Are there local places you’ve been meaning to VENTURE to but just haven’t gotten there for one reason or another?

For me, the Ventura Botanical Gardens was one of those places. My husband and I finally visited on a Friday in April, and we got to take our dog (Mondays are closed, Fridays are free, and leashed dogs are allowed Wednesdays and Fridays).

I was immediately impressed by the spring colors on the hillside! Thank you, recent rain.

We took in the sights and took note of the signage (different icons designate certain classifications, such as herbs, grasses, trees, shrubs, and vines). Then, we wound around up the hillside (there are stairs offering shortcuts between trails, too). The Gardens rise above City Hall in downtown Ventura and afford breathtaking views of the Pacific Coast.

Still in development, the grounds are being organized into plant collections: Chilean, South African, Australian, Californian, and Mediterranean. Apparently, all this biodiversity is compatible with a Californian climate!

I stopped in the Welcome Center shop for a souvenir, picked up a copy of the newsletter, and was pleased to find out my longtime friend David Wilk is a staff writer for the publication!

The first paragraph of the Winter, 2024 issue asks, “What does it mean to grow, delight, learn, and explore as we journey through a place, a day, or a lifetime?” I like the journey metaphor and mindset.

I interviewed Dave about the Gardens, and he said he is most struck by the tremendous community support involved in creating and maintaining the space. Support comes from volunteers (Cal Lu students even get college credit), donors, sponsors, staff, and the City of Ventura. If you go, you’ll see benches, sculptures, and plaques, recognizing donors and memorializing loved ones. What an awesome act to honor someone in an enduring and endearing way! Want to gift a tribute? Check out the petal path!

“Blessed are those who plant trees under whose shade they will never sit” (a wise proverb).

As a mom and substitute teacher, I noticed abundant opportunities for educational possibilities: botany, geography, horticulture, conservation, sustainability, agriculture…vocabulary.

To think, the VBG grew out of an idea one traveler had while abroad: Supposedly, she wondered, “What if Ventura had a world class botanical garden?”

At 107 acres, the preserve offers potential for tourism and expansion. Curious about becoming a member or intern? Interested in a guided tour, event, or workshop? Want to know about native plants and tree populations? Go to:!

As the site says, “The mission of the Ventura Botanical Gardens is to create and maintain public gardens for the preservation, education, cultural contribution and enhancement of the entire community.”

I recommend the VBG as a field trip to individuals, families, and teachers looking for inspiration as well as nature lovers who are curious about plant identification. The views up top are well worth the walk (with or without a dog). The day we visited was just before “May gray” set in along the coast. It was spectacularly clear! Looking out over the ocean, I felt like we’d traveled to a magical place far away: 567 Poli Street, Ventura, CA 93001.


(c)personal photo via Tamara Davis
(c)personal photo via Tamara Davis
(c)personal photo via Tamara Davis
(c)personal photo via Tamara Davis






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