Santa Barbara, California – a gardener’s paradise. While it may have heavy, clay soil, and little water, it has perfect temperatures for growing plants from all the “Mediterranean” climates of the world. The flora of South Africa, the west coasts of North and South America, Australia, and, of course, the Med itself make appearances here.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden displays the amazing diversity of flora native to California. The collection reaches into every corner of the state. Grasses, cacti, succulents, wildflowers, trees, and shrubs make a home here. The staff welcomes us warmly when we arrive to teach a morning workshop. We set up in the library to deliver a PowerPoint presentation followed by a hands-on diagnostic session. Some students have brought sick plants from home (contained in plastic bags to help prevent accidental introduction of pests or diseases into the botanic garden collection), and together we use the flow charts in our book to diagnose a wide variety of plant problems.

floral display

At the Book Loft in Solvang we enjoy an afternoon in the sun, signing books and diagnosing plant problems for the bookstore’s customers and passersby who are visiting the Danish village in the foothill. At Chaucer’s, a busy bookstore in Santa Barbara, we meet some avid, well-informed gardeners. Their enthusiasm for What’s Wrong with My Plant? is truly encouraging.

tree ferns

We explore shady trails through a forest of tree ferns in Lotusland, a botanical treasure featuring plants from all over the world. Madame Ganna Walska created this private garden on the estate she owned from 1941 until her death in 1984.


Lotusland features an amazing array of plants adapted to very dry environments. A large collection of succulent species of Aloe is featured in the photo above. Some people mistakenly call these plants cactuses. But they’re not cacti at all. Formerly included in the lily family, the Liliaceae, the aloes are now sometimes placed in a family of their own, the Aloaceae, or Asphodelaceae. Many of these plants have thick succulent leaves with a tremendous capacity for water storage.

cactus flowers

Cacti have fleshy, water storing stems, and do not have leaves. Many have pretty flowers in bright colors. Cacti are placed in their own family, the Cactaceae, and are only found in the Americas. Most species are true desert plants and highly specialized for extremely arid conditions. Some are epiphytes, however, that grow on rainforest trees in the same manner as orchids and bromeliads.


Plants from desert regions of Africa and Asia that resemble cacti are in the family Euphorbiaceae. Although these plants superficially resemble cacti, their flowers have a completely different structure than those of the cacti.

If you have a favorite spot we should not miss, please let us know. We invite you to share your stories of the greenworld, and welcome you to join us at one of our stops on the road. See our events page for all the details. 

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