Firmly Planted

Tanya Finney, recently promoted from head gardener to superintendent at South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes, oversees all gardens, plant collections, horticulture and maintenance in her regular routine.

What brought you to the South Coast Botanic Garden?
TF: I have been at the garden for five years now. Prior to starting at the garden, I had moved from Orange County to Long Beach and had been working at the LA Arboretum in Arcadia–in the greenhouse and plant nurseries. When the gardener position here opened up, I was excited to do more garden design and hands-on gardening, as well as spend more time working locally and less time commuting.

What are some of the challenges you face keeping a garden of this magnitude looking so lush and beautiful with our typically dry climate?
TF: The South Coast Botanic Garden’s mission includes the goal to present a model of excellence for land reclamation and sustainability. And in order to achieve that while maintaining a beautiful garden, we have always had a focus on plants adapted to our hot dry summers and cool wet winters. Many of the landscapes and collections have plants native to California, Australia and South Africa, all Mediterranean climates like our own. We also try to zone our garden so that plants of interest with greater water needare grouped together, a key component to sustainable design practices.

Though gardening is your daily job, do you still find time to garden at your own home? If so, what do you like to plant?
TF: I do enjoy container gardening at home and always have.  I live in a condo, so my outdoor space is limited. But I have been able to continue to grow begonias, bulbs and succulents in my own small patio garden. In fact, the oldest plant in my garden is a small cactus which I got while a student at UC Davis. It has followed me from there to Maryland and back to California. 

Any tips you can give South Bay residents starting a new garden project of their own?
TF: I always tell gardeners to be aware of your soil, water and sun exposure and to research the plants you’re growing.  If you have a 15-foot shrub in a three-foot space, it is out of place and your plant won’t thrive. The goal is for the right plant in the right place. Enjoy the spring weather, and happy gardening!

How does your garden grow?
Tell us at