The 50+ year old Leaning Pine Arboretum is an oasis of 5 acres of plants, flowers, and scenic mountain views located right on Cal Poly’s campus. It’s in the Environmental Horticultural Science facility and is open to the public FOR FREE from 8am-5pm Monday-Saturday. Every time I go, it’s peaceful and empty! It’s a great place to go if you need a quiet place to think, read, or step back and take a moment to breathe… and it’s within walking distance from any building at Cal Poly.
The collections of plants in the arboretum are arranged by geographic nativity. There are hundreds of different plant species from the world’s five mediterranean climate regions: Australia, California, Chile, the Mediterranean basin, and South Africa. There’s also a New Zealand garden, a Dwarf and Unusual Conifer garden, a Formal garden, and displays of cycads, palms, and many different succulents. Read more about the individual gardens, by clicking here!
The exciting part about this gem is that it’s open year round, and the plants are constantly changing by season. I visited during April, and there were gorgeous flowers everywhere! You’ll never have the same experience twice.
They offer guided tours for groups as well as paper and cell phone self lead tours so that you can enjoy each section of the gardens for as long as you’d like.
The purpose of the gardens is to act as a sort of “open air classroom” for education, and to foster horticultural practices that are in harmony with nature. For example, to control pests in the area, they use non-toxic traps and environmentally friendly bait. The arboretum fertilizes only as needed and uses organic fertilizers. All green waste is recycled, and mulching lawnmowers are used to recycle clippings in harmony with the environment.
It assists Cal Poly students in their opportunity to “learn by doing” and is used mainly as a laboratory for students and classes for independent research and project studies. Students also maintain and care for the facility as volunteers, paid employees, and in their classes under the direction of a faculty member.
Since the space is a living lab for students to learn, it’s important to remember to respect the environment by staying on the path, refraining from climbing trees or any sculptures/structures in the gardens, and as tempting as it is to take one of the gorgeous flowers, fruits or succulents you must leave everything behind for future visitors to enjoy.
The one tricky part about taking time to enjoy the arboretum is that it’s difficult to find parking if you choose to drive to campus. There are a 45 minute meter spots in the area, but if you’re interested in spending more time in the gardens you’ll need to find an alternative option. Visitors can buy permits to park in designated spots around campus Monday-Friday for hourly and daily amounts of time by visiting a pay station and getting a parking pass.
Pro Tip: Parking on campus is free on the weekends, so Saturday would most likely be your best bet to enjoy the gardens for as long as possible without having to worry about paying for parking.
If you’d like a more personal experience or a group tour, you can arrange for an arboretum staff member led visit by contacting the Arboretum Manager at (805) 756-2888. Here’s a map of how to get to the gardens!
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