The vibrant and diverse flora of Southern California can be seen all over this vast expanse we called the Southland. Just look around you. However, with that in mind and to get a glimpse and a feel for this wonderful vegetation from our region and those of other places all in one well-groomed outpost, check out five of the finest botanical gardens in and around Los Angeles.
Virginia Robinson Gardens
1008 Elden Way
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Part of the parcel of land where Beverly Hills’ first lady Virginia Robinson once lived, her gardens dating back to 1911 are now managed by Los Angeles County and can only be toured by making a reservation in advance of your visit. That said, it’s worth the trouble to do just that for a chance to get to know this astounding landmark expanse listed on the National Historic Register and an official California Point of Historical Interest. Of special note is the Italian Renaissance Terrace Garden with its glorious magnolia trees and sensational camellias, and the Rose Garden, sporting heirloom blooms. Meanwhile, the tropical garden with its king palms grove, arguably the largest of its type on the mainland, almost overwhelms.
1418 Descanso Drive
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
A whopping 150 acres of carefully curated landscape, Descanso Gardens will buy your attention for many more than just one visit. Once the La Cañada Flintridge property of early 20th century newspaper mogul E. Manchester Boddy, who used this outpost as a commercial camellia garden, the popular site came under the auspices of Los Angeles County more than 60 years ago. Notable among the blooms are a rosarium, a lilac garden and a bird sanctuary, all reached on foot or via the Descanso Gardens Enchanted Railroad, a diesel train that is one eighth the size of the actual model.
The Japanese Garden
Tillman Reclamation Plant
6100 Woodley Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91406
The 10th most important of 300 Japanese gardens in the nation according to the “Journal of Japanese Gardening,” this namesake Nirvana will surely give you ideas for your own outdoor place of serenity. Beyond that, you’ll find your Zen here, particularly in the meditation garden on site and complete with its Three Buddhas stone arrangement and a grass-covered mound to illustrate longevity. Also on tap here is a wet garden with waterfalls, lakes and stone gardens and an authentic tatami tea house and tea garden.
Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
100 Stein Plaza Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Named after the noted botanist, this special garden started as a UCLA laboratory in 1929. The frost-free retreat is filled to the brim with tropicals and sub-tropicals like ferns, palms, eucalyptus and figs. All of the 1,500 different plant species are organized by geographic as well as taxonomic and cultural needs, showing visitors the way certain specimens relate to one another. With that in mind, go and expect to become acquainted with desert plants, shrubs true to a Mediterranean climate, a plethora of plants native to Hawaii and many more. Tours are available for groups of eight or more.
The Huntington Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA 91108
This storied outpost near Pasadena offers 120 acres of specialized botanical gardens, most notably the Japanese Garden, the Desert Garden and the Chinese Garden. The latter, called Liu Fang Yuan, was installed about five years ago thanks to landscape architects from Suzhou who installed lakes with names like Pond of Reflected Greenery along with prominent plants (including peach blossoms) and rocks, making this area look like a picture postcard. Also a big draw at Huntington at this time of year when the whole spread provides a riot of color, the Desert Garden claims to be one of Earth’s oldest and largest collections of outdoor cacti and related succulents like xerophytes, which are aridity-adapted plants. You’ll discover some 5,000 species in this section alone, giving you a hint as to how much ground you’ll want to cover, perhaps over time and not in just a single day on the premises of this ultra pretty place.
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Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
301 N. Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91007
The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is a magnificent 127 acres of plants, trees, flowers and wildlife you have to see to believe. The flora and fauna located on the property includes Native American, Rancho Period and late 19th century living treasures. The main grounds are open seven days a week with exceptions during the Christmas season.