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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.