One of my goals for the year is to post more often on my blog. I’m shooting for at least once a week. One problem I have is deciding on topics. Other bloggers I follow accept daily or weekly challenges on specific topics like Around Dusty Roads or routinely maintain their own thought-provoking series like A Frank Angle. As intriguing as these blogs are, I cannot see myself committing to such challenges. But earlier this year another of the blogs I follow—Tricia Booker Photography—started addressing a challenge called A-Z Topics. That approach could work for me! Her “A Topic” was on an arboretum near her—and I could even write on the arboretum near me. So, this is my first entry as I address my own Topics A to Z.
Topic A: Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden
The LA County Arboretum & Botanic Garden is a wonderful place! As a kid, I only knew it as “the arboretum,” as if it were the only one anywhere. Of course, for me, it was. Since the Arboretum was only about five miles from home, we visited often. It was an especially great place to take out of state visitors—and not just because back then admission was free. It was a glorious spot full of trees, flowers, birds, and a lake as well as some great old buildings and a train depot. Each visit was a bit different, but you always knew you would have fun. You could hike the trails, feed the ducks, enjoy the gardens, and marvel at the peacocks.
As an adult, I now appreciate the full scope of its offerings as well as its history. The Arboretum’s website explains that this rich historical location is committed to “cultivat[ing] our natural, horticultural and historic resources for learning, enjoyment and inspiration.” The Arboretum sits on 127 acres and houses a collection of 18,000 plants displayed in five botanical sections: Africa, Australia, the Americas, the Asiatic, and the Historic Circle. Along with the gardens, visitors will find a lake, well maintained historic buildings, a waterfall and great vistas of the area. You can walk the paths, ride a tram to get all around the acres, shop in the Garden and Gift Shop, eat at the Peacock Café, tour with a docent or attend a program or lecture. One thing you shouldn’t do is pull on the tail feathers of the peafowl that have the run of the place—but they are gorgeous to watch! And many a kid has chased them a bit.
The history of the LA County Arboretum is as impressive as its collection. The website shares a detailed history of this glorious spot, so visit online for more details. The whole region was home to Native Americans when the Spaniards arrived to colonize the area. The native inhabitants called the area’s land and lakes Aleupkigna, which means “the place of many waters.” The first private owner (1840) of the area was Hugo Reid, a Scottish immigrant who married a local Indian woman. The Hugo Reid Adobe and various native kiys (grass huts) are preserved and displayed to the public.
For the next several decades, the land went through various owners until finally being purchased by Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin in 1875. He built what is now called the Queen Anne Cottage and Coach Barn in 1885, supposedly for his fourth wife. However, they divorced quickly and she never lived there. In the early 1950’s, this house was restored to its original splendor, outfitted again with items that had been removed from the house and stored in the Coach Barn for years. Some of these original items include black walnut doors, stained glass windows, hearth tiles, and the encaustic tile mosaic entry floor. Lucky Baldwin is also the one who introduced peafowl to the area. As a kid, I especially loved to hear them squawk their distinctive “Halp! Halp!” that seemed to echo everywhere.
In 1947 the state of California and Los Angeles County purchased the land. By 1953, LA County had direct management of the lands, which were opened to the public in 1955. In 1978, with the loss of state funding due to the passage of Proposition 13 that impacted property tax revenue, entrance fees were initiated. At that time, it only cost $1 to get into this wondrous playground! Now, 35 years later, it only costs $8 for an adult admission and $3 for kids; kids under 5 years old are free. That’s less than going to a movie these days—and it is well worth the cost to be immersed in so much wonderful nature. Of course, if your budget is tight, the third Tuesday of each month is free to everyone.
Whenever I visit the Arboretum, I am reminded that Henry David Thoreau was right: “We need the tonic of wildness—we can never have enough of nature.” The Arboretum is a great place to experience that “tonic of wildness.” Once inside the gate, you can readily forget that a freeway is zipping past just outside the fence and that across the street is not only a huge shopping mall, but also the Santa Anita Race Track. The Arboretum helps you take a breath, slow down, and marvel at the nature around you. You can take a walk or sit on a bench, chat with others or relish the silence—the point is to embrace the natural wonders around you.
These photos I’ve taken over the years on my visits to the Arboretum may help give you a glimpse into how special this place is!
I especially love the peacocks! So did Dad as he stalked them for a good photo.
Feeding the ducks! These next few photos make me feel old! The cute little guys are two of my nephews back in 1976 when they were just toddlers feeding the ducks and coots, well Canada Geese too. The white goose was always there as the sassy matriarch of the area, demanding she receive her fair share of whatever bread crumbs or corn meal was being shared. These kids are now almost 40!
Birds typically seen at the Arboretum:
Some typical flowers too, especially the orchids in the greenhouse:
MY FINAL ADVICE: If you have never visited the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, get there. Soon! Put it on your bucket list. It is great place to be immersed in Nature, but it is also an integral education center and community partner. The Arboretum hosts concerts, gives tours to school children, preserves history of the area, offers programs/classes and exhibits, and serves as expert advisors on local fauna. The Arboretum showed its resilience recently as it recovered and re-worked the grounds in response to a huge wind storm that impacted the area over a year ago. During the storm, 235 trees were lost and another 1,000 were damaged. The Arboretum Staff just got busy cleaning up, improving the grounds and moving on. The Arboretum even invited 75 artists to use the wood from those fallen trees to create art for a show called Forces of Nature. What a great lesson about getting up and moving on, making something good and beautiful out of destruction. [If you are not in California, find the arboretum near you and visit there!]
ONE LAST POINT: Even if you have never visited the LA County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, you may have seen glimpses of its buildings and landscape. Many a TV show and movie have been filmed at this locale: Tarzan movies as well as episodes of such shows as Lassie, Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, and Remington Steele, to name just a few. For five years (1977-1982), Fantasy Island was filmed at the Arboretum. Tattoo called out “De plane! De plane!” while ringing the bell on the red-and-white Queen Anne’s Cottage as the small plane landed in the Baldwin Lagoon. Below is the opening credits of one episode that shows these typical scenes from the show.
[I’m not the only one who watched this television show, am I?]
“So, are you gonna come visit?”
APOLOGIES: At times the links to the website for the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden work but at other times they do not. I have done my best to fix them. Here is the URL to the site, so you can cut and paste if need be to explore the site yourself. http://www.arboretum.org/