Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Los Angeles Arboretum

At last I have something new and horticultural to write about! Forgive me for the past few weeks but the Californian desert at the end of a hot, drought-ridden summer has not exactly stimulated horticultural writing.  Anyway I have just spent a lovely day exploring the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden. The site extends to some 127 acres and is sited on the remains of the Rancho Santa Anita, one of the Mexican land grants.  After various early ownerships, the property was acquired by Elias Jackson 'Lucky' Baldwin in 1875, who constructed various buildings including the whimsical Queen Anne Cottage and Coach Barn.

The estate was originally located above the Raymond Basin Aquifer with three sag ponds and numerous springs in the area. In this context it is now sad to see the arboretum lakes drying up and much of the garden suffering from drought.The presence of numerous ponds and water features links with its past but sadly many of these are now becoming dry or disused. The one exception was the fine waterfall.

Baldwin Lake - now sadly drying up
Meyberg Waterfall

Development as a botanic garden began in 1947 with the purchase of the land, funded by the city of Los Angeles and the state of California. The existing plants were inventoried in 1949 with the construction of the first greenhouse. In 1951 the first 1000 trees were planted and the garden opened to the public. Its designation as an arboretum, as well as botanic garden means that there are wonderful collections of mature trees and even in November there was much to see.

Bismarckia nobilis - my favorite palm

Brachychiton discolor - Queensland lace-bark

Chorisia insignis - silk floss tree and its wonderful bark next

Chorisia insignis 'Alba' - white silk floss tree
Chionanthus retusus - Chinese Fringe tree

Biggest fish-tail fern I have ever seen

Nuxia floribunda

Ailanthus - tree of heaven - common and a weed in some areas but lovely in the Fall

There are various areas within the garden such as geographical collections from Africa, Australia, temperate Asia and Californian natives. Horticultural collections include a rose garden, perennial garden, desert garden as well as collections of day lilies, magnolias, Ficus, cycads, palms and bamboos.  Amazingly for November, there was still lots of color throughout the garden.

Desert garden
Love the shadows!

Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata - Square-leaf grass tree

Name - no idea?

agave - which one?

Opuntia - is it engelmannii?

Cycad - no idea?

Philodendron bipinnatifidum

White iris in November?

Iochroma cyaneum or is it a cestrum?

Belloperone - shrimp plant - used to be grown in the UK as a house plant -it then became Drejerella and I believe it is now Justicia brandegeeana? Don't you just love the botanists!
Cassia 'Buttercream' - just bought a young one of these and I'm delighted to see how it will mature if it survives the Palm Springs heat.

Canna 'Durban' - old favorite - colors fading but great in the low sunlight

Dombeya 'Seminole' - wedding flower

Paper white narcissus - the only one I know that will flower without a chill period

We didn't get to see the organic vegetable garden, the tropical greenhouse, the new water conservation garden or the Santa Anita Railway Depot so we have every excuse to return and explore some more!


  1. Thanks for posting some horticulture!
    In the UK we are waiting for our first frost to 'finish' the last of summer; dahlia are still doing their thing.
    I agree with Iochroma cyaneum, I think the cactus may be Echinocactus grusonii [but I may have misread the scale and I'm not good on arid plants in general]. No being good on 'spikies', I'll leave those better informed to help you out with other names.

  2. Thanks Chad but its not Echinocactus grusonii which is the golden barrel cactus and grows to enormous sizes here. This one was much smaller in a clump. the whole clump was maybe 30cm across.

  3. I visited a few months ago: the Arboretum/Botanic Garden is a gem--and a wonderful complement to nearby Huntington. They make excellent bookends!