Joy blooms anew: Spring garden tours are back

It’s been two years since the coronavirus pandemic cast a shadow across much of daily life, but in San Diego County — blessed with abundant sunshine and a temperate climate — one place has consistently offered solace: the garden.

In that time, experienced gardeners have become more fruitful, while novices — whether through curiosity or financial necessity — have started their first-ever vegetable garden, planted succulents or tried their hand at growing herbs and flowers.

Now, with a downturn in COVID-19 cases and easing restrictions, the spring garden tours and shows that help nurture this passion are back on track across the region, with events from mid-March through May. In addition to raising much-needed funding for group projects and outreach, the tours and other events provide inspiration for home gardeners from coast to hilltops to desert.

Here are such 14 events, in date order. Some sell out quickly, so don’t delay on getting tickets (and, possibly, a discount). Also on your checklist: comfortable shoes, a hat, sunscreen, water — and a reminder to breathe in the beauty.

A hummingbird feeds on a cherry blossom tree.

A hummingbird feeds on a cherry blossom tree at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. The three-day Cherry Blossom Festival, March 11-13, will also feature live entertainment, food and drink vendors, and a children’s area with crafts.

(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

MARCH 11-13

Cherry Blossom Festival at Japanese Friendship Garden

Delicate pink-hued tree blooms take center stage at the Cherry Blossom Festival at Japanese Friendship Garden San Diego, an annual tradition to welcome spring and celebrate the Japanese custom of hanami, or “flower viewing.” Visitors can stroll the upper and lower garden with koi ponds, bonsai, colorful floral features and tea garden. Among the planned highlights are live performances including taiko drummers, a children’s area with crafts, a beer and sake garden, a tea and dessert garden, and 20 food vendors and merchants. Tip: Download the garden’s newly released app at for a map, festival lineup, plant identification and details about ongoing programs.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with last admission at 5 p.m. at 2215 Pan American Road E. in Balboa Park
Tickets: $12 general admission, $10 military/student/senior with ID, $18 VIP, free for children under 6

A walled garden at a desert home has a fountain filled with succulents, garden art, a table and chairs and various plants.

During the pandemic, the owners of this home on the Borrego Desert Garden Tour added a zen garden, a faux hillside stream and a pagoda lantern path. Vegetable gardening, yard art and bird watching are other owner interests incorporated into this garden.

(Mike McElhatton / for Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association)


Borrego Desert Garden Tour

The five properties spotlighted in the 22nd annual Borrego Desert Garden Tour include a serene artist’s sanctuary with pool and small citrus orchard, a 3-acre Southwestern-inspired estate featuring the owners’ artistic talents, and a 9-acre family-run date ranch with scores of mature date palms and cactus garden. All five gardens are outside, with no homes or walk-throughs as in previous years, and all are spacious properties so people can spread out, said Betsy Knaak, executive director of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association (ABDNHA). Proceeds benefit the association, a desert education nonprofit that marked its 50th anniversary in 2021.

A Southwest home in the desert has handcrafted wooden posts and beams, and metal yard art mixed with yucca and cacti.

In this creative Southwest garden on the Borrego Desert Garden Tour, carpentry skills of the owner are showcased in the posts and beams of the front and side porch and the unique window treatments. Metal yard art combines with mounded rock and a variety of yucca and cacti, many grown from cuttings or 3-inch pots.

(Kathy Scheets / for Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association)

Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tickets: $30 general admission, $22 for ABDNHA members, $20 for ABDNHA volunteers or visit the ABDNHA Desert Nature Center, 652 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs

MARCH 18-20

San Diego County Orchid Society International Spring Show & Sale

Expect dazzling color and elegant form at the annual orchid show and sale, where local collectors, societies and vendors will design and stage multiple large-scale orchid displays. Displays will feature locally bred hybrids and rare species from around the world, and the show will include individual plants from amateur and professional growers. Themed “Orchid Magic,” the spring show is the society’s premier event for the year. Among the vendors selling orchids and other collectible plants are Andy’s Orchids, Cal-Orchid, Casa de las Orquideas, Ecuagenera, Mundiflora, Orchid Design, Sunset Valley Orchids and Tuyet’s Orchids. Classes will cover topics such as caring for a new orchid purchase, reblooming, repotting and orchids to grow outdoors. Free printouts will explain care for each of a dozen types of orchids.

Hours: 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Scottish Rite Center, 1895 Camino del Rio S. in Mission Valley.
Tickets: $10 daily or $12 for weekend pass, free for children under 12

Succulents with varied leaf color and texture add interest to a garden that also has vibrant mosaics and decorative stone.

The former water-thirsty lawn at this Poway home has been transformed with succulents, using leaf color and texture to create a vivid garden. Vibrant mosaics, made by the owner, are display throughout the garden on the San Diego Horticultural Society tour.

(Barbara Raub)


San Diego Horticultural Society

Spring Garden Tour

A former swimming pool has been transformed into a nature pond with fish.

This Poway property featured in the San Diego Horticultural Society tour is focused on California native landscape, with an adjacent 4 1/2-acre nature preserve established by the homeowners. Here, the former swimming pool has been transformed into a nature pond with fish.

(Barbara Raub)

This early-season tour explores “The Peaks and Valleys of Poway” and focuses on established gardens whose owners have been collecting plants for decades. The nine featured spaces include a large estate, a succulent garden with the owner’s mosaic creations, a landscape devoted to California native plants from the founder of the CalScape plant-selection website, and an educational working garden with greenhouses, orchards and organic farmland that has won a national award. Plein-air artists, matched to each garden, will paint on site during the tour. Garden designer and author John Beaudry will do a book signing of “Garden Sanctuary: Designing for Comfort, Wholeness and Connection.”
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets: $35 general admission, $30 for San Diego Horticultural Society members. Tickets must be purchased online, in advance.

A front yard garden inspiration with California native plants in bloom and decorative stone towers.

California Native Plant Society’s tour includes five East County yards with docents and designers, seven front-yard inspirations and two public gardens.

(Christine Hoey)


California Native Garden Tour

With the theme “Circling Back to Nature — California Native Gardens of East San Diego County,” the San Diego chapter of California Native Plant Society offers entry to five private gardens staffed with interpretive docents, owners and designers in Mount Helix, La Mesa, Allied Gardens, Santee and other East County areas. The route includes an additional seven front-yard inspiration gardens and two public native gardens. Gardens illustrate varied habitat plants, dry streambed bioswales, pool-to-pond conversion, water catchment devices, slope gardens, charming water features, bridges, sculptures and more. The Water Conservation Garden will showcase two native plant habitats and a seasonal bioswale and discuss butterflies as pollinators. Also planned are native plant painting demonstrations by artist Marjorie Pezzoli, CNPS book and seed sales, and native plant sales from Moosa Creek Nursery.

The dramatic texture, shapes and colors of succulents add interest to a garden.

The dramatic texture, shapes and colors of succulents add interest in this garden on the California Native Plant Society tour.

(Christine Hoey)

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets: $30 until April 8; $35 at the door, available only at the Water Conservation Garden, 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive W., El Cajon


Poway Valley Garden Club Flower Show & Plant Sale

Under the banner “Fantasy in the Garden,” the Poway Valley Garden Club will kick off its 43rd annual flower show at Old Poway Park, a display of horticultural entries and design entries likely to be sprinkled with pixies, goblins, mermaids, trolls and leprechauns. Categories such as “Magical Creatures,” “Enchanted Worlds” and “Storybook Worlds” will include miniature gardens in a variety of judging classes. Visitors can learn about using lichen and moss and the basics of fern care. Plants will be available for sale.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Old Poway Park, 14134 Midland Road, Poway
Tickets: Free admission

APRIL 23-24

Coronado Flower Show

Billed as the largest tented flower show in the United States, the Coronado Flower Show is celebrating 100 years since its founding in 1922. The centennial event, presented by the Coronado Floral Association and the city of Coronado, fills most of a city block with landscape displays, floral competitions, lectures, demonstrations and more. The show will offer live bandstand entertainment, food, a beer and wine garden and shopping for arts and crafts, plants and gardening supplies. A Home Front competition will recognize exceptional home and business gardens throughout Coronado.

Hours: 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Spreckels Park, 601 Orange Ave., Coronado
Tickets: Available at the door for $5 per day, free for children under 12 and for Coronado Floral Association members


Bernardo Gardeners Spring Garden Tour

A self-guided tour of six gardens in Rancho Bernardo and surrounding communities will include a mixture of grandeur, native plant expertise and touches of whimsy. The tour includes a multilevel property with pergolas and columns draped in wisteria; a 3-acre site converted into a nature reserve with California native plants; and a property of more than an acre that features waterwise and tropical plants, an orchard, raised-bed gardens and a butterfly garden. Master Gardeners will be on site to answer questions. Tour proceeds will help support area school gardens and horticulture scholarships. Vendors will offer handmade crafts, jewelry, garden art and fine art, plants and arrangements.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Tickets: $30, available at or in person at Walter Andersen Nursery, 12755 Danielson Court in Poway, and El Plantio Nursery, 1322 San Pasqual Valley Road. Day-of tickets are cash or check only.
Info: or (858) 449-4240


Point Loma Garden Walk

The yearly walking tour of home gardens in Point Loma Heights is known as “San Diego’s most beautiful way to support Rady Children’s Hospital,” presented by hospital auxiliary volunteers from the Point Loma/Dana unit. The 2022 tour will feature diverse gardens, with waterfalls, outdoor rooms, canyon decks, garden enhancements, a staghorn fern garden and more. Tour net proceeds benefit the San Diego hospital’s Division of Plastic Surgery Craniofacial Services. The event will also feature local artisans, crafters, clothing, jewelry and food trucks.

Tickets: $30, or $25 each for a purchase of 10 or more


94th annual Rose Show and Auction

From the San Diego Rose Society and California Coastal Rose Society

Passionate rose fans will find many to put on their wish list at the San Diego Rose Society’s 94th annual Rose Show, held in El Cajon. Rare and unusual varieties will be auctioned on Sunday by the California Coastal Rose in the Exhibit Hall. A silent auction will begin at noon, with the live auction at 2 p.m.

Hours: 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Ronald Reagan Community Center, 195 E. Douglas Ave., El Cajon
Tickets: Admission and parking are free; donations are accepted.

Blooms of purple and white dot flowerbeds with walkways in between.

Profuse blooms of purple and white dot this site in the 2021 Mission Hills Garden Walk. This year’s tour, themed “Home Grown,” focuses on edible gardening, with examples of how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into existing plans.

(Steven E. Jones Photography)


Mission Hills Garden Walk

The Mission Hills Garden Walk, a longtime tradition on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend, follows a “Home Grown” theme in 2022, with a focus on edible gardening. During a 2-mile stroll, visitors can learn how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their existing garden plans and discover how little space is really needed to yield enough produce to sustain a family. Most of this year’s gardens are new to the walk, and a scavenger hunt is planned with a prize for all youths. Walk proceeds will support community improvement projects and scholarships.

A garden with seating and walls of greenery offers a quiet oasis.

A stop on the 2021 Mission Hills Garden Walk offers a quiet oasis. In this year’s tour, most of the gardens are new to the walk.

(Steven E. Jones Photography)

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with start at Mission Hills Nursery, 1525 Fort Stockton Drive. Start times must be reserved and are staggered to limit the number of people in a garden at any one time. Face masks and social distancing are expected.
Tickets: $30, available starting March 15, and free for children 10 or younger. Tickets must be purchased in advance and may sell out.

A beach-area home contains three adobe casitas with an artist’s studio, and a yard overflowing with potted succulents.

Part of San Dieguito Art Guild’s annual tour, a postage-stamp lot above Moonlight Beach contains three adobe casitas with an artist’s studio attached to one. The yard is overflowing with potted succulents of every hue.

(Terry Smith)

MAY 7-8

San Dieguito Art Guild’s Mother’s Day Weekend Art, Garden & Studio Tour

The San Dieguito Art Guild, a nonprofit group, will highlight eight eclectic properties from Encinitas to South Carlsbad during the 25th annual Mother’s Day Weekend Art, Garden & Studio Tour. Participants on the leisurely, self-guided driving tour can peek into artists’ studios, browse dozens of exhibits of locally made art, and relax in each unique coastal or inland garden. The tour will include a visit to the studios of artists who work in ceramics, oils, watercolor and copper, and a stop at a heritage museum. Artists from the guild will show and sell paintings, ceramics, glass, gourd art, fiber arts, photography and jewelry. Free refreshments will be served; tickets are good for both days, and homes may be revisited. This is the major fundraiser of the year for the San Dieguito Art Guild; a portion of proceeds will go to scholarships for art students at MiraCosta College.

A ceramic statue of a woman in a garden has plants growing from it.

A garden on the San Dieguito Art Guild’s tour features a ceramic piece done by the homeowner. The tour, which includes an eclectic group of homes, gardens, art studios and a heritage museum, will also have artists on site showing and selling their work.

(Terry Smith)

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Tickets: $35, free for ages 17 or younger; available in early April at the Off Track Gallery, 937 S. Coast Highway 101, Suite C-103, Encinitas; online at; or at each home.

MAY 14

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla and Secret Garden Boutique

This unique event, a key fundraiser for the La Jolla Historical Society’s education and public programs, provides a rare opportunity to stroll behind the garden gates of some of La Jolla’s most beautiful secluded gardens, often concealed by mature trees, vines or foliage. The Secret Garden Boutique at Wisteria Cottage will be open free to the public throughout the day, with gardening accessories, plants and gifts available for purchase. Also planned is a silent auction, and the Go Go Food Truck will offer locally sourced items.

Tickets: $50 general admission, $40 for La Jolla Historical Society members; Platinum Tour tickets, which include complimentary brunch and tour bus shuttles, are $150/$140. A Friday Night Soiree on May 13 is an intimate garden gathering with hors d’oeuvres, wine and music by candlelight, for $75.

MAY 14-15

Vista Garden Club Flower Show, Plant and Garden Art Sale

With the theme “Shall We Dance?” the Vista Garden Club’s 86th annual event features a flower show with entries welcome from members and the public, plant sales and garden art available for sale.

Hours: 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday for flower show; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday for plant and garden art sale, at Jim Porter Recreation Center, Brengle Terrace Park, 1200 Vale Terrace in Vista
Tickets: Free admission
Info: and

Lynch is section editor for Home & Garden. She can be reached at [email protected].

Nigarai M Grusio

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