The Spanish settlers of 18th century California established 21 missions, from San Diego north to San Francisco. All missions grew food for the padres and their flocks, so their gardens contained mostly fruit trees and other food plants. Today, 17 of the California missions have notable landscaping, with less emphasis on food. Most of today’s mission gardens charge a small admission fee.
Santa Barbara Mission
Included in the Santa Barbara Mission’s garden is a fig tree that was planted in 1890. Other plants include pomegranate, olive, citrus and plum trees. The garden is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 1:00 until 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $1 for adults; children under 16 are admitted free of charge.
San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission
The Carmel Mission, which is near the ocean, includes over 200 types of plants. With a focus on California natives and drought tolerant plants, this Mission’s large garden counts among its members the Matilija poppy, native ceanothus, a 55 year old pepper tree, and an 80 year old rose bush. The garden is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. every day. Admission is free.
San Diego de Alcala Mission
Keeping with the dry climate of southern California, the San Diego Mission’s garden combines pepper trees with aloe, lavender, cactus, honeysuckle and many other less thirsty plants. The garden is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. every day. Admission is $1 for adults; children under 12 are admitted free of charge.
San Juan Capistrano Mission
Plants common to Baja California are specialties of this southern Orange County mission’s gardens. Here you’ll find prickly pear, crown of thorns, tomatoes and cactus and succulents from the southwest. The garden is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. every day. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children under 11.
San Gabriel Archangel
Grapevines that date back to 1925 are a feature of this Mission’s garden, as are olive trees from 1860. Although the mission church was closed in 1987 due to earthquake damage, the garden is open to the public from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily. Donations are appreciated and go toward restoring this historic mission.