A Sunday stroll in Descanso Gardens near Los Angeles

Family at Descanso Gardens
A family in the Rose Garden part of Descanso. It is not rose season, but a few trees were in bloom.

Originally the Descanso Gardens was an estate where camellias and roses were grown commercially. The owners back then, Mr. and Mrs. Boddy, also replanted California oak trees after a wildfire burned through the property decades ago. Today we have to thank them for one of the most beautiful gardens in Southern California, now part of the Los Angeles Park system.

Wisteria at Descanso entryway
Wisteria plants grow along the pergola at the entry to Descanso Gardens. Their peak bloom has already passed.

Camellia trees still thrive as understory trees beneath the oaks. Roses from around the world still bloom in summer although they are gradually being replaced with more drought-tolerant plants. A garden of lilacs suitable for hot climates has been added, as has a Japanese garden.  And more.

Here are a few photos from my Sunday walk around the garden.

Admiring flowers Descanso rose garden
I am not sure which plants this couple were admiring, but most of the roses are really not yet in full bloom. Love the umbrella!


Foxgloves near the gazebo
The gazebo and nearby pavillion are often used for weddings. Foxgloves have replaced roses in this photo.
waterfalls Descanso Gardens
While there is a small natural lake in Descanso Gardens the streams that wind through the property and the small ponds are all fed by pumps.
spring grass oak woodlands
Every year for a few weeks in Spring all the hills in Southern and Central California flush with green grass, then as the heat builds the hillside begin to fade to a lovely golden brown as summer wears on.  Shady trails wind through the oak woodlands part of the gardens.
aeonium in bloom
If you look closely behind this Aeonium in bloom you will see the Canada goose paddling  around in the circular pool. The little lake at Descanso is nearby, but I guess the pool is more appealing to this goose.
Red poppies in rose garden
Roses are very thirsty plants so the powers that be at the Descanso Gardens are gradually replacing the roses with other plants like this poppy. It is not a California native, however, and can be a source of heroin.
California 'lilac' ceanothus
Called the “California Lilac” this Ceanothus “Ray Hammond” grows near the entry to the drought-tolerant California native plant garden. It is really not a lilac at all. There is, however, a true lilac garden at Descanso near the Japanese garden.


Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at Descanso Gardens and a dud of a Rose Festival

Shakespeare at Descanso Gardens
The California Shakespeare Ensemble reading ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ under the oak trees at Descanso Gardens.

The California Shakespeare Ensemble’s reading of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was just the right event for a lazy, warm Sunday afternoon at the tree-shaded Oaks Theater in Descanso Gardens.  All the actors–well, except one who I won’t name–read their parts with suitable enthusiasm.  The play, of course, is a bit of froth: romances, jealousies, mistaken identities and Shakespeare having fun with the English language.

I arrived at Descanso about an hour early and was absolutely shocked to see what has happened in the Rose Garden.  Bed after bed of roses have been ripped out!  In one case near the entrance to the Rose Garden, a collection of Japanese roses has been replaced with what appears to be a bed of violets that were not blooming!  What are they thinking?  Violets have nothing to do with So. California.  If planted, they often die in our summer heat.  The only answer I could come up with is that all the roses that have been dug up were old and the plan is to replace them.  At least I hope so!

White Roses at Descanso Gardens
Not many roses were in bloom at Descanso Gardens’ Rose Festival, but I found these white beauties.


Descanso has always earned kudos from me because their roses were planted in flower beds mixed with other perennials–rather than roses being planted in isolated rows.  But now I am really wondering about the decisions they are making.  One other thing: supposedly this Sunday was a ‘Rose Festival’.  Well, there were not many roses in bloom.  I came across one rose with gorgeous white blooms, though.

Then, not far away, I found Matijila poppies in bloom in the California Native Plant garden.  They are big, flashy poppies and by ‘big’ I mean that they stand four feet tall!  To see more of Descanso Gardens, go here.

Matijila poppies
California native Matijila poppies in bloom at Descanso Gardens.

After the shock of the rose garden, I wandered around  the paths that wind through the various gardens to see what else was going on and here is what I saw:

Path lined with Clivia at Descanso Gardens
Shady paths wind through Descanso Gardens making it a wonderful place for a walk on a sizzling hot summer day. Clivia, a South African native plant that likes dry shade, lines this path.


Trees in Rose Garden Descanso Gardens
The trees in the Rose Garden are wearing their best spring green colors. By mid-summer the leaves will darken.


Ride ponies! Pet bunnies! Listen to flamenco jazz on a Sunday morning in Montrose!

pony rides at Montrose Market
Two ponies have been carrying little kids along the sidewalks during the Montrose Harvest Market for years.

Okay.  This is part two about the Montrose Harvest Market.   The neighborhood of Montrose in Glendale (CA) has earned a reputation as being a trip back to the 1950s.  The focus is on families, especially the raising of children.

petting zoo at Montrose jharvest market
City kids petting sheep and bunnies at the petting zoo at the market.

While the addition of a Starbucks and a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf coffee house facing each other across Ocean View at Honolulu St. is a nod to the 21st Century, most of the shops along the main drag in Montrose are small, individually owned stores.  These store owners and their merchants association are the sponsors of the Harvest Market on Sunday mornings.

About three years ago the merchants association changed the market management  and made it even more kid-friendly.  (Actually the previous market manager, a former mayor of Glendale, was accused of embezzling and as of last week convicted and sent to jail and was ordered to reimburse the Montrose Merchants Association for over $300,000!)

Mark Towns Flamenco jazz
Mark Towns Flamenco Jazz band playing for an audience of kids at the Montrose Harvest Market on Sunday morning.


Among other things the new management banished the whole section that was called the Thieves Market, where all sorts of vintage stuff was sold.  The used book dealer has also disappeared, sadly.  The two ladies who knitted and crocheted hats have also gone.

But there is still a jazz band, Mark Towns Flamenco Jazz, and painter Vince Takas is still selling his watercolors.  So here’s what you’ll see now in additional to lots and lots of fruits and vegetables.

Vince Takas, artist, at Montrose Harvet Market
The artist Vince Takas sells his watercolors and prints at the market.


More than organic veggies at the Montrose Harvest Market. Eat dates! Ride Ponies! Buy art!

Vegetable stand at montrose markete market california
The best vegetables are at this stand which is actually run by the farmer’s wife and daughter.  That’s the daughter leaning on the scale.

With more than 200 farmer’s markets in L.A. country, fruits and veggies–organic and otherwise–are readily available.  But not all farmers markets are the same.  Most farmers markets are certified by the state, but there are some ‘rogue’ farmers markets, too.  These rogues are usually set up in the parking lot of some business with the intention of attracting customers–rather than providing healthy food to locals.

Two in L.A are famous: the Hollywood Market, held on Sunday mornings, and the Santa Monica market on Saturdays.  The Hollywood Farmers Market is big–160 vendors–and bustling and has many non-food items.  It has even hosted authors’ book signings!  The Saturday Santa Monica Market on the other hand is for purists:  fruits and vegetables only and all are organic and locally grown.

date farmer at Montrose Market
This stand sells bahri dates when they are in season and bahri dates are the very best! They taste like caramel.

Then there is my favorite, the Montrose Harvest Market on Sunday mornings.  It’s not as big as the Hollywood Market, but it, too, offers a lot more than just blocks and blocks of fresh vegetables and fruits.  

people lining up at food vendors Montrose market
Hot freshly made food is still sold from stands rather than from the food trucks which have taken over in other markets.

Because it is located in a suburban neighborhood there is a big focus on attractions for the kiddies as well as non-food items ranging from tupperware to original watercolors.  The goal of the managers has always been to keep their customers hanging around so they’ve also set out picnic tables near the food booths so people will stop, rather than buy veggies and run on home. This tactic has worked.  People come to the Harvest Market and spend hours eating, shopping and chatting with friends.

girl eating corn on stick
Roasted corn on a stick is a great breakfast/lunch for this little girl.


Full disclosure:  for several years I went into a ‘crafty’ phase and made super-luxury soap which I sold at the Montrose Harvest Market.  I’ve since closed that business, but it was fun–at least for a while. 

I have a lot more photos so I am going to break this topic into two posts.  In the next on there will be more about the non-food items and the special attractions for children.  And, yes, music.  I forgot to mention the music.