Honoring and preserving our connection with nature


Our Vision

We strive to be a treasured local, national, and international resource; to delight, educate and inspire people to embrace nature, outdoor recreation, community interaction, celebration of the arts, creative endeavors, and health and wellness; to showcase and support world-class botanical collections, horticultural research, plant propagation, local history, indigenous culture, and universal access to the outdoors.

About Us

The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden is located near the Pacific Ocean on the Central Coast of California. When the Master Plan is complete, our 150 acre garden will be exclusively devoted to the ecosystems and plants of the five Mediterranean climate regions of the world. We serve the people of San Luis Obispo County and visitors by providing:

●   nature education
●   community interaction
●   an event space
●   plant cultivation and propagation
●   water conservation and green energy
●   ecosystem conservation
●   a fire-safe landscape display

●   children’s exploration
●   innovative design and construction
●   life celebration gardens
●   outdoor recreation
●   botanical research
●   a horticultural library
●   connection to indigenous culture 
●   support of artistic endeavors

Want to know the future plans of the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden? Enjoy a short presentation by former board member, Tamara Blett to see what we’re planning for the next few years.

A Brief History of the SLO Botanical Garden

1989 – The idea for a botanical garden in San Luis Obispo originated with Eve Vigil, a student in Ornamental Horticulture at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly). Unable to find examples of and information on Mediterranean climate plants for her senior project, she researched the possibility of starting a botanical garden that would showcase these plants.

Eve Vigil found support for her idea from local government, including the County Parks Department, as well as inspiration from a lecturer at the University, Joseph Donaldson, who developed the concept of creating a botanical garden based on the five Mediterranean climate zones of the world.

1991 – The “Friends of the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden” incorporated as a nonprofit organization and set three initial goals: to find a suitable site for an internationally significant botanical garden, to prepare a master plan for the development of the site, and to establish a Preview Garden that would be a smaller version of the botanical garden to come.

1993 – A 150-acre parcel in El Chorro Regional Park was chosen for the Garden site because it was already zoned as a public space, had good soils with no horticultural limitations, and was a convenient location for area residents and tourists. A lease agreement was signed with San Luis Obispo County.

1994 – FIRMA, a leading landscape architecture firm in San Luis Obispo, designed our Preview Garden free of charge. The Garden received grants from the County of San Luis Obispo and the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust to pay for a Garden Master Plan. These grants, along with money raised from the community, allowed the Board of Directors to hire a master planning firm.

1995 – The Portico Group, a highly regarded design studio from Seattle which specializes in the design of botanical gardens, zoos and parks, was chosen to produce the Master Plan.

1997 – Grand Opening of the Preview Garden. The Preview Garden was built with Firma’s plans and the work of the faculty and students from Cal Poly’s construction engineering classes.

1998 – The Master Plan was completed by the Portico Group and accepted by the Board of Directors. A full-scale greenhouse/nursery facility was completed and put into use. The Garden could now produce plants for use in the Garden, plant sales, and by County Parks.

1999 – The Garden’s Master Plan was unveiled to the public and went on to win a prestigious Analysis and Planning Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects. The Master Plan called for planting plants in communities as they occur in nature, something rarely done in a botanical garden.

2000 – Phillips and Associates was hired to perform a feasibility study to help the Board to determine the direction in developing the Garden. The study determined improving the Preview Garden and developing an education program were key to raising our profile in the community.

2003 – The San Luis Sustainability Group completed the architectural design for the Garden’s new Educational Center, later renamed the Oak Glen Pavilion. Construction began in 2004 by the Cuesta College Construction Technology Department as well as outside contractors. The building was built to Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for a “green” public building. A model of resource conservation, it demonstrates the best practices for conserving water and energy, insulated straw bale walls, nontoxic materials, and a demonstration onsite wastewater treatment system.

2007 – In cooperation with San Luis Obispo Hospice Partners, the Life Celebration Garden was dedicated to honor the memory of loved ones. The Oak Glen Pavilion was opened, as a space to host events and programs.

2009 – Children’s Gardens of Exploration was established.

2010 – Planning began for a Fire Safe Garden to demonstrate landscaping for our wildfire areas. Photovoltaic panels installed on the Oak Glen Pavilion; in the first month the Garden’s electric bill decreased from $164 to $9.

2011 – A grant from the San Luis Obispo County Firesafe Council was received to be used in developing the Fire Safe Garden. The Harold Miossi Trust and the Morro Bay National Estuary Program added grants for the same purpose. Grading was begun on the project.

2012 – Progress continued on the completion of the hardscape design around the Oak Glen Pavilion and the renewal of the Preview Garden. A generous grant was received from the Hearst Foundations for the final stages of the Fire Safe Garden, along with an in-kind donation from Souza Construction, Inc for grading the final pathway through the garden to the highest point on the hill for an overlook.

2015 – The .75-mile Discovery Trail is opened. The Earth Oven is built in the Children’s Garden. The Children’s Garden expanded to include the new Children’s Sage Meadow.

2016 – The Fire Safe Demonstration Landscape is officially opened. The Children’s Garden receives a grant and installs signs depicting native uses of plants.

2018 – Debbie Hoover retires from Operations Director after 19 years of service. Chenda Lor is hired as Executive Director. The Weaving Restoration Garden planning began.

2020:  Plant sale area was created adjacent to the gift shop

2021:  The entrance to the Preview Garden was moved and the Garden began charging an admission fee.

New benches were installed in the amphitheater.

2022:  The Garden received a grant from Harold Miosi to complete the concrete work around the buildings.

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