Through November, the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley is inviting visitors to wander the garden’s paths free of charge every day — including weekends and holidays — from 9 to 11 a.m.
“Like so many of us, I was experiencing a lot of stress after the election,” says garden director Eric Siegel. The morning after the results came in, he couldn’t sleep, so he went to the garden and walked the trails as the sun came up. “I realized I felt a lot better. I’ve always been aware of how good a garden makes me feel. It’s a very tranquil place.”
For students, attending Berkeley is hard enough, says Siegel, and with the additional stress many are feeling, the garden offers a place where they can clear their minds and gain perspective. “It’s worth taking some time in the morning to just walk around and breathe in the fresh air,” he says. “There’s nothing to be gained by walking around in despair.”
The Botanical Garden, established in 1890, spans 34 acres and is one of the most diverse landscapes in the world. It features more than 10,000 plant species — including a major collection of California native plants — and has nine areas of naturalistic plantings representing regions from Italy to South Africa.
Siegel recommends visiting a few places he finds especially therapeutic: the Japanese pond close to the entrance; Oak Knoll, which has a picnic table where visitors can sit and think; the Garden of Old Roses at the top of the hill, which offers a view of the entire San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge; and, around the back, the Cloud Forest, which he says is quiet and sequestered. Visitors can plan a trip to the garden by viewing this online map.
The Botanical Garden is close to campus — 200 Centennial Drive in Berkeley — and is always free to students. For more information, visit botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/.