Jen Siska
Love exotic plants? The UC Santa Cruz Arboretum boasts the largest number of Aussie flora this side of the Southern Cross.

There's more to this beach town than world-class surfing and the century-old boardwalk. Visit for a day in June while Santa Cruz is blooming but summer tourists have yet to descend

Julie Chai,  –  May 18, 2009

Why go in June: The beach town is blooming, but summer tourists have yet to descend.

In the air: Sweet smell of salty ocean spray.

Population: 58,125

Dress code: Organic cotton and Keens.

There’s more to Santa Cruz than: World-class surfing and the century-old boardwalk.

Such as: Permaculture gardens and organic farms.

Spruce up your yard: With drought-tolerant perennials from the Garden Company Nursery & Gift Shop (2218 Mission St.; 831/429-8424).

Shop green: Cool repurposed stuff like vintage ceramic pots and recycled aluminum garden chairs from Storefront & Studio (1010 Fair Ave., Ste. I; 831/426- 0724).

Spa gardenside: Treat yourself to a massage ($75 for 50 minutes) or an outdoor soak ($19 for 50 minutes) at Well Within Spa (417 Cedar St.; Request a treatment room that opens onto the Japanese garden.

Make it an overnight: The Santa Cruz Dream Inn (from $339; is a chic sleep, right on Cowell’s Beach.

Gardens you have to get to…

  • If you’re a natives nerd

The UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley has a killer new collection of otherworldly-looking cycads, not to mention the largest collection of California natives in the country, including more than 200 endangered species. $7; tours at 1:30 Thu and Sat–Sun; 200 Centennial Dr.;

  • If you’re a jogger

Run among a rainbow of blooming roses at the UC Davis Arboretum, where an easy 3.5-mile loop winds through 96 acres of golden lupine, coral bells, and fragrant mock orange. Free; tours at 2 p.m. June 7 (roses) and 11 a.m. June 13 (white flowers); Garrod Dr. at La Rue Rd.;

  • If you’re into time travel

Plants with millennia-old lineage live and breathe at the renovated Ancient Plant Garden at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Wander from the Devonian period to the Cretaceous for a pretty lesson in evolution. Free; tours at 10:30 and 1:30 Sat– Sun; Ninth Ave. at Lincoln Way;

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