Wildfires, the pandemic lingering, nonstop traffic…the overall state of the world can feel anxiety producing. Take back your mental sanity by unplugging and spending time enjoying the benefits of one of these healing garden refuges. Breathe in the surroundings and exhale out blissful sentiments for your overall health and peace of mind.  

Lotusland in Montecito

This 37-acre botanical paradise in Montecito boasts 25 different gardens with rare cycads, cacti, palms, and euphorbias. Waltz around this horticulture nirvana through a Japanese garden, a rose garden, an insectary garden, and a shade palm garden where you can immerse yourself in bromeliads, succulents, and silvery blue-grey foliage. Tropical exotic blooms overhead, brightly colored seed explosions down below, pools with massive clam shells as water features, odd-looking worn statues from France, and symmetrical carved leaves are all part of the fantastical plot of land. Madame Ganna Walska and her sixth husband purchased the estate in 1941. She spent 43 years cultivating the plant utopia until her death at age 97. Book in advance for two hours of exploration. 

Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage

The former Annenberg estate welcomed presidents and royalty since the 1960’s thanks to publisher billionaire magnate Walter Annenberg, who created TV Guide, Seventeen Magazine, and one of the first TV stations out of Philadelphia. Most notable is the introductory 35-minute film showcasing the numerous presidents and celebs who brought the estate to life. Walk the wildflower field or Great Lawn gardens and marvel at the history of this former meeting place where often over golf or dinner, major ideas were exchanged, and international relations and laws were sorted out and discussed. Admire more than 70 species of arid adapted plants amongst twin reflecting pools filled with river stones and contemplate life on the Obama bench or while winding through a labyrinth. Yoga, bird walks, and private tours of the home have resumed.

Moorten Botanical Garden in Palm Springs

The world’s first “Cactarium” is still thriving thanks to 78-year-old Mr. Moorten who oversees this special place which was created by his parents in 1938. Along the nature trail, visitors can slowly wander the rustic one-acre to fully absorb the arid biomes of desert trees and cacti categorized by geography, such as Baja California, the South African-Succulent Karoo, and Mojave Desert region.  

Extraordinary desert varieties can be found in the greenhouse – from miniature to giant in every form each crawling snake-like up the rafters. Odd cacti in funny shapes and sizes grow with their own unique personalities. Moorten’s Mediterranean home, called the Cactus Castle, sits in the Palm Grove Oasis and throughout the short traipse, you’ll discover gold mining relics, an old adobe wall, massive crystals, fossils, and several desert tortoises amongst the flora. Also on display are massive agave, ocotillo, bombax, and South African aloe plants. Before exiting, stop by the nursery to purchase desert treasures to take home. There is a $5 entrance fee.

Conejo Valley Botanic Garden in Thousand Oaks

Established in 1973 when volunteers leased a 33-acre parcel to establish a public botanic garden, this special property offers visitors a free place to enjoy collections of native plants, oak trees, and indigenous wildlife. Fifteen hillside botanical gardens include an Australian Garden, Herb Garden, Desert Garden, Kids’ Adventure Garden, Mediterranean Garden, and a rare fruit orchard. In the Butterfly Garden several benches allow proper rest as bees and butterflies flit around. In springtime guests can witness a grand display of white paper-like Matilija poppies and psychedelic Purple Passion flowers. A nature trail less than one-mile-long winds you around a meadow, labeled gardens, alongside a creek and through a variety of 72 trees. Coming here feels therapeutic to the soul.  

Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades 

Meditate or breathe deeply in the gardens atop the ocean with shrines and waterfalls and a hilltop Temple with weekly inspirational services. As you meander around the lake pathways by a small historic windmill, feel the cliffside breezes. Weekend retreats include meditating in silence in this dreamy setting just off Pacific Coast Highway. Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, he envisioned a spiritual environment where people from all over the world could come experience peace of heart and mind and to discover Raja Yoga (Royal Yoga) through his teachings. Open free of charge, Wednesday through Sunday, and reservations are required. One arrival time is offered on Sunday for morning temple services.

Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks

To celebrate the cultures of the world, one couple decided to build this striking monument with 

various types of gardens. Set on 4.5 acres there are five different gardens representing England, France, Italy, Japan, and the unique California Mission Courtyard. Leave your stresses behind as you wander around the Koi Pond encircled by bamboo and bridges. Inhale the scent of roses with more than 400 bushes in the English Rose Garden. The French Garden will put a smile on your face with its symmetrical beauty, water features, and perfectly clipped parterres along with mazes of structured boxwood hedges. The French Fountain is a replica of the one found at the Gardens of Versailles. Continue your stroll along the chain fountain inspired by Italian historic architecture. 

By Melissa Curtin

Photos by Melissa Curtin