The Garden Landscape Guide

Descanso Gardens

A South California garden with very large collections of camelias, roses and irises. There is also a Japanese garden and an area devoted to plants native to the area.

Head Gardener's Comment

Descanso Gardens is a 150-acre botanical garden and historical site. Situated in a natural “bowl” in the San Rafael Hills, this calming, urban retreat is just 15 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Within view are the San Gabriel Mountains to the north and the Verdugo Mountains to the west. Nearly 300,000 people visit Descanso Gardens each year. Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the site includes renowned botanical collections as well as seasonal horticultural displays. There are many attractions to enjoy. The oak and camellia forest, situated on 20 acres, is believed to be North America’s largest collection of camellias, with 35,000 tree-sized plants growing under the canopy of 150-year-old coast live oaks. Camellias, and companion azaleas, bloom from late January into April. The International Rosarium is a five-acre area with more than 3,100 roses that bloom year round, peaking in early summer. The Japanese Teahouse and Garden, on one acre, includes Japanese maples, azaleas, bamboo and other plants from Asia, a Japanese farmhouse, called a “minka,” and soothing koi-filled streams. The Lilac Garden has one of the finest lilac collections in Southern California, with several varieties that were developed at Descanso Gardens for the local area. They bloom in March and April. The iris collection is Southern California’s largest public collection with approximately 500 plants that provide a beautiful spring display. The Bird Observation Station overlooks a lake and sanctuary island for water fowl and birds, and is considered to be one of the finest birding locations in the region. The Boddy House, the home built in 1938 by Descanso founder E. Manchester Boddy, provides historical perspective and includes an adjacent art gallery.

History

Descanso’s contemporary history began in 1936 when newspaper magnate E. Manchester Boddy purchased the property and called it Rancho del Descanso, for “ranch of rest.” He built a family dream home and bought watershed in the nearby San Gabriel Mountains that irrigates the property to this day. With the help of experts, Boddy planted thousands of camellias, roses, lilacs and other plants for the commercial flower industry, and to share with friends, dignitaries and royalty who visited from around the world. Today, Descanso Gardens is owned by the County of Los Angeles and operated by the non-profit Descanso Gardens Guild.

Plants of note

JANUARY: Camellias, cherry trees and winter annuals. FEBRUARY: Camellias, magnolias, cherry trees and daffodils. MARCH: Camellias, iris, lilacs, cherry trees and daffodils. APRIL: Azaleas, camellias, iris, lilacs, native plants and wildflowers, tulips, clivia, and wisteria. MAY: Azaleas, camellias, roses, iris, wildflowers and California Natives. JUNE: Modern and heritage roses and summer annuals. JULY, AUGUST & SEPTEMBER: Roses, summer annuals and perennials, crape myrtle and cassia. OCTOBER: Sasanqua camellias, roses and Fall foliage. NOVEMBER: Camellias, toyon berries, annuals, gingko and fall foliage. DECEMBER: Camellias, toyon berries, annuals and gingko.

1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, California, USA, CA 91011

All year (except Christmas). Daily. Open 9am to 5pm.

Visit the Descanso Gardens website

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Reviews

  • 10 months by Tom 1 / 5

    On Sunday the 6th of October, 2013, my friend from Thailand and my self planned an afternoon vist to the Gardens taking her sister, brother-in-law and two friends (all from Thailand) and signed up for the tour at 1 pm.

    To say the least it was disappointing as the overhead speaker on the Tram was full of static and couldn't discern much of the guides narration. There were no flowers to speak to view except a distant rose garden and the beginning.

    We found it to be a total waste of time; money and effort to say the least. WRONG TIME OF THE YEAR!!!!!
  • about 1 year by Linda, A Traveling Gardener 5 / 5

    Descanso Gardens
    This garden envelopes you as you walk the brick path over the stream. It is large and varied but intimate in design.The entrance is always enchanting with exquisitely designed container combinations. Through out the garden the container combinations are individual works of art. The walk under the canopy of coastal live oaks is magical. In winter the camellia forest blooms, in spring the lilacs scent the air. It never fails to delight me.
  • over 2 years by Catherine Cate 5 / 5

    This overview is really helpful; we have been to the gardens several times and this will help us plan future visits to get the best of the rest!
  • almost 3 years by Chris Jackson 1 / 5

    I've been an annual member here, and enjoyed coming on several occasions with my wife and kids. The last time we went will truly be our last. We all went, and were planning on enjoying the gardens before going to a pumpkin patch. Because the kids were all dressed alike (in pumpkin shirts), we were asked to pay a $300 photography fee, even though we just wanted to take a few fun pictures in front of the flowers. I've seen hundreds of people there with cameras, often taking pictures of families. I'm not sure why we were insulted in this manner, but I never want to go there again.

The reviews and ratings originate in all cases from third parties. Gardenvisit is in no case responsible for the correctness or accuracy of the reviews. Reviews and similar information are not an expression of Gardenvisit's opinions.

Clivia, Camellias and Oaks at Descanso Gardens Photograph © Descanso Gardens
Lilac Garden in March, Descanso Gardens Photograph © Descanso Gardens
Camellias in Descanso Gardens Photograph © Descanso Gardens
Flowering Plum at the Entrance, Descanso Gardens Photograph © Descanso Gardens
Descano japanese garden Photograph © Descanso Gardens
Rose Gardens Photograph © Pat Hartley
Pool in Japanese Garden Photograph © Pat Hartley
California Native Plant Garden Photograph © Pat Hartley
Fountain, Descanso Gardens Photograph © Pat Hartley