Seaside Gardens in Santa Barbara: South African Garden

Seaside Gardens is a retail nursery in Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara. I’d first visited in 2015, and I took the opportunity to go back when I was in Santa Barbara this January.

What makes Seaside Gardens so special is its 3-acre demonstration garden. It’s subdivided into 12 vignettes created by local landscape designers. Each one showcases a different type of garden ranging from Asian, Australian and South African to Californian, Mediterranean, Grassland and Cottage. Because of the time of year, most of them weren’t at their best, but there were two notable exceptions: the South African Garden and the Succulent Garden. They were arguably at their peak.

This post is about the South African Garden; I’ll have a second post about the Succulent Garden (think aloes in full flower).

To get to the South African Garden, I walked through the Asian Garden designed by Pat Brodie:

At this of year, the Asian Garden is a quiet study of greens – quite different from what you’re about to see.

The South African Garden, in contrast, was an explosion of colors:

The South African Garden was designed by South African native Laurence Nicklin who is also the mastermind behind the South African section of the legendary Taft Garden in Ojai, California.

As Seaside Gardens’ website, states “[his] love of proteas is the jumping off point in this dramatic display of the botanical richness of South Africa. Plantings are grouped regionally, including bold aloes from the arid western coast, arching restios of the cape province, and bird-of-paradise and clerias from the more tropical eastern coast. Leucadendron, leucospermum and protea species combine with the exuberant erica, daisies and flowering bulbs to provide incredible photo ‘ops’ from early to late spring.”

There definitely was plenty of drama and exuberance going around, what with the ericas and leucadendrons at their peak and some of the proteas beginning to flower as well.

A large restio looking pretty majestic even when brown:

Arborescent erica and leucadendron with bright yellow bracts:

Pink form of Erica arborea

Some proteas were beginning to flower:

What’s left of last year’s protea flower:

Dombeya wallichii is native to Madagascar:

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ you see below was probably the most perfect specimen I’ve ever seen. The way the crimson bracts contrasted with the dark burgundy leaves was simply spectacular:

One final tapestry from the South African Garden:

Seaside Gardens carries a superb selection of South African and Australian shrubs, many grown by Jo O’Connell of Australian Native Plants in Ojai. I had the pleasure of visiting her in 2019.

Seaside Gardens is located at 3700 Via Real, Carpinteria, CA 93013.

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


  1. Well, your photos certainly do it justice. I was interested in the beginning of the post, simply out of curiosity, but as I scrolled through I saw how beautiful the displays are. Very pleasant combinations of foliage and blooms, and it looks like this was a great time to visit this special place.

  2. Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ is spectacular, especially with the frothy blooms in the back. Wow.

  3. What spectacular color and contrast, a real beauty.

  4. I love that place! I was just revisiting my Nov 2021 visit and post after recommending the nursery to a friend who will be in the area over the weekend. Many of the same things were looking good.

  5. It's great to see this post at a time when Spring is just arriving where I live.
    Also, I was wondering about the Echinopsis you were growing from seed. Did you get a good germination rate? I'm asking because I have had mixed success growing cactus from seed (primarily Echinocereus; I've never tried Echinopsis.) Since conditions were the same for all seeds, I believe that the lack of germination must be due to old/bad seed.

  6. I had no idea there were Leucadendrons like Ebony. That is amazing, especially with the Erica in the background.


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