San Diego Botanic Garden, formerly known as Quail Botanical Gardens, began as the 30-acre private estate of Charles and Ruth Larabee. The Larabees landscaped the property around their modest home with exotic plants they collected during their worldwide travels, including cork oaks, palms, cycads, aloes, cacti, hibiscus, and unusual subtropical fruit-bearing shrubs and trees.
As active Scout leaders, the couple sought to personally educate local young people about nature, using the estate's plantings as their teaching site. In the spirit of continuing public environmental education, Mrs. Larabee left her private residence and its grounds to the County of San Diego in 1957. Quail Gardens Foundation, now known as the Quail Botanical Gardens Foundation, Inc., was formed three years later to preserve and support this remarkable Garden. "Quail Gardens" opened to the public in 1971 and later became "Quail Botanical Gardens."
The county financially supported and managed the property for 32 years until the early 1990s when serious economic challenges drove county officials to seek alternatives. In 1993, a group of dedicated members of the Foundation signed a long-term lease from the County and privatized the Garden as an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with the mission to actively participate in the conservation of rare, threatened and endangered plant species, to serve the botanical and horticultural needs of San Diego County, and to exist as an urban retreat.
Julian Duval was hired in 1995, and continues to serve as President / CEO. He originally came to the Garden from the Indianapolis Zoo and Gardens, where he was VP of Zoological and Botanical Collections.
Over the years, many important changes and additions have taken place at the Garden, especially in regards to children, the future stewards of the earth. In June 2009, we opened the Hamilton Children's Garden, the largest interactive children's garden in the West Coast. Our continued growth has greatly increased the audience we serve as well as our potential to serve many others. So on September 12, 2009, we changed our name from Quail Botanical Gardens to San Diego Botanic Garden. It is our hope that this will make it easier for people to discover this magical garden.
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