Magazine article Sunset

Lush Gardens and Tall Palms

Magazine article Sunset

Lush Gardens and Tall Palms

Article excerpt

Los Angeles has it all: classic gardens, tree-lined boulevards, urban foresters, and--of course--palm trees at virtually every turn

When we asked our readers about L.A.'s horticultural heritage, their choice for favorite public garden was The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, with the Descanso Gardens running a close second. But more than a few others chose less obvious examples of L.A.'s plant-friendly climate: the coral trees on San Vicente Boulevard and the work of TreePeople.


Close your eyes and imagine an urban oasis. If a place of peace and quiet, open space and lush greenery comes to mind, you're probably picturing. The Huntington Botanical Gardens, in San Marino 12 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. This grand estate features 120 acres of sweeping lawns, long vistas framed by mature oaks and towering evergreens, intimate theme gardens, and 17th- and 18th-century statuary. While the gardens are the main attraction to plant lovers, three art galleries and a prodigious research library share the 207-acre property.

The 12-acre Desert Garden is an especially popular spot, rich in color and texture with more than 2,500 specimens. The drought-adapted plants offer an astonishing variety of forms, from smooth-edged diminutive succulents to spiny prehistoric-looking aloe trees.

Two other favorites are the Rose Garden (in bloom now) and the Japanese Garden. The first is arranged historically, tracing rose varieties back 1,000 years. Japanese plants such as wisterias, magnolias, azaleas, camellias, and ornamental fruit trees are in the 10-acre Japanese Garden. A moon bridge, a Zen garden of raked gravel, and a 19th-century Japanese house complete the scene.

Children gravitate to the lily ponds, where they can get their feet wet and hide among the stands of bamboo at the water's edge. Off the beaten path is the subtropical slope. Flowering trees here that begin to bloom in May include cape chestnut, jacaranda, and tipuana.

Allow at least half a day to explore the gardens. A restaurant and teahouse offer refreshments; picnics are not allowed.


Lots of trees say L.A.: Moreton Bay figs, with their massive buttressed root systems; jacarandas, whose blue June blooms are an annual source of surprise; and palms--above all, palms. But other trees give character to the city's streets. The coral trees planted down the median of San Vicente Boulevard in Santa Monica and Los Angeles are a good example.

The story of these trees is as colorful as their orange-red spring blooms. …

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