Around the world in 91007…

After resting up overnight in Pasadena the Ellen 5 journeyed a few miles to neighboring Arcadia (zip code 91007) to visit the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.  The Arboretum, as it is coined locally, is a 127 acre historical site jointly operated by the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Los Angeles Arboretum Foundation.  The site’s interesting and lengthy history would fill many posts and if your curiosity has been piqued, you can check it out at

The Arboretum is made up of many distinct garden areas linked by paths and walkways.  Of note are the plant collections representing the perennials, shrubs and trees indigenous to the continents of the world far beyond what many of us will ever see in person.  After wandering through the Celebration, Weaver and Wedding Gardens we spent some time in the tropical greenhouses resplendent with orchids and epiphyllums.  Much of the infrastructure of the site is quite old and somewhat in need of attention but that fact is far overshadowed by the sheer volume and variety of mature plants to admire. To the delight of children and adults alike, the garden is home to MANY peacocks which we encountered at every turn.  We saw amazing displays and posturing from the males.  The few females we came across seemed to be using their brown color to camouflaged themselves against the color of the dirt.

We started our world tour in Australia.  In the spirit of full disclosure, we actually did not get all the way around the world as it would have taken several more days to see everything thing the 127 acres offered! In our hot, dry Central Valley of California we are seeing more and more plants of Australian origin in our retail nurseries so this collection was of particular interest to me.  Many Australian plants have very strong lines and structural elements even in the small 1 gallon size available for purchase.  To see the mature specimens was somewhat like viewing living sculpture. Here are a few highlights—for those I could find plant tags I have added a caption you can see by moving your mouse over the individual photos.

The plant collection from the Canary Islands yielded some plants I could actually identify!

When we arrived in Africa, we turned to one of our group for her special insight as she had just returned from an African adventure less than two weeks ago.  She recognized several of the large trees we saw and passed on what she had learned about their roles in the African ecosystem.  I was awed by the trees with massive twisted trunks and tall broad canopies–I could almost see the elephants or giraffes gathering for shade and to feed! For me, the Cape Chestnut pictured below was the ultimate specimen.  We saw its top covered by masses of pink blooms from a distance and felt compelled to hunt it down through several winding paths.  Below you see three of our group (still focused on their anonymity) admiring its grandeur and 2 images of its spectacularly detailed blooms:

Truly, our time ran out all too soon and we agreed a return trip was needed.On tap for our next visit will be the southern section of the site which includes Baldwin Lake, the Prehistoric Forest, the Temperate Asia Collection plus the roses, daylilies, citrus and so much more.  Baldwin Lake is the site of the circa 1885 Queen Anne Cottage featured in the opening credits of the vintage TV show Fantasy Island–can’t miss that.

I’ll close this garden travel adventure with images of a tree I have so missed since I left Southern CA in the late 1990s.  The almost florescent blossoms of the Jacaranda tree clothe the rather straggly tree each spring and they are a sight to behold.  Many communities in this area of temperate climate line the planted center strips of their busy roadways with these majestic beauties.  As the blossoms fade and fall, it almost appears to rain lavender petals and the flowers covering the ground under the trees form a field of purple!

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