Oh my horticultural goodness, Sunnylands Center & Gardens are a work of modern art. Lucy and I had spent the day before in Joshua Tree National Park and were already on sensory overload when we arrived here. This garden knocked our socks off! Entering in the long, curving driveway the garden impacts you right away but then you see the Sunnylands Visitor Center at the end of the drive.
It’s a sleek, contemporary building with windows from floor to ceiling done in the style of Mid-Century Modern architecture. It boasts a LEED gold rating and the 53,000 plants in this garden are all low water usage and adapted to arid environments.
No roses here! I’ll be taking you on a tour of the garden exactly as we saw it. If you fancy something more interactive, then be sure to check out the video “Sunnylands Center & Gardens” which you’ll find at the end of this post after viewing the myriad (yes, there are a lot!) of photos.
Walter and Leonore Annenberg owned the 200 acre property (now managed by their foundation) and set 15 acres aside for the visitor center and gardens.
Although there are roughly 53,000 individual plants in this garden, there are only 70 species. That means a lot of repetition. The style of the garden is a direct reflection of the style of the center – sleek, modern, appealing and fascinating.
We were staying 10 minutes away in the desert resort city of Palm Springs and fortunate for us, the day was overcast and great for shooting pictures and a video. There are benches throughout so you can sit and really enjoy all that you see.
And you can take rest on one of them to recover from dodging the dive bombing hummingbirds! We’ll start this pictorial tour in the front garden which is “wilder” than the back garden. The wildflower field makes up the majority of this part of the garden.
Here is the garden in front of the center:
The garden behind the house is much more laid out, almost formal if you will. It’s comprised of reflecting pools, specimen gardens, a labyrinth, performance circle and great lawn. The palos verdes trees which line the paths and driveway are the inspiration of Van Gogh’s “Olive Trees”. The Anneberg’s love for and collection of Impressionist paintings is evident in the overall design of the entire garden.
Here is the garden behind the center
I can’t wait to go back to this garden located in the Cochella Valley which you may have heard of because of its music and arts festival. If you go, be sure to check the website as they are only open certain days and closed for 2 months out of the year. The estate itself is now used as a retreat for high powered world leaders to meet in peace and privacy to work on whatever issue confronts them.
We did not tour the house but that is saved for the next visit. Plus, that means there’s a whole other garden to be seen!
Another garden to see in Palm Springs: A Visit To A Desert Garden