A Quick Tour to the Los Angeles County Arboretum

Entrance to Arboretum

I’m in Pasadena, California, on a business trip… but who said you can’t mix business with pleasure? So I took advantage of a free morning for a quick visit (about 2 hours) of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, located in Arcadia, a suburb of Los Angeles. I had been there once before, but over 30 years ago, so I was due for an update!

IMG_4410There is certainly plenty to see! There are 127 acres (about 50 hectares) to visit: bring your walking shoes!

I was impressed by the beauty and maintenance of this vast garden, even in winter. It could have been gray and dull, but it was green and flowery. And temperature: wonderfully warm, from my northern point of view: 72?F (21?C) when I visited!

I was able to get there by bus from my hotel in Pasadena: only $1.25 (much cheaper than back home). Including waiting for the bus (about 15 minutes late according to the posted schedule), it took me about 45 minutes to get there. From the bus stop (W. Colorado and Baldwin), the garden entrance is only a 5-minute walk. There are no signs at the bus stop, nor had the bus driver ever heard of the Arboretum… but you can easily see the garden just a short distance down Baldwin Avenue. Admission was $9 US.


As I entered the garden, I was greeted by 2 peahens, then a stunning male peacock… with his feathers closed, unfortunately. In fact, there were peacocks everywhere in the park, plus ducks, geese and coots in the ponds and lakes.


And whenever there was a flowering plant nearby, the humming sound of fast-moving wings told you there were hummingbirds to photograph. I’m not sure which species, though.

Yes, they have green (read irrigated) lawns in Los Angeles.

I decided to do the grand tour, following the roads around the outer perimeter of the park, my goal being to see as much of the garden as possible. I noticed that most of flowerbeds were more towards the center of the garden, but so what? It turns out that I’ll be back in September of this year, when the Garden Writers Association, of which I am  currently President, holds its annual Symposium in Pasadena, and this garden will be included in the program! So I’ll do the center next time around!

Cold damage to banana plants (Musa x paradisiaca)
Orchid greenhouse

There were several shade houses and greenhouses to protect the most delicate plants against cold (there are occasional frosts in LA) including one dedicated to orchids.

The striking bark of the rainbow eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta)

Next comes the Australian collection: fascinating, with some very unusual plants. Lots of eucalyptus, bottlebrushes and melaleucas, plus a forest of the striking bottle trees (Brachychiton spp.) with their bright green leaves and often grotesquely swollen trunks.

Acacia sieberiana
Acacia sieberiana, just like you’d see on an African savannah. All that was missing was a giraffe muching on its leaves!

Surprisingly, there is also a section of African plants: I think we tend to forget that southern Africa is not tropical, but rather has a Mediterranean climate, with hot dry summers and cool, rainier winters, just like Southern California. And many of the plants from Southern Africa plants therefore do well there.

Canary Islands Garden with Draceana draco

I was especially impressed with the Canary Islands Garden with plants from those islands off the coast of northern Africa, including huge specimens of dragon trees (Dracaena draco).

San Gabriel Mountains

The terrain is relatively flat, except at the west end where a hill called Tallac Knoll rises above the rest. From the summit of this hill, there is a beautiful view of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Queen Anne Cottage

Down below, heading toward the exit, is the celebrated Queen Anne Cottage, with its gingerbread decoration, that was seen every week in that old TV show, Fantasy Island. It dates from 1885, making this Victorian house is one of the oldest houses in the Los Angeles area.

Rose garden

But that was about all I had time to visit this time. I had to get back to my meeting! But I took over 800 photos, enough to allow me to make up a nice little photo album.

This is easily a 4 star garden: one you’ll definitely want to if ever you’re in Los Angeles.

Obviously there was a lot more than that to see, but it gives you an idea that the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden is definitely a garden to discover!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

1 comment on “A Quick Tour to the Los Angeles County Arboretum

  1. Dracena draco…fantasy island…thanks for sharing such an overpowering context of marvel, mystery and intrigue!

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