Maybe it’s the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden’s early history as an Indigenous Tongva settlement named Aleupkigna on Baldwin Lake and then as the Mexican land grant Rancho Santa Anita, where cattle, grains, vineyards and fruit trees were nurtured, that gives this sprawling 127-acre botanic garden a kind of proletariat feel. There are plenty of beautiful places to wander here, such as the aquatic gardens that include the Meyberg Waterfall, the Meadowbrook Garden (filled with deciduous trees, whose colorful blooms and leaves change every season, as well as evergreens), the tropical greenhouse with thousands of orchids and the plantings grouped by geography — South American, Mediterranean, South African, Australian and Asiatic-North American. But the Arboretum also has extraordinary demonstration gardens such as the Crescent Farm, a onetime compacted lawn transformed into a lush, drought-resistant garden of California native plants and low-water fruits, vegetables, ground covers and shrubs by using lasagna mulching and hugelkultur beds to rebuild the soil.

Peacocks nonchalantly roam throughout the gardens — they’re descendants of the three birds imported by Rancho Santa Anita’s last owner, Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin. There are historic buildings as well, such as the relocated Santa Anita Depot and the Queen Anne Cottage built by Baldwin. Little-known fact: This L.A. County-owned garden is also a great place for botanic research, thanks to its extensive library that you can search online and to Frank McDonough, a full-time botanical information consultant whose job is to answer the public’s questions about plants. (Call McDonough at (626) 821-3236.) The garden also has regular wellness classes such as forest bathing and yoga.

On May 12, the Arboretum is offering a special night hike for adults from 7:30 to 9 p.m. On the hike you’ll learn about symbols and meanings attached to various flowers through floriography.

Admission: $15, $11 seniors and students, $5 ages 5-12, members and children 4 and younger free. Must purchase tickets online.

Hours: Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, except Dec. 25

Food: Peacock Café open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Grill is closed on Mondays.

No pets permitted except trained service dogs.




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