Los Angeles County is home to many lovely parks and green spaces. One such place that I would recommend to anyone, whether local or visitor is Descanso Gardens, located in La Canada-Flintridge off Interstate 210, west of Pasadena. Described as “an urban retreat 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles,” the gardens boast 150 acres of botanical collections, walking trails, and seasonal displays. It is operated in a public-private partnership between Los Angeles County and the 501(c)(3) Descanso Gardens Guild.
The garden property has sort of an interesting history. The property was first deeded to the Verdugo family back in the late 1700s by the first Spanish governor of California. There it remained until the 1930s when it was purchased by Elias Manchester Boddy and his family. They built their dream home on the land; in fact, the Boddy House can still be visited today. Something I didn’t know prior to this weekend was that of a San Gabriel connection. As the U.S. was entering World War II and Japanese-Americans were being sent to internment camps, Mr. Boddy, who had been friends with two Japanese-American camellia growers, purchased their inventories. One was of F.W. Yoshimura, who owned Mission Nursery here in San Gabriel. This nursery still operates today as San Gabriel Nursery, and has contributed to many of our Cub Scout Pack’s service projects at a local San Gabriel public school. For Descanso Gardens, the purchase of the camellias was the start of Descanso’s first signature collection and one of the largest collections of camellias in the Western Hemisphere. When Mr. Boddy retired and was ready to move south to the San Diego area, he sold his estate to Los Angeles County, making it a public garden.
I enjoyed a full day at the gardens this past weekend as part of a women’s retreat for the ladies at our church. It truly was a picturesque setting to hang out among friends as well as sit in quiet reflection. I especially enjoyed the collection of wooded plants in the Ancient Forest area. The forest setting was a perfect place to set down and contemplate life, as most of the traffic was in the rose gardens and areas closer to the main entrance. It was also the perfect cover for when it started to drizzle.
The roses were still in full bloom and their bright colors were stunning against the grey morning skies. I didn’t spend too much time in the rose gardens, but I did get a few photos.
Other collections include an ancient forest collection of cycads and bromeliads as one would imagine existed in prehistoric times, the oak woodland, and California garden, which features California native plants. I did take a walk up to the Boddy house. I won’t lie, I went up really because it had the nicest restrooms, but I did enjoy a pretty walk around the surrounding grounds. Above the Boddy house there was a trail to Hope’s Garden. This area has a grove of olive trees, and looks more wild than other parts of the gardens. I may have gone up a little too close to the boundary fence, because the trail got pretty narrow, and I found some poison oak growth. However, being up high gave me a stunning vista of the gardens below and beyond.
I would recommend Descanso Gardens to anyone who enjoys botanical gardens and mostly flat, scenic walks. There are various seasonal events that can be found on their calendar, as well as a list of what plants are in season. Group admissions as well as reciprocating membership admission information can be found here. I recommend spending at least a half-day if not a full day to see all the exhibits and enjoy a truly lovely experience. Happy trails!
For source information and more, visit Descansogardens.org.