Botanical Gardens in Pasadena

Hidden and not-so-hidden gardens

Where to see Pasadena in Bloom

Botanical Gardens in Pasadena

February 21, 2023 | Posted in Things To Do

Pasadena, California is where the sunshine blankets over a horticultural paradise that was once an acorn-rich home for the Tongva tribe, whose name translates to “people of the earth.” Later, Mexican and American ranchers cultivated citrus groves and vineyards before Pasadena became a west coast escape for wealthy, wintering east coasters with large estates. The vogue of building opulent estate gardens in the early 1900s set the groundwork for Pasadena as a botanical paradise, home to many acclaimed public gardens, the urban forest, roses, and some of the nicest nurseries in the country. Come enjoy the urbane gardens, bask in the sunshine, and remember to always stop and smell the roses.

Arlington Garden: The Habitat Garden

Arlington Garden is a habitat garden that provides refuge to both humans and to native plants and animals, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers. The three-acre property is home to a 48-tree orange grove that produces the Arlington Garden Marmalade found in retailers around town. Yoko Ono’s Wishing Trees, a living installation of 12 crepe myrtle trees that came to Old Pasadena in 2008, made their home within this Mediterranean climate garden. Bring your own picnic to enjoy during your visit - just make sure to be a good traveler and pack out what you pack in! If you bring your pet, make sure they’re leashed and picked up after.

The lower half of the garden reflects the landscapes found in surrounding forests in a dense, naturalistic style. Using regenerative gardening practices, the horticulturalists use tactics like covering unwanted plants with mulch instead of weeding them out of the soil to avoid disturbing microbial communities. Weeds are not a thing at this garden, because they’re valued as a part of the ecosystem and provide sustenance and nutrients to its surrounding inhabitants. Check the Arlington Garden’s events page to see their Weekend Workshops dedicated to educating the community on these regenerative practices.

Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden: The Historic Japanese Garden

Storrier Stearns

Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden is a serene escape with a storied past dating back to 1935 and remains of the LA’s secret gardens. The surrounding neighborhood is a residential zone and parking is limited in the nearby school, so visitors will need to be respectful and find their own unique way to get to the gardens – we recommend public transit and walking. A variety of events are curated monthly, including sound baths, evening access, tea ceremonies and more. Please register for visits on their website.

Charles Storrier Sterns was a decorated globalist who was inspired by his trips to Japan to hire Kinzuchi Jujii to craft the gardens at his Pasadena estate. After seven years of masterful work, Kinzuchi fell to the fate of other Japanese residents after the outbreak of WWII and was sent to an internment camp. The gardens were restored by Dr. Takeo Uesugi to its original opulence in 2005 and was registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Descanso Gardens: The Gardener’s Favorite Garden

Descanso  gardens tulips
Descanso Tulips

There are several reasons why Descanso Gardens is an LA hotspot. The holiday Enchanted display of lights is an incredible experience, the 30,000 tulips and cherry blossoms in the spring are breathtaking, the roses are in bloom all summer long, and the camellias at Descanso Gardens put on a showstopping display each year. Tack on year-round programming of interactive workshops and events, and Descanso Gardens becomes one of the most popular date spots and family outings for Angelenos. Be sure to check out the gift shop curated by Mark Allen Harmon and the plant patio nursery!

Descanso Camellias

The arrival of the camellias was a game changer for Descanso’s popularity, but the story is complex. During WWII, many Japanese-Americans were exiled to internment camps, and Japanese nursery owners F.M. Uyematsu and F.W. Yoshimura were among them. Estate owner Elias Boddy took the opportunity to purchase their esteemed collection of camellias. A volunteer group, the Descanso Gardens Guild, took over management duties after the ownership fell to LA County, and today Descanso has rewritten its history and reestablished relationships with the Uyematsu and Yoshimura families, who own San Gabriel Nursery & Florist nearby. Look for the star on the plant tags to see which ones belonged to the Japanese nurseries.

The lilacs at Descanso Gardens are a special affair. Walter Lammerts began breeding a more heat-tolerant hybrid that came to be known as the Descanso Lilacs. Today, Horticulturalist Frank Obregon continues to progress the Descanso Lilac into heartier varieties, as the climate shifts ever warmer and drier, to ensure the lilac collection for the future.

16 Botanical Gardens at The Huntington: The World-Class Gardens

What began as Henry Huntington’s ranch, filled with citrus groves, nut and fruit orchards, cows, and chickens, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens grew into 130 acres dedicated 16 incredible themed gardens, including rare and endangered species and a lab for conservation and research. Explore the orchid collection, bonsai collection and cycad collections that are preserved, studied, and researched by horticulturalists.

Chinese Garden

The Camellia Garden is in peak bloom during January through February. The Chinese Garden features a lake, pavilions, a tea house, and waterfalls. The Conservatory is like a rainforest that houses the rare Corpse Flower, the world’s largest flower. The Rose Garden blooms with over 1,200 varietals from late March and extends beyond November. Bring your kids to the Children’s Garden for interactive experiences with nature’s wonders and stop by the Desert Garden year-round to see over 5,000 species of desert plants.

See what’s in bloom at The Huntington to plan your visit.

Cactus Garden

The Tournament of Roses House, AKA Wrigley Mansion: The Estate Rose Garden

Wrigley Garden

Wrigley Mansion, the iconic Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl Game headquarters is a gorgeous, Italian Renaissance-style mansion that was donated to the organization by the Wrigley family in 1958 (because William Wrigley’s wife, Ada loved the Rose Parade so much). The mansion is home to the impressive 1,500 plus varietals of roses, camelias and annuals across four and a half acres of Wrigley Gardens. The house offers occasional tours of the over a century of Rose Parade and Rose Bowl memorabilia on display. Be respectful of the surrounding neighborhood during your visit and check out all the merch in the gift shop!

Throop Memorial Garden at California Institute of Technology (Caltech): The Garden With Really Old Rocks

Throop Pond

Throop Memorial Garden was once the site of Throop Hall, the building referred to as “the very first building on the Caltech campus that called space home” (source: Caltech Magazine). It was a classroom, lab, and admin office building named after Caltech’s founder, Amos G. Throop. The rocks around the pools of the garden are up to 75 million years old and demonstrate they type of rock types found in the nearby San Gabriel Mountains.

LA Arboretum and Botanic Garden: The Garden with the Peacocks

The LA Arboretum and Botanic Garden was previously a private estate called Rancho Santa Anita owned by Elias Jackson (“Lucky”) Baldwin, a pioneer of California business and womanizer. Baldwin introduced peacocks and peahens to the property, who have since been a part of the local wildlife. The attraction offers a 30-minute tram tour across the 127-acres of diverse landscape. For those with little ones, download the 75th anniversary Peacock Passport for an interactive visit and check out the Family Adventure Night Hikes after hours. Explore the tule pond and turtle pond, Baldwin Lake, waterfall, historic buildings, farms, and participate in activities such as Tai Chi and Goat Yoga. During November through January, the gardens transform into Lightscape, an illuminated holiday evening experience throughout the 11 gardens.

The Langham Huntington: The Secluded Japanese Garden

Langham Pasadena

Dating back to 1914, The Langham Huntington is an elegant resort that once belonged to railroad magnate Henry Huntington. Among the 23-acre property, the Horseshoe Garden designed by William Hertrich offers a panoramic view of its surrounding serene neighborhoods, surrounded by palm trees, natural cacti, birds of paradise, and flower gardens. Often used for weddings, the backdrop of The Langham Huntington building is known as The Parent Trap hotel. The property’s Japanese Garden is located in a peaceful corner of the hotel, adorning a step-down waterfall pond, a curved footbridge, and filled with quiet nooks. A stay or a meal at The Langham Huntington and its esteemed restaurants or Chuan Spa will grant you access to these gardens, an Olympic sized swimming pool, tennis courts, afternoon tea, and more.