Los Angeles Botanical Gardens: Escape City Life to a Surprising Green and Lush Urban Paradise

Celebrities aren't the only stars popping up around Hollywood; flora native to the region and from around the world dot the city in beautiful pockets of gardens allowing city residents and visitors a welcome respite from the bustle of the big city. Many gardens in Los Angeles are also important historical sites and certify as "Can't Miss" places for sightseeing. Looking for some special botanical programs and events? Check out popular Descanso Gardens, home to North America’s largest camellia collection and site of wildflower walks, Earth Day festivities and horticulture shows. South Coast Botanic Garden also fills up its calendar with flower shows, weddings, concerts, and Shakespeare. Headed to the Westside of L.A.? Set on the beautiful campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden collection is truly a must-see. Boasting plant specimens from across the globe, the seven-acre garden houses approximately 5000 species, including many tropical and subtropical plants. Passing through Bel Air? Designed by legendary Japanese garden architect Nagao Sakurai in 1959, the UCLA Hannah Carter Garden exemplifies a lush 1.5 acre hillside retreat meshing California patio, Japanese teahouse, and Hawaiian tropical garden styles. Traveling with kids? They'll love the animals at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens while you peruse the unique and diverse plant collection that includes Chilean bald cypress and cycads. Exposition Park Rose Garden is a perfect place to rest between checking out the Museum and Science Center or to pack a picnic and relax while the kids have ample space to run around.

10 Virginia Robinson Gardens
Built in 1911, Virginia Robinson Gardens transcends visitors to an era that celebrated the birth of Beverly Hills. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public by appointment only. The sprawling 6 acre property includes a garden, mansion and pool pavilion. In her heyday, Mrs. Robinson was known as the first lady of Beverly Hills, entertaining Hollywood guests like Fred Astaire and Sophie Loren. Reserve a guided docent-led tour Tuesday through Friday at 10am or 1pm, preferably two weeks in advance. Special events include an annual Garden Tour, lectures, and botanical illustration classes. The vast estate boasts an Australian King Palm Forest, the breathtaking Rose Garden, and the tranquil Italian Terrace Garden. (310-276-5367)

9 Japanese Garden Suiho En
Suiho En means the garden of water and fragrance and this unique zentopia in the middle of bustling Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley provides a welcome respite from daily city struggles. Opened to the public in 1983, this gorgeous Japanese Garden was built atop a sewage facility backed partially by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. Three classical designs allure visitors: a dry kare-nsansui (landscape), wet garden, and an authentic tea ceremony garden incorporating a special tea room. Stroll the 6.5 acres of land and encounter a floating bridge, waterfalls, gingko trees, and lanterns. Ample free parking is available next to Japanese Garden's entrance. (818-756-8166)

8 Exposition Park Rose Garden
Operated by the Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks since 1928, this urban refuge has delighted visitors and locals for many years. Visiting Los Angeles during the first part of the year? Be aware that the Exposition Park Rose Garden is closed from January 1st-March 15th of each year for annual maintenance. However, the garden stays open from 9am to sunset on all other days. Beds of over 200 varieties of roses are classically arranged around a gorgeous central fountain, which make it a popular backdrop for weddings and family photos. The Rose Garden is a perfect place to rest between checking out the Museum and Science Center or to pack a picnic and relax while the kids have ample space to run around. ((213) 763-0114)

7 South Coast Botanic Garden
One of the world's first botanical gardens developed over a sanitary landfill, South Coast Botanic Garden highlights a victory in land reclamation and environmental progress. In 1961, private citizens headed by Frances Young, took on the task of converting the landfill into a beautiful garden. 40,000 plants were donated and planted that same year; the extensive plant collection includes over 200,000 plants today. Special programs and events hosted by the garden include flower shows, weddings, concerts, and Shakespeare. Its 87 acres boast all kinds of specialty gardens like Cactus, Mediterranean, and Japanese. Admission every third Tuesday of each month is free. ((310) 544-1948)

6 UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden
Designed by legendary Japanese garden architect Nagao Sakurai in 1959, the UCLA Hannah Carter Garden exemplifies a lush 1.5 acre hillside retreat meshing California patio, Japanese teahouse, and Hawaiian tropical garden styles. Located in Bel Air, the garden emulates the beautiful flora of Kyoto. Waterfalls, stones and evergreen plants cover the naturalistic grounds. The main gate, family shrines, and garden house were purchased in Japan and reassembled by Japanese artisans in the location. Japanese stone lanterns light a path from the main gate to the garden house. Feeling Zen? After entering the garden, visitors pass the Buddha stone, a stone representing Buddha in 16 different positions. ((310) 794-0320)

5 Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
The vital connection between flora and fauna is highlighted at Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The Zoo's unique and diverse plant collection includes Chilean bald cypress and cycads. Indigenous plants cover the native gardens of the region, while cactus and succulent gardens emphasize a global representation of plants. The Zoo holds more than 7,000 individual plants of over 800 species. One of 62 plant rescue stations in the nation, the Zoo is often called upon to save an exotic or rare plant. The edible garden across from Papiano Play Park produces tasty rose, figs and beets for the animals. Interested in native Southwest plants? Check out the Baja Garden between the Winnick Family Children's Zoo and the meerkat exhibit. (323-644-4200)

4 Arboretum of Los Angeles County
The serenity and spectacular beauty of nature abound at the Arboretum of Los Angeles County. This 127-acre botanical garden and historical site features plant collections from all over the world, including many rare and endangered species. Highlights include the perennial garden, the Meyberg waterfall, a rose garden and a citrus grove. The area also serves as an animal sanctuary, and visitors can see the famous peafowl as well as various migratory birds and aquatic creatures. Check out the newly designed Garden For All Seasons, a food garden demonstrating water, soil, and pest management and the best approaches to growing fruits and vegetables in Los Angeles. (626-821-3222)

3 The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
Founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington, stroll the 150 acres of inimitable Asian and Rose gardens, examine the Library's extraordinary collection of rare books, and gawk at the gallery's impressive collection of British and French artistic masterpieces. The principal garden areas follow themes, including the Australian Garden, which houses cycads, eucalyptus and the tropical Myrtaceae. Other gardens include the camellia garden, children's garden, Shakespeare garden and subtropical garden. There are even lily ponds, where you can spot turtles, bullfrogs and Japanese koi. Book reservations at the Rose Garden Tea Room to enjoy the endless buffet of finger sandwiches, cheeses, fruits, salads and desserts along with unlimited scones and hot refreshing tea. Admission to the Huntington is free on the first Thursday of every month with advance tickets. (626-405-2141)

2 Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden
Set on the beautiful campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), this vibrant living botanical collection is truly a must-see. Boasting plant specimens from across the globe, the seven-acre garden houses approximately 5000 species, including many tropical and subtropical plants. Explore areas like the desert collection, which features a large dragon tree from the Canary Islands, cacti from the Americas and stem-succulent euphorbs from Africa. Touted as a living museum, visitors can learn about the importance of plants to society and the world. Drop-in tours are offered the first Saturday of the month at 1pm with no reservations and free docent-led tours for groups of 10 or more are available. (310-206-6707, 310-825-1260)

1 Descanso Gardens
Located just 20 minutes from downtown, the Descanso Gardens offer a peaceful retreat from the urban buzz. Home to North America's largest camellia collection, the garden features more than 700 camellia taxa, including species, varieties, cultivars and hybrids. The space also houses a tranquil Japanese-style garden, a five-acre rose garden and a California Garden, which showcases the delights of the Southern California landscape. After wildfires in 2009 and floods in 2012, more climate-appropriate flora has replaced thirstier plants, thereby heralding a new era of sustainability to the gardens. Special events and programs include wildflower walks, Earth Day festivities and horticulture shows. (818-949-4200)


Living in the land of perpetual sun, beautiful beaches, and gorgeous people has fueled Sujata Day’s creativity in myriad ways. Her short story “Forbidden Fate” won the WRITE STUFF competition sponsored by MTV and People magazine, birthing a prosperous writing career. The tale was published in a collection of short stories titled Pieces, edited by Stephen Chbosky. Reviews hail Pieces as “an exciting glimpse into the future of fiction” and “endearingly raw, undeniably bold, and engagingly inventive.” Since moving to LA from the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA, Sujata has appeared in many TV shows, films, and internet productions. TV credits include Desperate Housewives, Secret Life of the American Teenager, Campus Ladies, Greek, and The Loop. She plays a supporting role in 2009’s Down For Life, alongside Danny Glover and Snoop Dogg. Sujata produced, wrote, and starred in the web pilot Raveena and the Vampire chosen to launch as a 2010 premiere vehicle on the popular internet channel, Somebody’s Basement. Currently, she stars as ‘CeCe’ in the hit web series, Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Sujata can be seen next starring in the film, Big Breakin', to be released in early 2012.

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Maps and Directions

1
Virginia Robinson Gardens 10Best List Arrow
Type: Active, Attractions, Day Trips, Family Friendly, Gardens, Historic Sites, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Activities - Summer, Relaxing, Sightseeing
Neighborhood: Beverly Hills
2
Japanese Garden Suiho En 10Best List Arrow
Type: Active, Art & Culture, Attractions, Cultural Venues, Day Trips, Family Friendly, Gardens, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Activities - Summer, Public Spaces, Relaxing, Sightseeing
Neighborhood: Van Nuys
3
Exposition Park Rose Garden 10Best List Arrow
Type: Active, Attractions, Day Trips, Family Friendly, Free Attractions, Gardens, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Activities - Summer, Parks, Public Spaces, Relaxing
4
South Coast Botanic Garden 10Best List Arrow
Type: Active, Day Trips, Family Friendly, Gardens, Great Views, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Activities - Summer, Relaxing
5
UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden 10Best List Arrow
Type: Active, Art & Culture, Attractions, Day Trips, Family Friendly, Free Attractions, Gardens, Outdoor Activities, Relaxing, Sightseeing, Uniquely Here
6
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens 10Best List Arrow
Type: Active, Attractions, Cultural Venues, Day Trips, Family Friendly, Gardens, Outdoor Activities, Parks, Relaxing, Sightseeing, Uniquely Here, Zoos
7
Arboretum of Los Angeles County 10Best List Arrow
Type: Gardens
Neighborhood: ARCADIA
8
The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens 10Best List Arrow
Type: Art Museums, Gardens, Libraries / Archives, Museums
10
Descanso Gardens 10Best List Arrow
Type: Gardens
Neighborhood: La Canada Flintridge