In addition to beautiful park spaces, Los Angeles is home to some amazing gardens. You can stroll traditional botanic gardens, California native plant gardens, and tranquil Japanese Gardens. Some gardens are in historic settings and one even is co-located with the popular Los Angeles Zoo.
Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens at the Huntington Library feature 120 landscaped acres with thirteen themed gardens and a conservatory on the former San Marino Ranch just outside Pasadena. The gardens include rare and exotic plants from around the world as well as California natives.
You can easily spend all day in the gardens, but the extensive art collection and illustrated manuscripts, including a Gutenberg Bible, at the Huntington Library are also worth seeing. Garden walking tours are available.
Descanso Gardens contains 150 acres of gardens, woodland, and chaparral. The 40,000 camellia bushes within the 20-acre California live oak forest bloom from October to March.
Peak bloom for the 4,000 roses in the Rosarium is April through December. Guided tram tours are available.
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
The 127 acres of trees and shrubs at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden are arranged by continent of origin.
The park includes the spring-fed Lake Baldwin, a research center, greenhouses, and several historic buildings. The Arboretum offers classes and even guided forest bathing. Walking tours are also available except during the months of July, August, and September.
South Coast Botanic Garden
The South Coast Botanic Garden features over 2,500 plant species on 87 acres with an emphasis on drought-resistant plants. Called “The Jewel of the Peninsula,” the garden is located on the beautiful Palos Verdes Peninsula, just 10 miles south of the Los Angeles Airport.
The garden has more than 2,500 different species of plants from as far away as Australia, the Mediterranean, and southern Africa. There is a small lake, a garden for the senses, a children's garden, a Japanese garden, and other specialty gardens.
Exposition Park Rose Garden
The Rose Garden at Exposition Park in South Los Angeles is a popular spot for USC students to hang out and study, and a busy spot for weddings and photo shoots. The Rose Garden is open daily. It is closed to the public from the beginning of January through mid-March of each year for annual maintenance.
Exposition Park is also home to a variety of museums including the Natural History Museum, California Science Center, and the California African American Museum, so you can combine some indoor and outdoor time.
The Getty Center
The J. Paul Getty Museum, commonly referred to as the Getty, is an art museum in California housed on two campuses. Both have featured gardens.
The manicured gardens at the Getty Center campus were designed as a work of art by Robert Irwin. Zigzagging walkways, a stone waterfall, and a floating maze of azaleas are surrounded by a variety of seasonal plants.
Architecture and garden tours are available.
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Most people go to the zoo to see the animals, but the habitats at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Griffith Park are just as important. The Botanical Gardens house a variety of specialty gardens including a collection of contraband plants that have been confiscated by airport customs from people trying to bring them into the country illegally.
Another fascinating garden is the cycad garden, a living time capsule full of plant species that have been in existence since the age of the dinosaurs.
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens in Claremont has 86 acres dedicated exclusively to California native plants and is a haven for wildlife. There are many resources provided to help people develop and maintain native gardens.
The gardens feature special art installations, festivals, shows, concerts, and seasonal events providing additional ways to experience the garden.
In summer be cautious of the heat and bring plenty of water.
Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens
The gardens are located on the southeastern corner of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. About 5000 species of tropical and subtropical plants are grown on the six acres of the Mildred E. Mathias Botanica Gardens.
The nest, a small amphitheater, was designed and built by the garden's staff and volunteers who constructed it with Northern California incense cedar and boulders shipped in from Duarte, California.
You can take a self-guided tour to experience all the gardens have to offer.
Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
The 10-acre Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine is 1/4 mile from the Pacific Ocean just up Sunset Blvd from the coast. It honors the five major world religions and includes a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi where a portion of his ashes are said to be enshrined.
The grounds are especially beautiful with everything manicured and pristinely perfect. The outdoor pathways and meditation benches provide a quiet environment for personal reflection.
The indoor sanctuaries are for silent meditation and prayer. Since this is a retreat and spiritual center, a quiet demeanor and respectful dress are requested. The gardens are open free to the public.
The Getty Villa
The Getty Villa in Malibu offers visitors the chance to experience ancient Greek and Roman art in a setting that recreates a first-century Roman villa. Other features include a reflecting pool, fountains, and sculptures.
The villa has four gardens that serve to blend Roman architecture with the open space planted with 300 varieties of Mediterranean plants. Stroll the gardens at your leisure or take a guided tour.
Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at CSULB
The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden is a 1.3-acre oasis hidden away on the campus of California State University Long Beach.
The garden is a hybrid art form that combines typical elements of Japanese garden design with the natural beauty of Southern California. The garden is used for small classes and discussion groups by the school.
Admission is free. Check the website for open hours.
Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden
The Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden is a volunteer-run two-thirds-acre Garden focusing on California native plants in Polliwog Park on Peck Avenue, just north of Manhattan Beach Blvd. Locals go to learn about sustainable native gardening.
The garden features seven interpretive signs that serve as a self-guided tour appropriate for ages twelve and older. The garden is open free to the public daily.
Virginia Robinson Gardens
The Virginia Robinson Gardens are six acres of tropical gardens on the grounds of the former Robinson estate in Beverly Hills. The Robinson mansion, built in 1911, was one of the first homes in Beverly Hills and is now a historical landmark. Special events and classes are offered.
The gardens and home may be viewed Tuesday through Friday by appointment only. Reservations can be made online.
The Japanese Garden - Suiho En
The Japanese Garden, Suiho En, the garden of water and fragrance, is a traditional 6.5 acre Japanese garden in Van Nuys with meditative elements. The garden, located on the grounds of the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant adjacent to Woodley Park, is used as a tool to teach visitors about water reclamation. Even though it is next to a water reclamation plant, the garden is authentic in every detail.
The property includes a tea room and tea ceremony garden. There are docent-led tours by reservation or visitors may explore on their own.
James Irvine Japanese Garden
This secret Japanese garden is an urban oasis located in the sub-ground level of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) in LA's Little Tokyo district in downtown Los Angeles.
Known as Seiryu-en or "Garden of the Clear Stream," this garden was designed in the Zen tradition of the famous gardens of Kyoto, Japan. The site features a 170-foot long stream flowing from a waterfall at the upper end of the garden, blooming trees and foliage, and the peaceful sounds of cascading water throughout.