Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a diverse, natural wonderland in Mission Canyon blooming with colorful wildflowers, redwood and manzanita trees, and other native flora that make up its 11 distinct ecosystems. But the nearly century-old garden’s work supporting native habitats goes beyond the beloved local scenery the Santa Barbara community is so fond of.

A hub for research, education, and design in sustainable horticulture, the Botanic Garden was the recipient of a 2023 Great American Gardeners Award for Garden Stewardship from the American Horticultural Society (AHS) this month. The Garden Stewardship award was first given in 2021 and recognizes public gardens that embrace and exemplify a commitment to sustainability.

“We are honored,” said Steve Windhager, the garden’s executive director. “We hope that our garden, as well as the practices we employ, serve as a model for how native plants and thoughtful horticultural practice can preserve biodiversity, improve human well-being, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

For the country’s plant-lovers, it’s a big deal to be recognized by AHS, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected gardening organizations. And the Botanic Garden seems more than deserving of their green thumbs-up — it’s the first of its kind in the United States to focus exclusively on native plants and has flourished from the 13 acres purchased by philanthropist Anna Dorinda Blaksley in 1926 to today’s 78 acres of walking trails, an herbarium, a seed bank, research labs, a library, and a native plant nursery.

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