It’s been two years since the coronavirus pandemic cast a shadow across much of daily life, but in San Diego County — blessed with abundant sunshine and a temperate climate — one place has consistently offered solace: the garden.
In that time, experienced gardeners have become more fruitful, while novices — whether through curiosity or financial necessity — have started their first-ever vegetable garden, planted succulents or tried their hand at growing herbs and flowers.
Now, with a downturn in COVID-19 cases and easing restrictions, the spring garden tours and shows that help nurture this passion are back on track across the region, with events from mid-March through May. In addition to raising much-needed funding for group projects and outreach, the tours and other events provide inspiration for home gardeners from coast to hilltops to desert.
Here are such 16 events, in date order. Some sell out quickly, so don’t delay on getting tickets (and, possibly, a discount). Also on your checklist: comfortable shoes, a hat, sunscreen, water — and a reminder to breathe in the beauty.
Cherry Blossom Festival at Japanese Friendship Garden
Delicate pink-hued tree blooms take center stage at the Cherry Blossom Festival at Japanese Friendship Garden San Diego, an annual tradition to welcome spring and celebrate the Japanese custom of hanami, or “flower viewing.” Visitors can stroll the upper and lower garden with koi ponds, bonsai, colorful floral features and tea garden. Among the planned highlights are live performances including taiko drummers, a children’s area with crafts, a beer and sake garden, a tea and dessert garden, and 20 food vendors and merchants. Tip: Download the garden’s newly released app at niwa.org/app for a map, festival lineup, plant identification and details about ongoing programs.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with last admission at 5 p.m. at 2215 Pan American Road E. in Balboa Park
Tickets: $12 general admission, $10 military/student/senior with ID, $18 VIP, free for children under 6
Borrego Desert Garden Tour
The five properties spotlighted in the 22nd annual Borrego Desert Garden Tour include a serene artist’s sanctuary with pool and small citrus orchard, a 3-acre Southwestern-inspired estate featuring the owners’ artistic talents, and a 9-acre family-run date ranch with scores of mature date palms and cactus garden. All five gardens are outside, with no homes or walk-throughs as in previous years, and all are spacious properties so people can spread out, said Betsy Knaak, executive director of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association (ABDNHA). Proceeds benefit the association, a desert education nonprofit that marked its 50th anniversary in 2021.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tickets: $30 general admission, $22 for ABDNHA members, $20 for ABDNHA volunteers
Info:abdnha.org/gardentour or visit the ABDNHA Desert Nature Center, 652 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs
San Diego County Orchid Society International Spring Show & Sale
Expect dazzling color and elegant form at the annual orchid show and sale, where local collectors, societies and vendors will design and stage multiple large-scale orchid displays. Displays will feature locally bred hybrids and rare species from around the world, and the show will include individual plants from amateur and professional growers. Themed “Orchid Magic,” the spring show is the society’s premier event for the year. Among the vendors selling orchids and other collectible plants are Andy’s Orchids, Cal-Orchid, Casa de las Orquideas, Ecuagenera, Mundiflora, Orchid Design, Sunset Valley Orchids and Tuyet’s Orchids. Classes will cover topics such as caring for a new orchid purchase, reblooming, repotting and orchids to grow outdoors. Free printouts will explain care for each of a dozen types of orchids.
Hours: 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Scottish Rite Center, 1895 Camino del Rio S. in Mission Valley.
Tickets: $10 daily or $12 for weekend pass, free for children under 12
San Diego Horticultural Society
Spring Garden Tour
This early-season tour explores “The Peaks and Valleys of Poway” and focuses on established gardens whose owners have been collecting plants for decades. The nine featured spaces include a large estate, a succulent garden with the owner’s mosaic creations, a landscape devoted to California native plants from the founder of the CalScape plant-selection website, and an educational working garden with greenhouses, orchards and organic farmland that has won a national award. Plein-air artists, matched to each garden, will paint on site during the tour. Garden designer and author John Beaudry will do a book signing of “Garden Sanctuary: Designing for Comfort, Wholeness and Connection.”
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets: $35 general admission, $30 for San Diego Horticultural Society members. Tickets must be purchased online, in advance.
California Native Garden Tour
With the theme “Circling Back to Nature — California Native Gardens of East San Diego County,” the San Diego chapter of California Native Plant Society offers entry to five private gardens staffed with interpretive docents, owners and designers in Mount Helix, La Mesa, Allied Gardens, Santee and other East County areas. The route includes an additional seven front-yard inspiration gardens and two public native gardens. Gardens illustrate varied habitat plants, dry streambed bioswales, pool-to-pond conversion, water catchment devices, slope gardens, charming water features, bridges, sculptures and more. The Water Conservation Garden will showcase two native plant habitats and a seasonal bioswale and discuss butterflies as pollinators. Also planned are native plant painting demonstrations by artist Marjorie Pezzoli, CNPS book and seed sales, and native plant sales from Moosa Creek Nursery.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets: $30 until April 8; $35 at the door, available only at the Water Conservation Garden, 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive W., El Cajon
Poway Valley Garden Club Flower Show & Plant Sale
Under the banner “Fantasy in the Garden,” the Poway Valley Garden Club will kick off its 43rd annual flower show at Old Poway Park, a display of horticultural entries and design entries likely to be sprinkled with pixies, goblins, mermaids, trolls and leprechauns. Categories such as “Magical Creatures,” “Enchanted Worlds” and “Storybook Worlds” will include miniature gardens in a variety of judging classes. Visitors can learn about using lichen and moss and the basics of fern care. Plants will be available for sale.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Old Poway Park, 14134 Midland Road, Poway
Tickets: Free admission
Coronado Flower Show
Billed as the largest tented flower show in the United States, the Coronado Flower Show is celebrating 100 years since its founding in 1922. The centennial event, presented by the Coronado Floral Association and the city of Coronado, fills most of a city block with landscape displays, floral competitions, lectures, demonstrations and more. The show will offer live bandstand entertainment, food, a beer and wine garden and shopping for arts and crafts, plants and gardening supplies. A Home Front competition will recognize exceptional home and business gardens throughout Coronado.
Hours: 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Spreckels Park, 601 Orange Ave., Coronado
Tickets: Available at the door for $5 per day, free for children under 12 and for Coronado Floral Association members
Bernardo Gardeners Spring Garden Tour
A self-guided tour of six gardens in Rancho Bernardo and surrounding communities will include a mixture of grandeur, native plant expertise and touches of whimsy. The tour includes a multilevel property with pergolas and columns draped in wisteria; a 3-acre site converted into a nature reserve with California native plants; and a property of more than an acre that features waterwise and tropical plants, an orchard, raised-bed gardens and a butterfly garden. Master Gardeners will be on site to answer questions. Tour proceeds will help support area school gardens and horticulture scholarships. Vendors will offer handmade crafts, jewelry, garden art and fine art, plants and arrangements.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Tickets: $30, available at brownpapertickets.com or in person at Walter Andersen Nursery, 12755 Danielson Court in Poway, and El Plantio Nursery, 1322 San Pasqual Valley Road. Day-of tickets are cash or check only.
Info: bernardogardeners.org/spring-garden-tour.html or (858) 449-4240
Point Loma Garden Walk
The yearly walking tour of home gardens in Point Loma Heights is known as “San Diego’s most beautiful way to support Rady Children’s Hospital,” presented by hospital auxiliary volunteers from the Point Loma/Dana unit. The 2022 tour will feature diverse gardens, with waterfalls, outdoor rooms, canyon decks, garden enhancements, a staghorn fern garden and more. Tour net proceeds benefit the San Diego hospital’s Division of Plastic Surgery Craniofacial Services. The event will also feature local artisans, crafters, clothing, jewelry and food trucks.
Tickets: $30, or $25 each for a purchase of 10 or more
APRIL 30-MAY 1
94th annual Rose Show and Auction
From the San Diego Rose Society and California Coastal Rose Society
Passionate rose fans will find many to put on their wish list at the San Diego Rose Society’s 94th annual Rose Show, held in El Cajon. Rare and unusual varieties will be auctioned on Sunday by the California Coastal Rose in the Exhibit Hall. A silent auction will begin at noon, with the live auction at 2 p.m.
Hours: 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Ronald Reagan Community Center, 195 E. Douglas Ave., El Cajon
Tickets: Admission and parking are free; donations are accepted.
Julian Wildflower Show
The Julian Woman’s Club will present the 96th annual Wildflower Show at the group’s clubhouse, 2607 C St. in Julian. Club members collect specimens from the over 850 plant species in the area surrounding Julian, with permission from private property owners. The plant display ranges from desert cactuses to high mountain dogwood, gathered in a 15-mile radius from the historic mining town of Julian. Plants are labeled and arranged by area of origin. In addition to displaying these “jewels of the backcountry,” the show focuses on how to nurture them by learning about the plants, conservation efforts and what grows best in our climate and region. The event will include speakers, displays of local school artwork and science projects that are wildflower-related, and items for sale, including books, seeds and plants, as well as an opportunity for raffle prizes.
Hours: Runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.
Tickets: Admission is free, but donations are accepted. The Julian Woman’s Club provides scholarships and supports other local nonprofit organizations.
Info: julianwomansclub.org or email to Patty Haley
Mission Hills Garden Walk
The Mission Hills Garden Walk, a longtime tradition on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend, follows a “Home Grown” theme in 2022, with a focus on edible gardening. During a 2-mile stroll, visitors can learn how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their existing garden plans and discover how little space is really needed to yield enough produce to sustain a family. Most of this year’s gardens are new to the walk, and a scavenger hunt is planned with a prize for all youths. Walk proceeds will support community improvement projects and scholarships.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with start at Mission Hills Nursery, 1525 Fort Stockton Drive. Start times must be reserved and are staggered to limit the number of people in a garden at any one time. Face masks and social distancing are expected.
Tickets: $30, available starting March 15, and free for children 10 or younger. Tickets must be purchased in advance and may sell out.
Clairemont Outdoor Living and Garden Tour
This self-guided tour of 13 gardens in Clairemont, Bay Ho and Bay Park showcases creative and sustainable solutions to the area’s terrain challenges, including sloping hillsides, small backyards, clay soil and Clairemont “gems” (large rocks). Beautiful cut boulders make a spectacular curved staircase. Owner-designed perimeter fencing keeps out the wildlife yet allows for grand views of the canyons. Also see waterwise landscaping, natives, succulents, bromeliads and vegetable planting. Cuffel Farms will be on hand with air plants and bromeliads. Educators will be available for free instruction on tool sharpening, composting, food dehydration, vector control and more.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets: $20 for ages 12 to 59, $15 for seniors 60 or older, free for children 11 or younger, at clairemontonline.com through May 6. For an additional $5 per visitor, in-person tickets will be available for cash or check at Clairemont Square from 3 to 6 p.m. on May 6 and 9 a.m. to noon on May 7. Most gardens are a two- to 10-minute drive apart.
San Dieguito Art Guild’s Mother’s Day Weekend Art, Garden & Studio Tour
The San Dieguito Art Guild, a nonprofit group, will highlight eight eclectic properties from Encinitas to South Carlsbad during the 25th annual Mother’s Day Weekend Art, Garden & Studio Tour. Participants on the leisurely, self-guided driving tour can peek into artists’ studios, browse dozens of exhibits of locally made art, and relax in each unique coastal or inland garden. The tour will include a visit to the studios of artists who work in ceramics, oils, watercolor and copper, and a stop at a heritage museum. Artists from the guild will show and sell paintings, ceramics, glass, gourd art, fiber arts, photography and jewelry. Free refreshments will be served; tickets are good for both days, and homes may be revisited. This is the major fundraiser of the year for the San Dieguito Art Guild; a portion of proceeds will go to scholarships for art students at MiraCosta College.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Tickets: $35, free for ages 17 or younger; available in early April at the Off Track Gallery, 937 S. Coast Highway 101, Suite C-103, Encinitas; online at offtrackgallery.com; or at each home.
Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla and Secret Garden Boutique
This unique event, a key fundraiser for the La Jolla Historical Society’s education and public programs, provides a rare opportunity to stroll behind the garden gates of some of La Jolla’s most beautiful secluded gardens, often concealed by mature trees, vines or foliage. The Secret Garden Boutique at Wisteria Cottage will be open free to the public throughout the day, with gardening accessories, plants and gifts available for purchase. Also planned is a silent auction, and the Go Go Food Truck will offer locally sourced items.
Tickets: $50 general admission, $40 for La Jolla Historical Society members; Platinum Tour tickets, which include complimentary brunch and tour bus shuttles, are $150/$140. A Friday Night Soiree on May 13 is an intimate garden gathering with hors d’oeuvres, wine and music by candlelight, for $75.
Vista Garden Club Flower Show, Plant and Garden Art Sale
With the theme “Shall We Dance?” the Vista Garden Club’s 86th annual event features a flower show with entries welcome from members and the public, plant sales and garden art available for sale.
Hours: 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday for flower show; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday for plant and garden art sale, at Jim Porter Recreation Center, Brengle Terrace Park, 1200 Vale Terrace in Vista
Tickets: Free admission
Info: californiagardenclubs.com/vistagardenclub and facebook.com/vistagardenclub
Lynch is section editor for Home & Garden. She can be reached at [email protected]