Garden FAQs

California Native Garden
General
What is the Garden here for?
We are here to promote the knowledge and appreciation of California native plants for educational, environmental, and aesthetic purposes for the campus and greater Orange County community. The Garden began in the mid-1970s by a request made by the Science and Biology Department for a garden of native plants to serve as a living classroom for field-based Biology courses. It has also become a horticultural resource and inspiration for the general public.
When are you open to the public?
The garden are open and available for visitors during normal school hours, generally from 8AM to 8PM although staff (or volunteers and docents) may not be available. On weekends the Garden is open from dawn to dusk normally although not having staff may mean some access is limited on occasion. Visitors are welcome to stroll the pathways and enjoy the garden on their own during these times. (Excessive Rain does close much of the Garden since our “natural” pathways are slippery.)
How do I get to you and where do I park?
We are located on the West side of the campus of Golden West College. Visitors should buy a day parking pass from one of the dispensers and then park near the south end of the Automotive Technology Department to be closest to the Gardens main entrance
What does it cost to visit?
Admission is free. Donations are always appreciated but unless someone is available at the garden to receive them you would either visit the Golden West College Foundation Offices (on Campus) or mail a check to the Foundation with a note making clear that your donation is to be placed in the Native Garden Account.
What’s here to see?

The Garden consists of 8 plant communities ranging from chaparral to channel island. Plants include 9 species of oaks, several plants considered rare, threatened, or endangered, native ferns, shade plants, summer and fall blooming native species, summer deciduous trees and shrub, as well as many native plants used by indian tribes for food, medicine, and fiber. The Rod Wallbank Oak Woodland (named after the Garden’s longtime Co-Director) includes maturing collection of the rare Engelmann oaks, a California Walnut, and several shrubs and colorful understory plants including a Grassland area.

The Garden does have its high and low seasons. Winter and spring are the most colorful with annual wildflowers and bulbs in bloom then as well as many shrubs and sub-shrubs. Summer and fall are less enthusiastic in color although the Desert willow, California fuchsia and many of the coastal daisies are in full bloom then.

Whatever the season the Garden’s woodland atmosphere and extensive collection of native plants can always be appreciated

Do students run the gardens?
No, the Gardens is run and maintained by an all volunteer group. However, we do enjoy having students assist as volunteers as well.  As there is no degree program for Horticulture or Botany offered at GWC, our student workers come from a wide variety of different majors.  What they have in common is an interest in working outdoors and learning about native plants and gardening.
Facilities
Do you rent the garden for weddings and receptions?
The short answer is no, we do not have adequate facilities for large gatherings of people.
May I take photographs?
Absolutely. Just be respectful by remaining on the paths.
Do you have a map of the Gardens?
We do not have one map that covers the Native Gardens, but if you know of someone who can help with the development of a map of trails in the Garden, please contact us.
Do you give tours?
Guided tours can often be arranged (in advance) for adult and school groups of relatively small size.
Are your plants for sale?
Plants from our permanent collections are not generally for sale. However, we do have a spring plant sale and often have a small selection of plants for sale throughout the year on Tuesday and Thursdays
Is the Garden handicapped-accessible?
The Garden is mostly wheelchair-accessible, but due to varying terrain with gravel paths it is best to have assistance when visiting.
Do you have restrooms, water fountains, and benches in the gardens?
There are no restrooms or water fountains in the Garden itself. There are wooden trestle tables and a few stone benches scattered throughout the Gardens. Restrooms and a water fountain are located at the Math Science Building immediately adjacent to the entrance to room 123.
Are dogs allowed in the gardens?
Golden West College campus policy prohibits dogs, unless they are service animals.
Is there somewhere on campus to eat?
During the week when classes are in session there is a cafeteria with several styles of food. On the weekends, however, these are closed. There are many places to eat in the surrounding area.
Plants and Staff
Why don’t all your plants have labels?
It is our goal to have the majority of our plants labeled in the Garden. Plants go out with small labels, but they do tend to disappear (intentionally or unintentionally) and it is a daunting task to continually replace them. Please do not hesitate to ask a docent or volunteer person about the identity of a plant without a label – we will do our best to ID it for you.
How many people do you have working to maintain the gardens?
Although under 2 acres the Garden does take much maintenance. Unlike turf or other “normal” landscapes not needing a thoughtful approach, the GWC Native Garden care made up of beds needing weeding, deadheading, pruning, and other care. Yes, even watering in certain sections!
Where did you get all these plants?
We get plants in many ways – from other botanical gardens, from commercial greenhouses and nurseries, and from cuttings and starts from other plant professionals. Some of the Coastal Sage Community was salvage from the San Joaquin toll road extension. Of course, it has taken many years to amass the collections we maintain today.
What is the best time of year to visit?
That depends on what you are hoping to see and experience. There truly is year-round interest in the Garden, but spring is our most colorful and fall the most thoughtful. Winter sees some early bloomers as well as the bright green leafing out of our deciduous shrubs and trees.
Can I take classes here?
The Native Garden sometimes offers workshops during the year aimed at a general gardening audience unfamiliar with Native plants. As far as academic credit, courses in botany, various biology, and sustainability exist through the Biology Department. There is no degree program in horticulture at GWC but our sister school Orange Coast College (in Costa Mesa) does offer a two-year degree in Ornamental Horticulture, and would be the closest resource for horticulture courses.
Do you have volunteer opportunities?

We do. Contact Dan songster at dsongster@gwc.cccd.edu if you would like to contribute time and effort.