Santa Barbara Sunday: Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden

This is installment 3 of “Santa Barbara Sunday,” a special feature running for the next month or so, each installment focusing on a different notable destination in Santa Barbara.

In last week’s installment of Santa Barbara Sunday, I featured Franceschi Park. Even though (or maybe because) it’s right in the middle of one of Santa Barbara’s toniest neighborhoods, it’s off the beaten path for most visitors. I only found it because I was looking for spots with the best views in town.

Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden is very different. Occupying an entire city block just north of downtown Santa Barbara, it’s a popular destination for locals – Santa Barbara Parks & Rec calls it the “crown jewel of city parks” – and apparently one of the best wedding venues for the budget-conscious.

Previously the site of a hotel, the 4-acre lot was given to the city by an anonymous donor in 1975. The gift included funds for the creation of a public garden and its maintenance. Two years later, upon her death, the donor was revealed to be Alice Keck Park whose father had founded Superior Oil Company – lots of oil money floating around in those days.

The Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden Self-Guided Tree & Plant Tour identifies 75 tree and plant species, including a number of succulents. Here’s what caught my eye as I was wandering around.

In winter, the brightest pop of color...

...comes from Aloe arborescens...

...aka the torch aloe. It’s easy to see what inspired the common name.

Furcraea macdougalii and Agave attenuata. The latter is said to have been introduced by Francesco Franceschi, whose home and nursery became Franceschi Park (featured last week).

Variegated Furcraea selloa growing between the two Furcraea macdougalii

Two Yucca rostrata and an Aloidendron barberae

Aloe marlothii in the middle

While it’s not the right season for most flowering trees, it’s primetime for this orchid tree (Bauhinia variegata)

Giant spear lily (Doryanthes palmeri). The flower stalks can be up to 10 ft. tall. I photographed the same clump in flower in 2013.

The building behind the trees is the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara

Not much color, as I said...

...but the lacy tree canopy is always beautiful to look at

Silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa)...

...with its distinctive seed pods

This is Aloiampelos (aka Aloe) ciliaris, a climbing aloe commonly found in 3-inch pots or combination planters at big box garden centers but rarely seen in cultivation. Here, it’s making good use of the palm tree trunk.

Aloiampelos ciliaris flower

The largest clump of Acacia cognata ’Cousin Itt’ I’ve ever seen. Clearly, it loves Santa Barbara’s zone 10 climate (who wouldn’t).

Palms and citrus trees – what many people think of when they think of Southern California

And finally a few palm tree silhouettes, just because:

Aloidendron ’Hercules’ in the middle

Aloidendron barberae

Just Mexican fan palms (Washingtonia robusta)

Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden is at 1500 Santa Barbara Street. It’s open from 6:00 am to 7:30 pm.

© Gerhard Bock, 2024. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Beautiful park! I love the Aloiampelos (aka Aloe) ciliaris which I have under a shrub. It lives, but no flowers. Such a trick to protect the Aloes from sun here but get them to flower.

  2. A very nice park, and apparently heavily used--there were lots of people there when we visited. Excellent photos.

    K has a clump of A. ciliaris--the flowers are a very intense, saturated orange. It would be fun to try to grow it on a trellis--vertical sheet rather than a clump--might have to try that!

  3. Beautiful SB park. That clump of climbing A. ciliaris has me thinking ~where could I add that to the garden?

  4. Ah... thanks for the visit. It was a toss up whether to go here, or the SB Bot Garden after Lotusland. The SBBG won, since it had been over 10 years since my last visit (only 7 for Alice) but now I've seen both!

  5. Gorgeous park. Wonderful that Alice had the foresight to keep the land as a beautiful park for the community. I do love Bauhinia. I kind of chuckled with your comment about not much colour. So often we forget that green and all it's shades is a colour too. Lots of that in your photos.

  6. Now, I have been there, albeit not for many, many years. It also appears to have more succulents than I remember. That Aloiampelos ciliaris looks like an aloe I discovered outside the gate house to our neighborhood (which has no actual gate) last week. I'll have to go back there to verify that (when the onslaught of rain is over).


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