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Bryan Morse’s traditional medicine wheel is one of the features at Alta Vista Botanical Gardens, a rare plant garden, outdoor art museum and living classroom in Vista. Courtesy photo
Community Vista Vista Featured

Community, art and education come together at Alta Vista

VISTA — Covering 14 acres, Alta Vista Botanical Gardens are hardly a North County secret, but they are indeed full magic and beauty and have plenty to teach visitors of all ages.

Its name belies everything it encompasses, as it’s part rare plant garden, part outdoor art museum and part living classroom. It also serves as a gathering place for the community and hosts a variety of events throughout the year.

“Our mission is to bring together people, nature and art,” Bryan Morse, said. Morse, the “creative juices” of the operation, has been with the gardens from the start and helped bring the project to its current incarnation.

Mostly run by volunteers, the property is home to numerous themed gardens, sculptures and hosts monthly classes for even the youngest nature lover in any family.

Morse, who is also a builder, had a hand, spearheaded the master plan and the revisions as well as the children’s garden design. “I graded every path on this hillside and supervised every plant being planted,” he said of his 11 years with Alta Vista.

There is also plenty of wildlife to be seen. “It’s full of birds and other animals,” Morse said. “There are road runners, families of quail and zillions of rabbits.”

Though the plants and landscape are the origins of Alta Vista, it’s the art that keeps the doors open to the community. Morse touts the recent addition of artist Richard Breceda’s sculptures with increasing the donation’s Alta Vista receives. “The take from the donation tube has doubled since putting in the Breceda sculptures,” he said. The collection is dinosaur themed, including four permanents sculptures Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor and Scorpion, and can be found in the Prehistoric Garden and the Scorpion in the Desert Garden.

Other themed gardens include the Jungle Garden, Medicinal Herb Garden, Jeffrey Stein Children’s Music Garden, California Natives Garden and many more. A traditional Native American medicine wheel Morse created that was activated by a local Native American can also be found in the Desert Garden.

Classes offered at Alta Vista include children’s gardening classes, Grow Getters classes in which volunteers gather together to pot plants and propagate things to plant in the garden, composting classes and more.

Upcoming events include the second annual Meading in the Garden on April 3. “It’s a beer, mead and wine festival,” Morse said. “We have five bands playing, 18 breweries and five wineries participating.” Hundreds are expected to attend the event which takes place from 1 to 5 p.m. and will benefit Alta Vista, and advance tickets are $25 or $30 at the door. Raffles will be held throughout the event and a silent auction will also take place.

Dave Nichols, the event coordinator for Meading at the Garden, started the event to combine his love of brewing and mead and to honor his mother who was a huge supporter of Alta Vista Botanical Garden. Nichols will feature five of his own meads at the event.

The Amigos de Los Vista Lions Club will volunteer and help pour at the event, which is sponsored by the UCSD Extension Brewing Program and SD County Beer Republic.

Morse is also excited about the Earth Day event, which will take place April 9. This year’s theme is “Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves.” There will be children’s activities and games, a large plant sale, music and entertainment, free yoga classes, vendors and more. Also at the event will be the unveiling and dedication of Morse’s “The Mouth of Truth” sculpture and a closing drum circle.

For a complete listing of events and classes, and descriptions of the art and themed gardens, visit Alta Vista Botanical Gardens is located at 1270 Vale Terrace Drive. Call (760) 945-3954 or email [email protected] for more information.