All photos by Garrick Ramirez unless otherwise noted
Here’s a colorful post to brighten your day: a virtual tour of the many flowers in blossom throughout Santa Cruz. The county’s vibrant floral displays are peacocking something fierce, luring both bees and Instagrammers. Below are four spots where you can snap your own photos and take home a little bit of the area’s color. Pop some virtual Claritin and enjoy the tour!
UC Santa Cruz Arboretum
The Arboretum at UCSC (celebrating 50 years this year along with UC Santa Cruz itself) might be one of the most underrated destinations in Santa Cruz. It’s open to the public and sports a world of beauty — specifically flora from parts of the globe that share our enviable Mediterranean climate (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and California to be exact). With such dazzling splendor, you’ll flood your friends’ Instagram feed within the first 30 minutes of a visit. It’s an incredibly peaceful place whose solitude is only interrupted by birdsong and the buzz of hummingbirds. You’ll spy sleek quail, fuzzy bunnies and craggily-skinned lizards darting between bushes. I had the benefit of a staff member guiding me through the property and pointing out overlooked details and fascinating plant functions. You can enjoy the same insight by joining a tour on the first Saturday of each month. Here’s a sample of what’s in bloom right now:
Why are these flowers referred to as Pincushions? Because it’s a lot easier to say than Leucospermum cordifolium, a striking shrub that belongs to the Protea Family from South Africa
Meet the blazing Telopea ‘Fireball’ from Australia, also in the Protea Family
Another great spot to browse seasonal flowers is at Santa Cruz’s many farmers markets. I recently swung by the Downtown market (Wednesday afternoons from 1:30pm – 6:30pm) to scope out what was in bloom. It was a festive scene of food stands, live music, and stands piled high with multicolored produce and flowers. I found a bounty of bouquets at the Route One, Blue Heron and Thomas Farms stands. My only challenge was squeezing between couples debating the best bouquet in order to grab a pic. But take a look at those Ranunculus from Route One and tell me it wasn’t worth it.
Route One Ranunculus…say it five times fast!
Calendula, Garlic Scapes, Statice and Saponaria at the Thomas Farms stand
The colorful lineup at Blue Heron Farms. Only $5 a bunch!
The Garden Company Nursery & Gift Shop
Tucked away on Westside’s Mission Street is this delightful oasis. For over 30 years, the family-owned garden center and gift shop has been an alluring destination for both the green thumb set and casual browser. Sure the curation of plants — from potted succulents to colorful vines — is expansive. But I think what sets this shop apart is its knowledgeable crew. At any given time, you’ll note numerous staff members tending the garden and chatting with visitors. There’s always something in bloom, but here’s what I saw on a recent visit:
A Kangaroo Paw, or Anigozanthos, strikes a pose in front of a T Rex photobomb
You’ll spot several varieties of the gorgeous Alstroemeria, more commonly known as Peruvian Lilies
Test your floral IQ with this busy pic: the white and red flowers that line the front row are Osteospermum. The reddish flowers with maroon & gold leaves are Pelargonium, or ‘Occold Shield’. The tall shrub with small red flowers is a Leptospermum — or New Zealand Tea Tree. And way in the back are the the pink flowers of a Hydrangea.
Mountain Feed and Farm Supply
Don’t let the name fool you. Mountain Feed and Farm Supply much, much more than pitchforks and giant bags of feed (although it is that too). The place is an emporium of breezy — and sustainable — California living. Tucked away in the forested San Lorenzo Valley, the locally owned shop is gifts, kitchen supplies, home goods, pet products, small production food resources and a nursery all rolled up in one. Its extensive garden meanders in and around historic structures that house showrooms and store displays. Can’t make it to the San Lorenzo Valley anytime soon? Hop online and fill up your virtual wheelbarrow with your pick of literally thousands of products. Or go in person and catch a glimpse of the following blossoms (photos courtesy of Mountain Feed):
The Calandrinia grandiflora — or Chilean Purslane — is a fast growing, succulent-leaved plant that blooms with vivid magenta flowers from spring into fall
Achillea ‘Laura’ (Yarrow) is an easy and drought tolerant plant that’s great for attracting beneficial insects and butterflies
The Coreopsis grandiflora, or ‘Early Sunrise,’ needs very little water to produce loads of golden flowers that will bloom through summer
This one’s a mouthful: Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’ — aka Butterfly Bush — sports rich purple flowers that bloom from spring into summer and are irresistible to butterflies