How to Do…Descanso Gardens


FIll ‘Er Up
On weekends the barbecue haven Zeke’s Smokehouse in La Crescenta-Montrose serves a country-style breakfast of biscuits, grits, and fresh apple cider doughnuts. Stroll Honolulu Avenue, the town’s old-fashioned Main Street, to visit spots like City Hall Coffee Shop, which offers all-American diner fare every day. You know it’s a classic joint when regulars hang their coffee mugs on the wall.

Take a Ride
A one-mile drive east along Verdugo Boulevard leads to the gates of Descanso Gardens. Composed of 160 acres, 80 of which are open to the public, the former ranch of newspaper magnate E. Manchester Boddy is a living museum teeming with flowers and greenery. Though a January fire damaged the tram, you can hop on the Enchanted Railroad, a one-eighth replica of a diesel train. It costs $3 and is a lovely way to take in the world-famous camellia collection (30,000 plants and counting).

Smell the Roses
The unusually warm winter means the tulips will likely be gone by May, but the irises, azaleas, ceanothus, and giant Matilija poppies should be in fine form. Roses, including the pale yellow Julia Child, will be at their peak. Celebrate them at the garden’s first Rose Festival on May 25.


Meet the Landlord
Don’t miss the Boddy House, high atop the property. Displays inside the meticulously preserved library detail Boddy’s rags-to-riches story. Next door, the Sturt Haaga Gallery hosts small shows with botanical themes.


Stand Tall
As the sun moves across the San Rafael hills, there’s no better place to watch the light change than in the Oak Forest. A new stand of 34 native oaks, the Oak Woodland project is scheduled to open later this year. The grove recalls how trees once blanketed the area.

Drink in the Hood
On most days Descanso closes at 5 p.m., but if you can make it to the equine-themed gastropub The Flintridge Proper before then, happy hour is a deal: $5 house-made cocktails and spicy duck wings. For a local favorite try Taylor’s Steakhouse, which has been around since 1953 and is as beloved as the Koreatown original.

Photographs courtesy (in order): (1) (2) David Zanzinger (3) Richard Wong/Alamy, and (5)