Tucked away amid the throng of wholesale nurseries lining Carpinteria’s Via Real sits one of Santa Barbara’s best-kept secrets. Though it’s been in business for 12 years, Seaside Gardens stays under the radar of many garden-minded folks, perhaps due to the fact that at first glance it resembles a private garden, rather than a bustling retail center. Therein lies the magic of Seaside: While the nursery encompasses more than three acres (and is currently expanding), more than 80 percent of its landscape is devoted to a unique and worldly botanical garden.
A visit to a nursery can be a restorative event. Whether or not you have aspirations to actually plant roots, meandering through aisles of flourishing flora can’t help but induce a state of Zen, if not euphoria. Couple that feeling with the opportunity to view what an Australian grevillea or a Hong Kong orchid will look like once they’re out of their 5- or 10-gallon pots and in the ground for a few years, and visits to Seaside begin to resemble an experience more akin to nonprofit Lotusland or the S.B. Botanic Garden.
Indeed, founder and owner Linda Wudl had no lucrative plans for her business when she began Seaside with her husband, Fred. Rather, she envisioned “a garden where people could stroll the paths, learn about plants from different parts of the world, relax in the shade with a cup of coffee … The retail nursery started as a necessity to support the garden and has grown into a wonderful resource.” In this community-minded fashion, she sought out area landscape designers to create striking, separate spaces dedicated to highlighting location-specific species, and in doing so imbued each garden with its own personality while supporting the business of each independent designer.
The garden’s composition runs the gamut from drought-tolerant species from Australia and South Africa to tropical plants from the lush environs of Asia, their common theme being that all can grow successfully in Santa Barbara’s forgiving climate. Despite the changing of seasons, at least one garden is always guaranteed to be in bloom.
Couple this with Seaside’s all-inclusive policy — whether you show up with a picnic lunch, a beloved pet, or cold hard cash for buying plants, you’ll be equally welcomed by the staff, as well as the resident cats and chickens roaming the grounds.
Seaside Gardens will be celebrating the holidays Saturday, December 1, and Sunday, December 2, with a nursery-wide sale, as well as a succulent table centerpiece workshop and visits with Santa.
Seaside Gardens: 3700 Via Real, Carpinteria. For more information, call 684-6001 or visit seaside-gardens.com.