Cultivating the Historic District’s Historic Landscape

flowerNow that the summer crowds have started to slow down, September is the perfect time to visit the Historic District and take in the unique historic landscaping there. Although Crystal Cove’s famous beach cottages often make the biggest impression on visitors, the beautiful historic landscape and vegetation palette also contribute to the Historic District’s magical ambiance.

State Parks must balance resource preservation with recreational use, which usually results in managing open space in accordance with standards for native habitats and removing invasive exotic plants.  However, since the Historic District is listed on the National Historic Register, its landscape includes not just native plants, but also period-appropriate ornamental vegetation from the 1930s to 1950s.

There’s more to it than simply deciding what looks good. State Park historians conducted site-specific research to create a Crystal Cove Historic District Landscape Plan to inform the preservation, restoration, and management of the landscape, similar to the plan that was developed for the cottages and other structures. By using photographs, oral recordings, and written documentation on what plants were available at the time, the State Park historians were able to create a plan that lists all of the plants that are considered as historic contributors to the Cove.

Today, the eucalyptus, hibiscus, ice plants, succulents, and bougainvillea that contribute to the Historic District’s authenticity are maintained by the Historic Landscape Crew, a team of 20 regular volunteers that dedicate their time and effort into maintaining the beauty and authenticity of Crystal Cove.  Richard Swinney, the manager of the volunteer group, says that the team plans to continue adding more historic plants to the cliffs and making changes to the landscape behind and between the cottages – all within the Historic District boundaries, of course!  (Non-native plants outside the District are still goners.)

Crystal Cove State Park and Crystal Cove Alliance are very grateful for the Historic Landscape Crew and all the wonderful enhancements they’ve made to Crystal Cove’s Historic District. If you have a passion for gardening and would like to volunteer, contact Richard Swinney at to get information about the next Historic Landscape Crew orientation.

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