OJAI’S BEST-KEPT SECRET: TAFT GARDENS AND NATURE PRESERVE

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

A year or so ago, I took a field trip to Ojai and visited a strange and unique garden.  

That would be the Taft Gardens and Nature Preserve, located off the 150: a scenic drive that connects Ojai to the 101.

Way off, in fact: after entering through a pair of crumbling gate pillars, you cross a couple of creeks, pass many large rambling private residences, and up a windy, isolated drive come at last to the Visitor’s Center.

A day and time must be reserved in advance and in spite of its relative isolation, I feared the place might be overrun with people.

Instead, for my hour-and-a-half visit I had the entire 15 acres to myself: the South African Garden, the Australian Garden, the Aloe Garden, the Agave Cactus Garden, the Lily Grove Lawn, the Zen Garden, and the Eco Garden Pavilion.

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