Where to Find the Best Los Angeles Botanical Gardens
by Erica Garza
When you live in a city, even one as beautiful as LA, it’s essential to know about green spaces and hidden oases to escape the urban sprawl. With rich terrain and endless sun, it seems that just about anything will grow in the ground here, making Los Angeles botanical gardens diverse and fragrant wonderlands. From the San Gabriel Valley to Palos Verdes, check out this guide to the best botanical gardens in Los Angeles.
Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108
Nestled in the affluent neighborhood of San Marino, The Huntington was once the private estate of railroad magnate Henry Huntington. Now it is a research and cultural center surrounded by 120 acres of beautiful gardens. Its 12 specialized gardens include a Japanese Garden with dreamy bridges and bonsai trees, a cactus-filled Desert Garden, a Rose Garden with an elegant teahouse and a Chinese Garden, where you can eat dumplings amongst lotus flowers. The gardens are closed on Tuesdays for maintenance and there’s free admission on the first Thursday of every month.
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden
301 N. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91007
Just around the corner from the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden cover 127 acres of plant collections, which include rare and endangered species from all over the world. Historical landmarks feature Native American, Rancho Period and late 19th century gems like the Queen Anne Cottage seen in numerous television shows and movies, the Santa Anita Train Depot and other exhibits. The garden also includes tropical forests, meandering paths, waterfall, fountains, ponds, and even wild peacocks.
1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
This 150-acre botanical garden in LA specializes in California native plants and oak woodlands and houses one of the largest collections of camellias in the Western Hemisphere. Visitors can wander the enchanting rose garden, covering more than 5 acres, or be inspired by towering maples and cherry trees. Descanso Gardens traces back 10,000 years to the Tongva people, who occupied 30 villages on the land before Spanish settlement.
South Coast Botanic Garden
26300 Crenshaw Boulevard, Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA 90274
Situated in Palos Verdes, the South Coast Botanic Garden spans 87 lush acres and includes more than 2500 different species of plants. Roam the Banyan Grove with its Moreton Bay fig trees that cover the area with a giant tangle of roots. Head to the Desert Garden for its cacti, euphorbia, aloes and other succulents. The more unique sections of this botanic garden include the shaded Fuchsia Garden and the Garden for the Senses, encouraging guests to enjoy plants and flowers by smell, touch, sound, and sight.
UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden
707 Tiverton Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90095
Located on the UCLA campus in Westwood, this small botanical garden covers 7.5 acres and features a diverse collection of plants from around the world. During the first 30 years of its existence since 1929, the garden was known for its eucalyptus and fig trees, which were then dispersed throughout the Los Angeles region. Entry is free.
Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens
5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
There’s more to the Los Angeles Zoo than its 1,400 mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles covering 270 species. Since becoming a certified botanical garden in 2003, the zoo has 15 collections with more than 800 different plant species. Organized by their native locations and matched with the various geographical regions within the zoo, the plant collections comprise more than 7,000 individual plants.
Getty Villa & Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049
The Central Garden sits at the heart of the Getty, a 134,000-square-foot design that features a walkway lined with trees, a natural ravine, and vivid bougainvilleas. Nearby are four different gardens, which pair Mediterranean plants with Roman architecture in open-air spaces that boast statues, paintings, and a reflecting pool.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds a master’s degree in writing from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, The Telegraph, and VICE.