Please excuse the crappy cell phone photo–but do check out the incredibly beautiful Mission San Juan Capistrano if you’re ever in the area. It’s about an hour south of LA, and Amtrak will take you right there–the station’s right in the middle of this little town.
The Mission gardens are packed with salvia, gaura, cosmos, and just about every other plant I have ever loved–but mostly salvia. Monarchs flutter about. This time of year (I was just there for their annual garden festival), it is a sight to behold.
Some of the best gardens are in the neighborhoods just around the mission (I am kicking myself for not bringing a real camera), but imagine lots of crazy cactus, over-the-top color, highbrow and lowbrow sculpture, and you’ve got the idea. If it’s in the budget, eat at Ramos House Cafe, a totally delightful but somewhat pricey little joint with shady outdoor seating. Across the street is a petting zoo (!) and Ito Nursery, which sells every plant you’ll need to do the whole SoCal-but-nearly-Mexico-exuberant-garden thing.
Seriously. Great garden destination, especially if you’re stuck in LA and sick of driving. Hop the train and get over there.
I managed to get away from the garden festival with just one plant (hey, I was flying)–a little seedling of fuchsia ‘Blacky.’ It’s not blooming yet, but check out a photo of it here.