Designed by Gary Ratway in 1980, the group of irregular island beds in the Perennial Garden provides a pleasing display of an unusually large number of perennials, as well as woody specimens. The beds are raised because of the high water table; each bed is drained by a deep "moat" containing burlap-wrapped drainage pipe under gravel and a layer of mulch. Some new and unusual plants grown here are not yet commercially available. They show interesting choices and combinations that may be practical and appealing for home gardeners to try in the in the near future. You must walk on the grass to fully appreciate the Perennial Garden.
The mild Mediterranean climate allows several hundred species and cultivars of herbaceous plants from all over the world to thrive in the Perennial Garden. Frequent fog acts as a cooling and humidifying blanket, reducing the intensity of the full sun, while shrubs and trees shield the perennials from strong ocean winds and form an attractive backdrop when perennials are in bloom. Perennials generally reach their peak in two to three years. Dividing and replanting, preferably in the fall, can restore vigor. A few perennials can grow for many years without division. The shrubs and trees, including a dwarf conifer collection, provide beauty and interest to the garden during winter and early spring when perennials aren't visible. The grass is a standard park blend of blue fescue and rye grasses which withstands foot and cart traffic.