Carol Bornstein is one of Southern California’s most highly respected native plant specialists. Throughout her career, she has championed the landscape value of California’s native plants and the benefits of designing gardens in harmony with nature.
While Director of Horticulture at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, where I worked for 28 years, I managed the living collections, retail nursery, and plant introduction programs. My love of grasses inspired me to transform the garden’s iconic meadow into a centerpiece for native bunchgrasses and wildflowers. I also coordinated the design and construction of the garden’s award-winning Home Demonstration Garden, Southern California’s first water-conserving, residential landscape featuring native plants.
Under my leadership, the botanic garden’s retail nursery became the premier source of California native plants on the Central Coast. I restructured the plant introduction program, inviting botanic gardens and wholesale nurseries across the state to trial and evaluate prospective SBBG cultivars. I'm delighted that several of my discoveries have become popular cultivars, such as Verbena lilacina ‘De La Mina’, Lessingia filaginifolia ‘Silver Carpet’, and Salvia ‘Pacific Blue’.
After leaving SBBG, I operated a successful horticultural consulting and garden design business, with clients in the Santa Barbara region. In 2012, I became Director of the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Designed to create habitat for urban wildlife, these 3.5-acre gardens provide a place for visitors to experience nature in an urban setting and to assist museum scientists in documenting the rich biodiversity found in the Los Angeles Basin. For eight years, I was thrilled to be a part of this important scientific and educational endeavor.
As a horticultural consultant, I create ecologically appropriate, dynamic plant palettes and compositions for clients and provide sustainable guidelines for managing their landscapes. I also continue to seek out exceptional plants for California gardens and to share my knowledge of plants native to California and other Mediterranean climate regions through my writing, teaching, and public speaking.