Spring is bustin' out all over, including in Santa Barbara, where you can tiptoe through the tulips or stop and smell the roses this weekend.
Santa Barbara is filled with free public gardens, and the A.C. Postel Mission Rose Garden is among one of the most scenic, with the rainbow array of blossoms showcased against the dazzling white of the Old Mission. It will soon be a riot of color, with fragrances just as lovely. Bring a picnic and stroll among 1,500 different varieties on 8 acres, including some heirloom roses that only bloom in the spring (corner of Los Olivos and Laguna streets).
Several blocks away is Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, known to locals as “Alice Keck Park Park” as the generous Park donated the 4.6-acre parcel which is now ... a park. More than 75 different species of trees are planted along meandering paths among lush flower beds, blooming shrubs, large lawn, gurgling stream, peaceful koi pond and gazebo (between Garden and Santa Barbara streets at East Arrellaga and East Micheltorena streets).
Bring home a native
The Spring Plant Sale is underway through April at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, with thousands of native plants just perfect for local gardens. Helpful volunteers and staff help buyers find just the right plants, so don’t be shy if yours isn’t a green thumb. New plants arrive weekly and there is a wide selection.
The garden itself is beautiful right now, though the large meadow’s wildflowers haven’t yet come into bloom. The Porter Trail also has a lovely wildflower displays, but that may be a few weeks away as well. This area burned in the 2009 Jesusita fire, but many of its plants have seeds that lie dormant in the soil and only germinate after being burned, such as the naturally occurring green-bark and bigpod ceanothus seedlings. It’s a lovely area. (682-4726, www.sbbg.org)
The beauty of the plant world is explored in the aptly timed exhibit “Four Centuries of Botanical Illustration” at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s John and Peggy Maximus Gallery. Twenty works are from the museum’s extensive collection of antique original prints, and are curated to tell the stories of the artists and the evolution of the art form. See rare woodprints from the 1500s, a fascinating view of a 17th-century German baroque garden and exuberant blooms painted by Pierre-Joseph Redoute (once a tutor to Marie Antoinette). Free to view with museum admission. (682-4711, www.sbnature.org)
Ballet in bloom
Students from Santa Barbara Festival Ballet leap and spin during this spring concert, titled “Ballet in Bloom,” on Saturday at 3 and 7 p.m. at Center Stage Theater. Classical ballet is performed, as are the debuts of two contemporary works and a sneak peek at their new storybook ballet “The Tales of Beatrix Potter.” Tickets are $28 general admission, $20 for kids under 12. (963-0408, www.centerstagetheater.org)