UC Davis Arboretum Terrace

The University of California Davis Arboretum truly is a treasure in our small college town. With miles of walking path and 17 different gardens/collections spread out over 100 acres, it’s a resource many UCD students and locals enjoy as part of their daily life.

I’ve blogged about the Arboretum before, most recently about their Valley-Wise Garden. This post isn’t about the actual Arboretum located on the UCD campus, but rather about the Arboretum Terrace, a demonstration garden in downtown right next to the Borders bookstore in the Davis Commons shopping center. This is a great location, smack in the middle of one of our most popular hangouts. In addition to gardeners wanting to learn more about suitable plants to grow in our Mediterranean climate, many people visit the Terrace to read, eat their takeout food from one of the nearby restaurants, or just enjoy some quiet time.

View towards entrance

The Arboretum Terrace is landscaped like a Mediterranean courtyard, with meandering planting beds on either side, tables and chairs for relaxing, shade structures and a water wall at the far end, and large planters showcasing the possibilities of container gardening. Interpretive displays describe the basics of Mediterranean gardening, selecting climate-appropriate plants, and saving water.

Many plants used here are California natives; others come from other parts of the world with a similar climates. I love that this is a real horticultural treasure trove where you’ll find common plants like Spanish lavender and deer grass right next to plants rarely seen in commercial nurseries like Farfugium japonicum 'Argenteum'.

Potted black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)

I enjoy coming here, as does my entire family. We often get a smoothie from Jamba Juice or frozen yogurt from Pinkberry and then walk over to the Arboretum Terrace to consume it. The plants are meticulously maintained by a crew of volunteers and most of them are labeled. This allows you to write down your favorites and replicate the look in your own garden.

Even though it was raining today, I decided to see what’s in bloom, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Beautiful vignette. The wall in the background is the Borders bookstore.
Chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum) in bloom (pink flowers). Unfortunately, the yellow-flowered plant wasn’t labeled, but it is a stunner.
Creeping mahonia (Berberis aquifolium var. repens), small groundcover shrub to 2 feet. You can still see its beautiful fall color; new leaves are glossy green. The flowers are bright yellow. Native to the California mountains from the Klamath Range and the North Coast Range to the Cascades and Sierra Nevada.
Vine hill manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’), evergreen shrub to 7 feet tall, very showy flowers; originally selected from wild stands in Sonoma County.
California lilac (Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartmann’). ‘Ray Hartmann’ is an erect variety with the potential to grow up to 20 feet tall. Can be trained into a tree. All ceanothus demand perfect drainage and very little to no irrigation in the summer.
Bush germander (Teucrium fruticans ‘Azureum’), small shrub to 5 feet tall. Very tough; grows pretty much anywhere. Reliable bloomer from spring to fall.
Golden currant (Ribes aureum), deciduous shrub to 6 feet. Native to moist areas of the Sierra Nevada but tolerates anything from standing water to drought.
Leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum 'Aureomaculatum’) surrounded by fallen blossoms from Taiwan cherry tree (Prunus campanulata).
Potted aloes—the large ones in the foreground are a hybrid between common soap aloe (Aloe maculata) and coral aloe (Aloe striata)
Spider aloe (Aloe x spinosissima). The Arboretum has a lot of these, both here in the Terrace and on campus. Appears to bloom from a young age.

If you’re ever in Davis, I highly recommend a visit to the Arboretum Terrace. It is located at the corner of 1st and E Street right next to Borders.


  1. I haven't been to the UCD arboretum in Davis in some time, thanks for the tour! We lived in Davis for about 7 years, it was fun to garden there, except perhaps in mid-July ;)

  2. Yeah, July and August in Davis can be taunting. Luckily the last few summers haven't been that bad, i.e. no 110° days :-). Thank you for visiting my blog!

  3. It's interesting know that some of the plants that are commonly grown here are Califonia natives. You never do stop learning :)


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