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Balboa Park is a true gem of San Diego. The park began taking shape in the late 1800’s. Land preserved by civic leaders of San Diego was later shaped into the park we know today, largely by the mother of Balboa Park, Kate Sessions. With a strong foothold in nature,  the art and culture of the park were soon to follow. 

ROSE GARDEN The Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden is truly glorious. A haven for rose lovers and aficionados alike. Bursting with color and fragrance, the circuitous paths keep me entranced for quite some time. I marvel a the varieties and colors, taking note for my roses at home. I met a volunteer and spent the better part our time talking about the intricacies of iceberg roses. Featuring 130 varieties, the best time to visit is April and May. As I leave, I pause and think about the visitors, each one taking a moment to stop and smell the roses. 

OLD CACTUS GARDEN Adjacent to the Rose garden, the Old Cactus Garden loop trail is a must see. Some of the plants in this garden seem prehistoric. A beautiful juxtaposition between large spikes and silky vibrant flowers. It’s an easy stroll, where you’re guaranteed to see something new and if you’re lucky a pair of bunnies or lizards galore if you look closely.

CALIFORNIA NATIVE PLANT GARDEN A favorite for my husband and I. You might walk right past it if you’re not looking for it. The trees, shrubs, flowers and succulents of this park are nestled on a slope in a circular path. Bursting with natives, this garden is a great place to learn more about the plants native to the region. We like to go see what is in season and get ideas for our own mini native garden at home. Shoutout to Moosa Creek Nursery where we’ve sourced most of our natives.

JAPANESE FRIENDSHIP GARDEN This garden is an experience all it’s own. Complete with a coy pond and abundant water features, this space transports you to another land and culture. If you can, visit during cherry blossom season in the early spring. This park is free to residents every third Tuesday of the month or with an Explorer pass, otherwise the entrance fee is well worth the $12. 

BOTANICAL BUILDING Perhaps the most iconic location in the park, the Botanical Building sits at the head of the Lily Pond. Large palms, succulents and orchids reach out from all dimensions. I remember coming here with my mom as a little girl, a lasting memory of after school picnics 

The San Diego Floral Association has a wonderful library in the park that is open to the public. Stop by to chat with the volunteers about plants, read up on something your curious about and maybe pick up a new book or two to add to your library. 

This is by no means a complete list of the gardens at Balboa Park. Visit their website to learn more and plan your next trip!

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