My Day Trip to Descanso Gardens in California

Where are the Descanso Gardens Located?

Descanso Gardens is a 20-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles and is located near the intersection of the 210 and 2 freeways. Luckily, it’s not very far from my home.

A photo I took of Tulips in full bloom in April 2022.

The Different Gardens

I took the day to wander around the different unique gardens. There are 9 different themed gardens including the Ancient Forest, Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Oak Forrest, Camellia Collection, and many more. I didn’t have time to see them all, but I’ll share some details about my favorites!

Rose Garden © Danielle Bedics-Arizala

Rose Garden

Over 1,600 roses represent hundreds of years of horticultural history. The rose-themed garden has significant collections of species featuring old and modern roses. Beautiful companion plants are planted amid the roses, so there is something flowering in every season. Who doesn’t love fresh roses?

Photo © John Stanley

Japanese Garden

Descanso Gardens visitors have flocked to the Japanese Garden. This green space feels almost like its own universe. The Japanese Garden, tucked beneath the shade of coast live oaks, contains various flora native to Asia, such as camellias, black pines, mondo grass, flowering cherry trees, and Japanese maples. The tranquillity of the garden is broken up by the sounds of birds, water gurgling in the stream, and leaves rustling in the breeze. I always feel like I teleported to Japan. If only it was that easy!

The garden incorporates elements seen in many other forms of Japanese gardens, such as the stroll garden, the stream-and-pond garden, the tea garden, and the raked-gravel garden (karesansui), which is often wrongly referred to as a Zen garden.

Oak Forest

The coast live oak is one of the Descanso landscape’s giants. These centuries-old trees are the last remnants of a forest that once covered the entire area. California is home to 19 different species of Quercus. The coast live oak is a type of evergreen oak tree. Its natural range extends from Mendocino County in California all the way south to northern Baja California.

The coast live oak is a “keystone species,” which means that it is necessary for the survival of hundreds of other species, including mammals, birds, insects, fungi, plants, and even reptiles and amphibians.

Close-up of a Camellia japonica ‘Jenny Jones’ flower. Photo by Descanso Gardens.

Camellia Collections

Francis Miyosaku Uyematsu, known in horticultural circles as “the Camellia King,” was a Japanese American nurseryman in Los Angeles. A nurseryman is a person who owns or works in a plant nursery. Uyematsu immigrated to the United States in 1904 and created and maintained a profitable nursery firm called Star Nurseries for over 30 years, having a huge and enduring impact on the camellia trade. He developed and introduced several camellia cultivars, as well as imported many other specialty plants from Japan.

Camellia japonica plants are in bloom from December to March.

Fun FACT: Camellia Flower in Fashion

This past Monday was the Met Gala, fashion’s biggest night of the year. The theme in 2023 was in honor of Karl Lagerfeld. Karl was the designer and creative director for luxury fashion houses including Chanel, Fendi, & Chloe. While designing for Chanel, the Camellia flower was one of his biggest inspirations. If you look at the fashion worn by major celebrities at the Met Gala, you’ll notice hints of Camellia flowers.  Rihanna’s outfit was one of my favorite examples!

Photography by Descanso Gardens

Ancient Forest

The Ancient Forest at Descanso Gardens is filled with prehistoric plants from a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. In fact, many of the plants in this area predate the appearance of flowers. (Flowering plants are relatively recent to the plant world, first arriving around 175 million years ago in the Jurassic period.)

Another photo I took in April 2022.

What Flowers Are Blooming in May & June?

For the month of May Roses, azaleas, irises, wildflowers, and other California natives are in full bloom. While in June, Modern and heritage roses, and summer annuals will be in full bloom. Plan your visit here!

Writing this blog has inspired me to add some new flowers to my courtyard.

FYI…Chirpyest is now affiliated with Fast Growing Trees. They have a wide selection of exotic and local trees. Make sure to buy plants that are native to your area! It’s a super cool company to shop for outdoor plants.

Which flowers do you think will look good in my courtyard? I would love some advice or tips!