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Celebrate Arbor Day by Visiting These Ventura Botanical Gardens

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This week, as the nation celebrates the 150th Arbor Day (April 29), the National Arbor Day Foundation reminds us that the annual event is not just about planting trees. It is also about planting in us an appreciation and care for our natural resources.

Since its beginnings in 1872, Arbor Day has been all about taking personal responsibility for caring for nature, including the duty to “respect, restore and protect it,” according to a fundraising letter from foundation funds sent to me.

This means, for example, valuing trees to provide clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and beauty to cherish. Trees protect our watersheds and remove air pollutants, including carbon dioxide that warms the climate.

To value trees and plants in this way, you must first learn about nature, and several public gardens in Ventura County provide opportunities to do so. They include the Ventura Botanical Gardens, the Conejo Valley Botanical Garden, Taft Gardens and Nature Preserve near Ojai, and World Gardens in Thousand Oaks.

Visiting these gardens is a great way to celebrate National Arbor Day and gain knowledge and appreciation for nature.

The Ventura Botanical Gardens, which stretch from Grant Park to Ventura City Hall, began in 2005 and lost many of their mature plantings in the 2017 Thomas Fire, so its specimens are young.

However, what the site lacks in stately plantings and shade, it more than makes up for with its impressive views. Almost the entire site offers a panorama of crashing waves on a wide coastline and the Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands.

A slide presentation on its website lists the “key values ​​of a botanical garden” which include a commitment to “integrate educational opportunities”, “provide habitat for a wide diversity of plants and animals” and ” promote environmentally sustainable development”.

Incoming students from California Lutheran University spread mulch in the Ventura Botanical Gardens as a community service in September 2019.

Derrick Wilson, chairman of the garden’s board of directors, highlighted the educational value of the organization’s new collection of native volcanic substrates. It replicates the terrain of western Ventura County, including endangered plants found only in our county. Garden staff will collect plant specimens and seeds, record plant responses to changing climate and soil conditions, and provide information on using plants to conserve water in extreme drought.

The volcanic collection adds to the garden’s current display of native flora from the five Mediterranean climates of the world. The array of drought-tolerant species shows visitors how they can conserve water in their own gardens.

Taft Gardens, in the hills above Lake Casitas, also features plants grown in Mediterranean climates like ours, including an African section, cactus garden and native plant area.

Managed by the Conservation Endowment Fund, Taft Gardens’ mission includes educating the public about ‘environmental heritage’, preserving endangered resources and ‘exploring the relationship of humans to their environment’.

Taft Gardens is looking for volunteers to make interpretive panels for visitors on self-guided tours, according to Alexandra Nicklin, general manager of the gardens,

Conejo Valley Botanical Garden, at 400 W. Gainsborough Rd. in Thousand Oaks, has an interpretive nature trail and guides who run school tours. Visitors see compost in various stages of production at a nursery that propagates native and Mediterranean plants, which have been sold alongside food plants and herbs at events held in its Kids’ Adventure Garden.

Gardens of the World, across Thousand Oaks Boulevard from the Civic Arts Plaza, offers a different kind of education. Its creators, Ed and Lynn Hogan, owned a travel agency and dedicated the garden to cultural rather than botanical education.

The gardens feature mission-style architecture, exterior murals with historical renderings of the California mission system, and plants from the California missions to provide directions for a regular procession of elementary school field trips. Mission plants include rosemary, aloe, guava, oranges, lemons, and olives.

Vegetable gardens also provide the opportunity to enjoy trees and other plantings. The 24th Annual Camarillo Garden Tour, benefiting the Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, will take place May 1 from noon to 4 p.m. For a $25 donation, visitors can visit four residential gardens.

You can also recognize National Arbor Day without going outside. The National Arbor Day Foundation and Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Huggies and Kleenex, promise to plant two trees for every Instagram, Twitter or Facebook post with the #ArborDay hashtag. The organizations say they will plant up to 150,000 trees.

David Goldstein, environmental resources analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at (805) 658-4312 or [email protected]