If you don’t think southern California has seasons, you need to visit Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge. The park puts on an ever-changing face as it cycles through the year. Generally speaking, from early autumn to spring it is all about the camellias, with the best displays in January and February. The park boasts more than 34,000 camellia plants made up of 700 species, varieties, cultivars and hybrids. And I always thought a camellia was just a camellia!
In the spring, the camellias are joined by lilacs, tulips and daffodils. By June and July the rose garden is at its height. And in the fall you might think you are in New England with the leaves of some of the trees changing color.
Over the past two or three years I have visited several times after a lapse of a couple of decades. By far my favorite time to visit is when the camellias are in full flower. So if you can only visit once in your lifetime, call ahead to make sure you will be seeing the best possible display of those wonderful blooms.
For those of us lucky enough to live in the Los Angeles area, meaning we have the opportunity to return multiple times, any time of the year is good. My mother’s senior residence planned an outing on June 22.
Just before the entrance is a shady picnic area where we feasted on ham or turkey sandwiches, SunChips and fruit salad before buying our tickets. As my mother noted, eating outdoors always gives you a healthy appetite. I think the squirrels would agree as they were hanging out waiting for tidbits.
Some residents apparently declined to join the trip for fear it would be too hot. Although it was a warm day, it was pleasant in the gardens with the help of the cooling trees, plants and water features.
Because it is difficult to move around the pathways on walkers, we opted for the tram ride. I have never taken this before as, of course, personally I prefer to walk. But the ride was an interesting experience as the tram operator narrated the history of the park and imparted information about the trees and plants as she drove us around.
It was strange for me to see the camellia bushes devoid of any flowers. Too bad they cannot bloom year round. But the park is still beautiful in a different way. Also, on this day the Boddy House was closed. Last time I was here I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the building and looking at the first-rate art exhibit in the carriage house. I am already looking forward to my next visit which I am sure will be very soon!
(Photos copyright roslyn m wilkins)