As I started towards retirement, I decided to upgrade my little point-n-shoot Kodak. After reading loads of reviews I settled on a Nikon D700. It arrived in the mail last November, and I instantly set off to learn to photograph. I quickly discovered a passion for flowers -- and, as a bonus, they don’t move. This lead us on a quest to find great gardens.
Here our my top garden picks:
1418 Descanso Drive
La Canada Flintridge
Intersection of the 210 and 2 freeways
$8 admission. Gift shop and cafe available. A tram runs daily around the gardens.
The property originally belong to E. Manchester Boddy, owner of the L.A. Daily News, and the site was used as a commercial camellia garden. The property was donated to L.A. County in 1953, though the garden has maintained a camellia section. Other garden sections include an Iris and Lilac Garden, along with a Japanese Garden (complete with tea house) and California Garden, which has native plants on 8-acres.
1151 Oxford Road
$15 (weekday) admission. Parking, gift shop and cafe available.
Though the Huntington offers a library and art collections, we are focusing on the gardens.
The gardens are set on 120 acres, and divided into 12 themed sections. In 1903 Henry Huntington purchased the San Marino Ranch with the idea of changing it into a botanic garden filled with rare flowers. With the help of his property manager, William Hertrich, they landscaped 120 of the 600 (original) acres with over 12,000 species of flowers. The garden is most noted for its collection of Cycads, (America’s largest). The largest collection of desert plants in the world is also found here. The Huntingdon is one of the few gardens able to grow the extremely rare "corpse flower" (the largest individual flower on the planet, weighing up to 24 lbs.)
Sidenote: The garden doubled as a filming location for ‘National Treasure: Book of Secrets’. It was the White House Rose Garden.
Lake Shrine Temple
17190 Sunset Blvd.
Fee free. Restrooms and parking available.
Lake Shrine Temple was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1950, but is owned by the Self-Realization Fellowship. It has mediation areas devoted to Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hebrews and Hindus. (They offer classes and a book room also). Though it is a designated as a spiritual retreat, the gardens are lovely: filled with waterfalls, a windmill, flora of many varieties, all centered around a natural spring-fed pond.
The large white temple contains a thousand-year-old stone sarcophagus, which holds a brass and silver coffer. Part of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are inside.
South Coast Botanic Garden
26300 Crenshaw Blvd.
Palos Verde Peninsula
$8 admission. Parking and facilities available.
The South Coast Botanic Garden is the smallest of the gardens at 87 acres, but rich in diversity, with 150,000 plants from over 2,000 different species. They specialize in South American and African plants, which attract over 300 types of birds. The highlights are the charming children’s area and the garden of the senses.
The garden is a far cry from its beginnings. It was an open pit mine from 1929 to 1956, before becoming a landfill. Thankfully, the area was rescued by the county in 1961.