Filoli. The terraces and formal gardens were designed around these wild trees which eventually grew to become the dominant canopy over the garden.

Exquisitely beautiful and ever-changing, Filoli offers visitors the chance to learn about the estate’s renowned horticulture collection and enjoy the beauty and serenity of its design. Many opportunities for community learning and professional development are offered with classes and programs that include:
  • | History
  • | Architecture
  • | Design
  • | Landscape Preservation
  • | Conservation
  • | Botany + Horticulture

Filoli also offers many education opportunities and seasonal events including: one–day classes, a popular Certificate Program or a full Year-in-the-Garden program. All programs are taught by knowledgeable instructors and Filoli’s Garden staff for both landscape pros and garden enthusiasts with rich curriculum, one–on–one instruction and take-away reference materials.

To learn more about Filoli, just click the button below.


  • | 148 acres
  • | +1,500 plant specimens
  • | Focus on drought-tolerant plants
  • | Workshops + Seminars
  • | Tours
  • | Research
  • | Events
  • | Rentals
  • | Garden Shop
San Francisco Botanical Garden is a living museum within Golden Gate Park, offering 55 acres of both landscaped gardens and open spaces. As one of the premier Bay Area public gardens, it is known for its unique, diverse, and significant botanical collections that showcase over 8,500 different kinds of plants from around the globe.

The Bay Area’s mild temperatures, wet winters, and dry summers, coupled with San Francisco’s famous coastal fog, provide a range of climatic conditions that exist in few other botanical gardens in the world. These unique conditions allow the garden to grow and conserve plants from high altitude cloud forests right here at sea level that includes some that are no longer found in their native habitats.
SF Botanical Garden | Pacific Nurseries
A diverse collection of over 8,500 different plants from around the globe | SF Botanical Garden
The extensive Magnolia collection, for example, is recognized as the world’s fourth most significant collection of Magnolia’s for conservation.

The garden’s mission is to create, sustain and interpret a distinct, documented collection of Mediterranean, mild temperate, and tropical cloud forest plants displayed in designed gardens and habitats that provide a place of exceptional beauty and natural sanctuary.

Featured regions within the garden include:
  • | California Native Garden
  • | Redwood Grove
  • | Succulent Garden
  • | Garden of Fragrance
  • | Andean Cloud Forest
  • | Chilean Garden
  • | Mesoamerican + Southeast Asian Cloud Forests
  • | Rhododendron Garden
  • | Ancient Plant Garden
  • | Moon Viewing Garden
  • | Conifer collection
  • | Magnolia collection

The Garden also offers a place where visitors can experience nature, learn about plants and the environment in an “outdoor classroom”. They can also relax and seek respite from city life in an urban sanctuary that generates awareness and understanding of the need to protect nature.

Landscape professionals and dedicated gardeners will find the diverse beauty of our planet reflected in the extensive gardens located right in San Francisco. The garden also encourages others to share their passion or landscape experience to build communities that support the garden’s mission. To learn more about San Francisco Botanical Garden or to make a donation of financial support, just click the button below.


  • | 148 acres
  • | +1,500 plant specimens
  • | Focus on drought tolerant plants
  • | Workshops + Seminars
  • | Tours
  • | Research
  • | Events
  • | Rentals
  • | Garden Shop
UC Santa Cruz Arboretum + Botanical Garden is a research and teaching facility committed to plant conservation and serves both the campus and the public.

The 148 acre facility has come a long way since a humble beginning over 50 years ago. It’s now considered to have one of the world’s premier collections of drought tolerant and water-efficient plants from arid regions that include:

  • | Australia
  • | South Africa
  • | New Zealand
  • | California
  • | South America

The arboretum is divided into distinct areas reflecting these regions and also includes a Fragrance Garden, Butterfly Garden, Eucalyptus Grove, Hummingbird Garden, and more.

This one-of-a-kind facility offers both students and research faculty opportunities to grow and experiment with living plants. They maintain collections of rare and threatened plants of unusual scientific interest.
Bay Area public gardens | Pacific Nurseries
World-class collections of drought tolerant plants from arid regions | UC Santa Cruz Botanical Garden
Particular specialties are world conifers, primitive angiosperms, and bulb-forming plant families. Many of the species in the garden collections are not otherwise available for study in other botanical gardens and arboreta.

The Arboretum + Botanical Garden also hosts seasonal and local events that educate and engage the public about plant diversity and conservation. Their ongoing activities in importing, selecting, and breeding choice ornamental plants that are drought tolerant and pest resistant are noteworthy for landscape professionals.

To learn more about the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum + Botanical Garden or to make a donation of financial support, just click the button below.


  • | 20 acres
  • | Gamble House
  • | Greenhouse
  • | Workshops + Seminars
  • | Rentals
  • | Tours
  • | Events
  • | Gift Shop
Elizabeth Frances Gamble, granddaughter of the co-founder of Procter & Gamble, left her house and garden to the City of Palo Alto.

Today, the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden is a public place of beauty and civic pride that was born from Elizabeth’s extraordinary vision and gift. For over 30 years, it has been open to the public every day for free.
Bay Area public gardens | Pacific Nurseries
A local, community resource for horticultural education, inspiration + enjoyment | Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden
The Garden is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the historic house and garden as an oasis of beauty and tranquility, providing a community resource for horticultural education, inspiration, and enjoyment. In 1985 Gamble Garden became a public garden entirely supported by its non-profit horticultural foundation.

This great resource offers beautiful floral cutting gardens, a horticultural reference library, fountains, tranquil patios, and seasonal classes and seminars that include:
  • | Planting for privacy
  • | Propagation and succulent maintenance
  • | Yard design without lawns
  • | Composting basics

To learn more about the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden or to make a donation of financial support, just click the button below.

Acres of more inspiration in Colma

One of the easiest and most effective ways to get re-inspired is to take a walk around the Pacific Nurseries growing grounds conveniently located right in Colma. It’s guaranteed to reinvigorate your creative spirit and spark a new idea or two for an upcoming project or installation.
Growing Grounds | Pacific Nurseries
Find everything from the ordinary plant to the exotic in over 40 acres inventory | Pacific Nurseries
You’ll see and learn first hand about new and unusual plant varieties growing right here in our ever-expanding selection of plants. By seeing new specimens, in sizes and plant forms in their prime, you’ll foster creative ideas that will enhance the success of your project.

Because we’ve integrated the multiple stages of plant development across our facilities—from seedling to large specimen tree—it’s more than likely that we have something in our over 40 acres of plants that will fuel your inspiration.

And if you need a plant material Estimate or would like to place an Order, just click on over to use our convenient ONLINE ESTIMATE | ORDER FORM.

Do Bay Area public gardens inspire your landscape design?

Do you visit these Bay Area public gardens? Share how you find inspiration and design ideas with our community of Bay Area landscape pros. We look forward to hearing about your favorite places for plants.

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