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Sunnylands Center and Gardens

Enter Sunnylands Center and Gardens through the gate on Bob Hope Drive. Keep your eyes open for there is very little signage, including signs for the various plantings. On a recent tour, I learned the lack of signage is purposeful on the part Annenberg’s and their designer, for they didn’t want anything to distract from the beauty of the landscape. In fact, a guide pointed out that the grounds are visual, not botanical gardens.

When designing the educational building and gardens on the 15 acres, Mrs. Annenberg wanted the grounds to be green and lush. However, the younger generation of the Annenberg’s persuaded their grandmother that it would not be proper to plant things that were not indigenous to the area as the need for large amounts of water was not practical nor politically astute.

After much discussion, Mrs. Annenberg agreed to a design based on Impressionist paintings. Beds of the same specimen are grouped together. Throughout the grounds there are 70 species of native and arid-adapted plants. For those are interested, brochure are available at the front desk with all the plants listed.

Sunnylands Garden Tour

Each Thursday at 11:00 a.m., people gather in front of the educational building. A guide, who has intimate knowledge of the entire space, proceeds to talk about the gardens, how it is evolving and how it has become a scientific research area. For example, the Center plays a large role in tracking the migration of the Monarch butterflies. The next stop is an area, which will be covered with indigenous wild flowers of the Valley. Great care has been taken to research and develop the proper climate conditions to have them thrive.

After a short walk, the guide talks about how the educational building received its’ LEED designation (Green Construction process). Fascinating to learn the risks that were taken. Some worked and some didn’t.

Finally, you stop in front of the educational center. The space before you is vast, with many seating areas, grassy areas for picnics, a patio for lunch, a beautiful reflection pond and a dozens of varieties of cactus.

Things you need to know:

Cost for the Visitor Center tour:  Free

(You can sign up for the free newsletter and get information on the various tours and lectures that are presented every month at www.sunnylands.org)

Make sure you wear a hat.  Bring water and be prepared to stand for the hour tour.  One segment of the tour is not easily accessible by wheelchair. However, listening to even two segments of the tour makes it worthwhile.

Parking is easy and there is no cost.

The Annenberg’s have given the Coachella Valley a beautiful gift… a place to relax, learn and spend time with friends and family in an atmosphere that you will find soothing for your soul.

37-977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA  92270
(760) 202-2222

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