The Garden 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. From 1784-1869 the estate belonged to the Verdugo family and in 1937 it was bought by the owner of The Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News (Elias Manchester Boddy) in 1942. He admired Japanese culture and when people of Japanese ancestry were interned after the attack on Pearl Harbor he purchased the two stock of two Japanese-owned nurseries in the San Gabriel Valley. This formed the basis of his camellia collection. [This history may have inspired Isabel Allende's novel, The Japanese Lover]. In 1953 Los Angeles County took over and opened Descanso as a fine public garden. The design style is Gardenesque in John Claudius London's sense.

Descanso Gardens is also used as a venue for garden weddings see on Instagram #descansogardenswedding


Wedding venue

Descanso Gardens is available as a venue for garden weddings.

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.

Photograph © Descanso Gardens
Photograph © Descanso Gardens
Photograph © Descanso Gardens
Photograph © Descanso Gardens
Photograph © Descanso Gardens
Photograph © Pat Hartley
Photograph © Pat Hartley
Photograph © Pat Hartley
Photograph © Pat Hartley


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. See Descanso website for details:-

Visit the Descanso Gardens website

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