The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is more than a research facility for academics. It is an outdoor classroom for the general public. Look beyond the garden’s beautiful 86 acres of California native plants, and you will find a research library and a calendar full of learning opportunities for the public to enjoy.
The research library is located in the main building and possesses about 50,000 bound volumes. The collection’s strengths are its books about systematic botany, evolutionary botany, and the botany, taxonomy, and ethnobotany of California plants. The library’s horticultural collection is specific to California and features extensive information about gardening in this western state. The RSA library is actively cataloging gray literature and has a special interest in documents about California.
Illustrated botanical books are also included in the collection, however these are very fragile. Most of the illustrated books were published before 1923 and are therefore in the public domain. Harvey Brenneise, Head Librarian, says individuals interested in botanical books should view the holdings of the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Digital Library of the Real Jardin Botanico of Madrid. The Biodiversity Heritage Library is a consortium of twelve natural history libraries, botanical libraries, and research institutions who are digitizing books in order to preserve documented records describing the planet’s biodiversity. The Digital Library of the Real Jardin Botanico of Madrid is a collection of antiquarian books from the Royal Botanic Garden.
While the RSA library is open to the public, it is open by appointment only. Most of the library’s visitors are researchers and grad students who benefit greatly from the wealth of information at Brenneise’s fingertips. It used to be that requests for information would take days to process. Now thanks to email and the Internet, Brenneise says librarians are able to share information with each other in record time. He says all he does is send a request out to his network of fellow librarians and a librarian from another part of the world will respond and provide exactly what he needs. What makes this quick response time even more impressive is that the information retrieved is often several decades old. In fact, the botanical information researchers need usually is quite old. According to Brenneise, “In botany, there is nothing too old or too obscure. In other disciplines, if it wasn’t published within the past five years, [researchers] don’t want to look at it.” The botanists at RSA are lucky to have Brenneise in their corner. One doesn’t need to speak with him for too long to figure out there isn’t anything he and his deep pool of resources can not track down.
So Much to Learn, So Little Time
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden hosts many special events, garden activities, and workshops throughout the year. Year-round attractions include docent-led activities at one of the garden’s Discovery Carts. From October through May, weekend visitors can learn about native plants through special hands-on activities. Discovery Carts are located in the Container Garden and the Horticultural Garden and are available on Saturdays from 11 AM – 1 PM and Sundays from 1-3 PM. Another year-round event is the FREE Native Plant Clinic conducted on the first Saturday of each month from 10 AM – 1 PM. Gardeners can ask RSA experts their most pressing questions about native plant gardening. Garden admission is not required to attend a Native Plant Clinic.
Annual events include a wildflower show, art events, garden tours, a Mother’s Day Brunch, a Father’s Day BBQ, special autumn events, and plant sales at the garden’s Grow Native Nursery. For instance, tomorrow (April 16th) is the kickoff of the Meadow Gardens sale of plants suitable to create your own meadow garden. If you’re a fan of California’s native succulent plants, then be sure to put the Cacti and Agaves and Succulents! Oh My! plant sale on your calendar. This sale will be held April 30 – May 2 from 10 AM – 5 PM.
The garden also offers a variety of special workshops that includes topics in beginning botany, advanced plant identification, basketry, book arts, gardening, photography, and botanical illustration. Bookmark this page to keep up with the garden’s extensive course offerings.
Adults, $8; Students w/valid ID $6; Seniors (+65), $6; Children (3-12), $4; Free admission for members and children under 3. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is located in Claremont, CA (map)