Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens was founded in 1961 by retired nurseryman Ernest Schoefer and his wife, Betty. Ernest's keen eye spotted the ample supply of water augmented by the mild coastal climate and quality soil essential to acid-loving plants like Rhododendrons. The Grand Opening of the Gardens was in 1966. By 1992, the Gardens had been purchased with grants from the California Coastal Conservancy and transferred to the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Park District.
The Gardens is known for its tender species rhododendrons that produce some of the most fragrant blossoms of the year. Native to the cloud forests of Southeast Asia and the Himalayas, these gems are restricted to a narrow band along the northern California coast in the U.S., where they thrive in the foggy, coastal climate.
In March and April, hybrid rhododendrons tower overhead, dropping petals on the trails below. These old-time hybrids, planted over 40 years ago,are hard to find in nurseries today. Yet hybrids such as 'Cynthia' with its pink trusses continue to elicit "ooohs" and "aahs" from visitors. A special group is our Fort Bragg Collection, comprised of rhododendrons hybridized in Fort Bragg. Some, such as 'Noyo Chief,' the official flower of Fort Bragg, have become popular in the nursery trade.
The Perennial Garden is a delight with bulbs,flowers and grasses blooming from spring to fall. Visitors are often surprised that a mild and sometimes foggy climate can accommodate cactus and succulents, yet many grow well here.
The collection of heaths and heathers is a national treasure as are the species camellias. Equally if not more important, the natural areas of the garden harbor six different rare and endangered plants.A wonderfully weird forest of pines leads to the breezy bluff of the coastal prairies and views of the Pacific Ocean in all of its moods.
The Gardens has become a haven for bird watchers with the list of bird species now at over 150.It's rare to spot a red-throated loon or double-crested cormorant in spring, but in summer they are common, as are the black oystercatcher, which frequents the rocky coastline year-round. Ospreys, hawks, sandpipers, plovers and Canada geese are also regulars. If you're vigilant and look carefully, on very rare occasions, you might even spot an ash-throated flycatcher, a savannah sparrow or a red-breasted nuthatch.
Over 60,000 people a year experience the wonderful and often mysterious journey through the Gardens. It is a place to play, to contemplate, to learn, to relax, to touch, to smell, to feel, to enjoy, to be inspired, to walk your dog, to experience the fragile joys of life, to respect, to conserve, and to love.