Sunnylands Center & Gardens Features Nine-Acres of Beauty

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More than 50,000 plants, including 50 species of arid-landscape plants from North and South America, Africa, and the Mediterranean, are on nine-acres of gardens at Sunnylands. Visitors can explore 1.25 miles of winding paths through the Gardens, which includes a wildflower field and a labyrinth.

Plants create living art with individual species grouped together for a layering of textures and colors, an approach different from traditional gardens. The landscape at Sunnylands Center & Gardens was inspired by the Annenberg collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. The Office of James Burnett created the Gardens to reflect the importance of this collection to the Annenbergs. Consideration was given to how the Impressionist style could be applied to a living environment. Vincent Van Gogh’s brushstrokes specifically influenced the design of the Gardens. “Mrs. Annenberg inspired us to ‘push the limits’ in the design of these Gardens,” said Burnett. “She loved beauty…in art, architecture, fashion, and especially in the Gardens.”

Rather than disrupt the beauty of the Gardens with signs or labels, the organization is providing a smart phone “app” to allow guests to instantaneously identify plants as they walk through the gardens. A map with plant locations and identifications is also available.

Sunnylands Gardens were designed to foster life in the desert, both plant and animal. A variety of migratory and resident species of wildlife call it home. Shrubs and desert succulents provide an attractive space for desert cottontails and jackrabbits. Tarantula hawk wasps and monarch butterflies are two of many species found feeding on desert milkweed. During the day, desert iguanas bask in the sun between agaves and, at night, coyotes find sustenance in the Gardens. Bird enthusiasts can see a range of species from hummingbirds to hawks; vermillion flycatchers have been documented on the estate.

Educational programming offered at Sunnylands includes activity carts that encourage self-directed learning while guiding visitors in creative ways to explore the Center & Gardens. Monthly themed programs are scheduled, including the release in May of one million ladybugs into the Gardens as a means of pest control.

Visitors are advised to check for programming information, including regularly scheduled garden walks.

The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands

Sunnylands was the home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg.

Entrepreneurs, ambassadors, and philanthropists, the Annenbergs were devoted to the American ideals of service. This commitment led them to place their estate in public trust. The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands oversees the historic estate as well as Sunnylands Center & Gardens. Operating as The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, the home once again welcomes United States presidents, government officials, and world leaders to participate in high-level retreats on national and international issues.

Sunnylands Center & Gardens features information, tours, and programs on the Annenbergs, their role in American history, the architecture of the historic house, and their art collection. Films, exhibitions, and interactive media stations detail the events of the time and the Annenberg role in them. The unique gardens are home to a variety of arid landscape plants and wildlife. Tours of the historic Midcentury Modern residence, designed by A. Quincy Jones, leave from the Center.

Guided tours of the historic estate and A. Quincy Jones-designed residence are $35 per person. Reservations can be made on the first and fifteenth of each month at Visits to Sunnylands Center & Gardens are free. Sunnylands Center & Gardens can be visited September 1 – May 31, Thursday through Sunday, 9 am – 4 pm; June 1 – July 32, Thursday through Sunday, 7 am – 2 pm; closed in August. Guests are reminded to the view visitation guidelines on the web site. Children under the age of ten are not allowed on estate and home tours but are welcome at the Center & Gardens.

The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, which operates The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit operating entity established by the Annenberg Foundation to hold high level retreats that address serious issues facing the nation and the world community and to educate the public on the historical significance of Sunnylands. More information, including ticket purchase, may be found online at