Photo credit: Maiz Connolly
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.
For 28 years, Carol worked at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. As Director of Horticulture, she managed the living collections, retail nursery, and plant introduction programs. Her love of grasses inspired her to transform the garden’s iconic meadow into a centerpiece for native bunchgrasses and wildflowers. She also coordinated the design, construction, and interpretation of the garden’s award-winning Home Demonstration Garden, Southern California’s first water-conserving, residential landscape featuring native plants.
Under Carol's leadership, the botanic garden’s retail nursery became the premier source of California native plants on the Central Coast. She restructured the plant introduction program, inviting botanic gardens and wholesale nurseries across the state to trial and evaluate prospective SBBG cultivars. Several of her discoveries have become popular cultivars, such as Verbena lilacina ‘De La Mina’, Lessingia filaginifolia ‘Silver Carpet’, and Salvia ‘Pacific Blue’.
After leaving SBBG, Carol operated a successful horticultural consulting and garden design business in the Santa Barbara region. In 2012, she 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, she was thrilled to be a part of this important scientific and educational endeavor.
As a horticultural consultant, Carol creates ecologically appropriate, dynamic plant palettes and compositions for clients and provides sustainable guidelines for managing their landscapes. She continues to seek out exceptional plants for California gardens and to share her knowledge of plants native to California and other Mediterranean climate regions through her writing, teaching, and public speaking.