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Small waterfalls create a sense of quiet calm at the Self-Realization Fellowship Gardens, a free public garden in Encinitas. Photo by Jano Nightingale
ColumnsJano's Garden

Searching for spring

I have been searching for spring. During one of my garden walks, I was looking for daffodils, as I usually do as the weather gets warmer.

But here in North County, the bulbs are fickle. They don’t pop up on cue as in Upstate New York, where I spent the last 20 years of my gardening life. In the Northeast, the weather is just perfect for spring bulbs.

According to my landscape design colleague, Chris Bany: “The bulbs are smart! They know just when to sprout out of the soil. They can also tell us a lot about weather, since many bulbs and fruit trees need ‘cold chill hours,’ in order to begin their growing or budding season. The bulbs need the correct number of hours below 45 degrees in order to flourish.”


I decided to visit one of my favorite free public gardens in North County, located at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas.

A koi pond can mesmerize visitors to the Fellowship gardens. Photo by Jano Nightingale

In the words of Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Fellowship, “You realize that all along there was something tremendous within you and you did not know it.” He founded the Fellowship in 1923 as a means to “uplift humanity through prayer.”

The gardens, located at 1105 2nd Street in Encinitas, are open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. This spot has always been one of my go-to places when I am seeking a place to sit and quietly observe nature.

Unlike many larger botanical gardens, this tiny gem is located on less than an acre, with 30 steps leading from the street to a magnificent ocean lookout. If you look carefully, you might even see a school of dolphins jumping in the distance.

And the quiet! A soft-spoken garden staff member will very politely ask you to turn off your cellphone as you begin the ascent to the top of the stairs. At every turn, on your right and your left, small shade gardens surround 50-year-old trees, creating a canopy of shade throughout the property.

Shade-loving plants dot the pathways, with cyclamen, clivia, Natal lily, mandevilla and camelia highlighting the show.


Near the top of the staircase, a small pond is filled with koi swimming delightfully over and under each other, creating a shimmering gold and silver show, highlighted by their bright orange scales.

Surrounding the koi pond are small waterfalls that create a quiet space for mediation. Regular visitors often bring a blanket on which to sit and meditate, undisturbed by those around them.

Whether seeking a place to meditate or just see a wealth of plants, waterfalls and koi, this is one of my favorite gardens in North County — and it’s free!


Next on my springtime garden list is a nature park just two hours from North County. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is home to the largest desert state park in the United States, offering desert hiking, camping, biking, birding, reptiles and amphibians and, at the top of the list, the spring wildflower bloom.

Ocotillo blossoms at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Borrego Springs. Photo by Bill Sullivan


Although I have not visited the park yet, one of my students, Eleanor Shubert, remarked, “This is a fascinating site to view desert wildflowers, and the well-managed website will keep you informed about which type of flowers are blooming every day for the season lasting from February through March.”

The website, operated by the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, features Borrego Blooms Dot Org, a daily photographic log of blooms and conditions within the miles of desert in the park. Check in with the Natural History gift shop at (760) 767-3098 for daily wildflower bloom information and visit the association’s website at for more about Anza-Borrego.


The Anza-Borrego Desert History Association also offers weekly classes during the season and will be hosting a Borrego Springs Garden Tour on March 16 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Contact the gift shop for tickets.

Enjoy your spring garden site favorites, and send us an email with your ideas at [email protected]

 Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and horticulturist and teaches vegetable gardening at the Carlsbad Senior Center. Contact her for her teaching schedule at [email protected].

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