Local garden offers beauty and services for the community.
Written by Laura Roe Stevens | Photographed by Chuck Bennett
South Coast Botanic Garden (SCBG) is no longer a well-kept secret in the South Bay. This 87-acre botanic garden—with expansive spaces to roam, exquisite gardens to uplift and programs for every age—has become a respite for all.
Adrienne Lao Nakashima has been CEO of SCBG for 12 years and is proud of how the garden has become a place of comfort and joy for so many—especially in the last 2½ years. “I’ve been with South Coast Botanic Garden since 2010 and have witnessed the transformation and how our members and Community—with a capital C—use our garden,” she says. “Needs are changing, and our mission is to meet those changing needs.”
When schools were shut down due to the pandemic, for instance, parents began taking children, who were at home alone on Zoom, to the garden after “school” just to get outside. “Every Tuesday it was my greatest joy to get those kids outside to feel the freedom of space, air and color,” says Emily Caldwell, a Hermosa Beach mother of three. “I am forever indebted to their cautious business sense and what it gave to us when locked down. For two years they also hosted all of Isla’s dance recitals (School of Dance & Music) and holiday performances in a safe outdoor space.”
The garden has many uses beyond being an expansive space for cooped-up children. It has, and will continue to be, a place that provides upliftment for all ages. People recovering from illness or injury or struggling with grief or anxiety find the garden a lovely place for rehabilitation, or to get their steps in, explains Adrienne.
A Wonderful Place to Be
With more than 200,000 plants and 2,000 species from around the world, SCBG is a wonderful place “to be.” It was created from humble beginnings in 1959 on top of a sanitary landfill by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors at the request of a citizens group.
Since then, it has changed exponentially. Specialty gardens include the Japanese Garden, Fuchsia Garden, Children’s Garden and the 2-acre Dorothy and John Bohannon Rose Garden. Rabbits are often found at dusk in its fields, and birdwatchers love all the seasons at the garden— as it is now an oasis for 200+ species of birds.
As if natural splendor wasn’t enough, SCBG delivers educational events and programs offering “layered experiences of surprise, adventure, beauty and serenity through color, texture, sound and light.” Unique special events continue to expand in popularity. The weekly Sunset Series of musical performances in July is fun for dates or the whole family.
There are also dog-walking hours, a SOAR butterfly exhibit and a GLOW light display throughout the year. “The butterfly pavilion is amazing and one of our most popular exhibits,” Adrienne says. “School groups and families love getting to see tropical butterflies up close.”
Garden visits are free for Electric Benefit Transfer (EBT) card holders, as are the monthly Free Tuesday events. “Our mission is to connect all to the wonders of nature and to create experiences that inspire stewardship and responsibility,” shares Adrienne. “Our doors are open to all as we serve a larger community beyond the few miles around us and welcome you wherever you come from.”
Whether you live next door or an hour away, South Coast Botanic Garden offers something for all tastes and strives to be an oasis for everyone. •