Another hidden gem in our waterfront hamlet is The Forrest Deaner Native Plant Botanic Garden that spans 3.5 acres in Benicia’s State Recreation Area, and is home to more than 3,000 native trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses representing over 300 species.

According to Norma Deaner, President of the Solano Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, the garden is the only one of its kind in Solano County and is considered one of the leading collections of native plants in California. In 1998, Norma’s late husband Forrest founded the Solano Chapter (officially named after native son Willis Linn Jepson), and was instrumental in securing the current garden space, and spreading knowledge about the significance of native plants.  Since his passing in 2002, Norma has worked tirelessly to carry on his message.

“These plants are endemic, so they thrive here,” Norma explains.  “They don’t need much water or maintenance. We are not only conserving the environment, we are preserving our heritage.” Native plants also support the local ecology and attract important insects and wildlife to our gardens, helping to pollinate and sustain the cycle of native species.

Forrest had his favorites, including the snow drop bush that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, the bright yellow bush poppy that blooms year long, and the beautiful coffee berry plant with red berries that survive the winter, and are often used as an antioxidant.  

The spacious garden site overlooking the Carquinez Strait is divided into two major parts: Solano Plant Communities that are native to our county, and Demonstration Gardens that provide educational opportunities. Those include:  Residential/Sensory, Hummingbird/Butterfly, Native American, Memorial Garden (hosting Forrest’s favorites), Wildflower Meadow and Riparian.

“The garden is important as a living classroom,” says native plant activist and Volunteer Coordinator Dan Jensen, who welcomes helpers every Saturday morning between 9:30 and 11:30. “Volunteers come from across the county and are motivated by shared core values. It’s a wonderful way to connect in the community.”

Although there is no longer an immediate threat regarding closure of our State Parks, there is concern about funding to maintain the State Recreation Area and garden. This means there’s an even greater need for your volunteer support. To find out more about volunteering or making a donation, please email To learn more about native plants and how to grow them in your own gardens, visit