Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Visiting Our East Bay Trees...cheaply

Magnolia from Strybing Arboretum
I like to go to gardens all the time. It can get expensive. I like to be able to pop in frequently for a few mins at a local garden as if it were mine. And when travelling, I like to go to whatever garden or arboretum I find.

I am facing a renewal of my UC Bot Garden membership and am weighing the plusses and minuses of their different levels. This is beginning to hurt my head trying to figure this out. I may have to get out the spreadsheet to help decide what is the best way to visit gardens (and possibly museums) cheaply.

Membership at certain botanical gardens will give you free entry to other gardens, arboreta, and conservatories in the U.S. through the American Hortocultural Society Reciprocal Admissions Program (RAP). If you like to visit public gardens frequently or you travel to visit gardens, the RAP will save you money.  In the Bay Area, there are five gardens within the RAP. This list below has links to memberships and admissions to help you decide which garden to join.
  • UC Botanical Garden - Individual membership is $55, Admission (Student $8, Adult $10). UCB affiliates can get additional discounts. Then also, as I mentioned, you can get reciprocal entry to museums.
  • San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum - Avid Gardener membership is $65, Admission (Adults $10, free to SF (city or county) residents).
  • Conservatory of Flowers - Individual membership is $40, Admission (Student $5, Adult $8). However, I see that they have the "90-mile exclusion enforced". If you have a UC Bot Garden or SF Bot Garden membership then you can get in with your card. That's because you are within 90 miles of your member garden. If you are an SF (city or county) resident, you get in free.
  • Ruth Bancroft Gardens - Individual membership is $35, Admission (Student $7, Adult $10)
  • The Gardens at Heather Farms - Individual membership is $35, Admission is free anyway.
And then to make it even more confusing, some garden memberships (UC Botanical Garden "Family Plus" level) will give you NARM and ROAM reciprocal entry to art & history museums across the U.S. My student Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco membership ($55) gets two people into the special exhibits, like the David Hockney exhibit. Normally, this would be $25 (adult) & $21 (Student). I think that my FAMSF membership gets me this free entry, but a NARM or ROAM from UC Bot Garden might not.

UC Botanical Garden 
There are lots of factors in deciding which garden you want to join. There are sometimes other discounts for membership. For example, if you are a UC Berkeley affiliate, you can get additional discounts on memberships at the UC Botanical Garden. The Strybing Botanical Garden admission is free to SF (city & county) residents.  Many gardens have members only events or classes, and you might want to attend some of them. Membership may only get you in to a RAP garden for free, but not give you discounts on plants bought there. Discounts at local nurseries and stores may vary.  My UC Bot Garden card didn't get me 10% off the Diestel composted turkey poop at Lyngso, but my California Native Plant Society card did.

I ended up getting a two year family membership. I used my Cal Alumni Associating membership get the UC Affiliate level. (I can get a free UCB library card with that Cal Alumni Card which cost me $25 with my Merritt College Student ID.) They also gave me 8 free passes for giving away, so I can get some good will in addition to all of it.

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