From the meticulously designed gardens at the Getty Center to the native plant collection at Wrigley Memorial, Los Angeles has an abundance of places to see impressive plant and flower collections or just take a contemplative walk. The next time you’re feeling the need to escape from LA’s freeways and strip malls, consider recharging at one of these botanical oases.
The Getty Center boasts four gardens in all, the first at the entrance level before you’ve taken the tram up to the museum complex. There’s also a cactus garden featuring a variety of succulents framed by panoramic views of Los Angeles and a sculpture garden containing a variety of modern pieces. The primary attraction for plant and flower enthusiasts is the Central Garden, a 134,000-square-foot space that features more than 500 varieties of plants. Those plants change with the seasons and are complemented by a maze-like walkway, a waterfall, and a pool featuring an azalea maze. The garden also boasts several large, gorgeous bougainvillea structures.
While the gardens may not be thought of as the primary draw of the Getty Center, they are impressive in their own right and worth a visit.
No list of the best gardens in Los Angeles would be complete without a mention of The Huntington. Perhaps LA’s most well-known botanical garden, The Huntington Botanical Gardens' large-scale collection boasts sixteen themed gardens and more than 80,000 living plants.
The gorgeous Japanese garden includes a ceremonial teahouse built in Japan, a distinctive moon bridge, and a carefully curated selection of Japanese plants, including fruit trees, Japanese pines, and bonsai. Each garden is a work of art in its own right, and you could spend all day at The Huntington without having enough time to visit all of them.
When you walk into Greystone Mansion, you may very well feel like you’ve seen it before—which you probably have, since it’s been used as a filming location for many TV shows and movies. Located in Beverly Hills, Greystone is quite an impressive estate that is now operated as a public park by the city.
Greystone’s terraced gardens are designed in a formal English style and feature stately courtyards, lovely walking paths, impressive fountains, and a reflection pond. Flowers typically on display include roses, birds of paradise, magnolias, and camellias. The landscaping is impeccable, and strolling around the grounds is a wonderful way to leave your worries behind for a while.
This well-hidden spot in LA’s Little Tokyo district is probably the most serene in all of downtown. Built as part of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, you can’t enter or even see the garden from street level. But once you know it’s there, you’ll want to spend as much time as you can enjoying the tranquility of this compact space.
Constructed in 1980 in honor of the centennial celebration of the Japanese American community, the garden features a waterfall, a stream, and a small pond surrounded by well-tended foliage. The short walkway around the garden doesn’t take long to traverse, but you’ll be in no hurry to leave.
Based north of downtown Los Angeles in La Canada, Descanso Gardens has more than one million different plants and boasts one of the largest collections of camellias in the world. Descanso also features a rose garden with varieties from around the world, incredible displays of lilacs and iris, and an ancient forest populated with plants from the era of the dinosaurs.
Descanso is well known for its seasonal displays, so it’s a wonderful place to visit with family and friends for a holiday outing. It’s just as enjoyable to visit on your own any time you’re in the mood to be surrounded by the beauty of nature. There are about two miles of walking paths throughout Descanso, and you could easily spend a whole day lost amongst its flora.
Gardens of the World is a free botanical garden located in Thousand Oaks. Developed by a local couple as a way to give back to the community, it consists of five separate landscaped gardens, along with an amphitheater and picnic area. Each garden is unique and themed in a particular style; the French Garden features a lovely waterfall, while the Mission Courtyard is California-themed and is surrounded by olive and citrus trees.
Tours of the gardens are available, but visitors are also welcome to guide themselves around the property, enjoying this peaceful setting at their own pace.
A bit different from the other entries on this list, the Lake Shrine Meditation Gardens exist explicitly to provide a place for quiet contemplation and the practice of meditation. The Lake Shrine is located in the Pacific Palisades, just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean.
No particular religious affiliation is required to visit the gardens, although you do need to make reservations before going. The garden itself consists of lush foliage and quiet walking paths surrounding a spring-fed lake. You’ll see turtles, ducks, and swans, in addition to rose bushes, wisteria, and lotus flowers. Because of the reservation system, you can be sure there won’t be much of a crowd to disturb your enjoyment of this serene environment.
Twenty-two miles off the coast (but still technically part of Los Angeles County), the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens are a must-see for anyone who has the opportunity to visit Catalina Island. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this botanical garden is that it almost exclusively displays plants that grow naturally on the Channel Islands (an archipelago made up of eight islands, including Catalina).
This means you’ll see plenty of cacti and succulents, as well as the relatively rare Catalina ironwood, a type of evergreen tree that only grows naturally on Catalina and the surrounding islands. The gardens are located at the top of a canyon, so they also offer some lovely views of the coastline and Catalina itself.
Los Angeles has much natural beauty to offer, and you won't want to miss spending time in any.