There’s so much flower power in Los Angeles, with a plethora of both public gardens and private plant collections that feature botanicals from all over the world, including our own backyards. One way to support local communities is to see if they have a public garden, and contribute in any way, even if it’s just taking a friend once a year to stroll and smell the roses, lilies, ferns, or whatever else comes down your path.
Gardens are great for a phone-free day or if you want to lean into your photographer or model side and capture the beauty on film. We’ve collected 8 gardens we love here in Los Angeles that are great for a solo book reading day or picnic with friends. Many of them do require reservations, so be sure you book your visit prior to showing up!
Neighborhood: UCLA (Near Westwood)
How lucky are the UCLA students to have this beautiful botanical garden as their outdoor classroom and research facility? Good news for the rest of us, this 7.5-acre garden is also open to the public. The Mildred Mathias Botanical Gardens curates collections that highlight biogeography, conservation, and natural history. You can learn more about how these plants relate to their environment and the ecosystem around them through a guided tour led by a Garden Education on the first Saturday of every month. Also, there is no admission fee to enter the garden. While you are there, learn about one powerhouse of a woman and the garden’s namesake, Mildred E. Mathias (1906–1995), a renowned botanist and beloved professor.
If you’re going to learn one thing about the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens today, it’s that their events calendar and programming are so fun, and there are so many events to delight tree and plant lovers of all styles, whether it’s the popular holiday Lightscape, Morning Forest Bathing, Yoga in the Gardens, or yes…Goat Yoga!
If you want just a regular ole garden visit, The Arboretum is the place to catch the most beautiful seasonal blooms and plant collections from all over the world. The aquatic garden is truly something out of an oil painting, and be sure to wave hi to the turtles lazing in the sun.
Neighborhood: San Marino
Get your walking sneakers ready, as this world-renowned library and garden space is approximately 130 acres with 16 gorgeous gardens bursting with some 83,000 living plants, including rare and endangered species. The Japanese and Chinese gardens are just mind-blowing, and each section leaves you feeling like you’ve traveled to a faraway place on Earth. Be sure to book a reservation in advance and make a day out of it to enjoy the historic art pieces.
Neighborhood: Beverly Hills
Oh, we are getting fancy for this one! Harry and Virginia Robinson were known for their popular department store chain (called Robinson’s), and their mansion was one of the first homes in Beverly Hills, built-in 1911. Today the garden is recognized not only as a historical landmark that is thoughtfully sourced and crafted set in a picturesque backdrop. Take a trip back to the Golden Days of Hollywood and feel like your own 1920s movie star while smelling over 500 blooming roses and catching a breeze from the palm tree-lined paths. Note: anyone can visit this exotic paradise, but it’s by appointment only.
Neighborhood: La Cañada Flintridge
Ancient Forests, Oak Woodlands, and a lush Rose Garden. It sounds like something out of mythical folklore, but it’s a real and very accessible garden located just a few miles from Pasadena. Descanso Gardens is a unique urban retreat featuring internationally renowned botanical collections and spectacular seasonal displays. Each plant tells a story of the community it came from, and the garden offers both rugged and refined beauty that makes it one of the most picturesque spots on the list. Our favorite is the lovely Camellia plants, which bloom from early autumn to spring.
Neighborhood: Pacific Palisades
Escape for a meditation day or afternoon retreat at this ten-acre site in the Pacific Palisades. Gardens are free of charge, but be sure to snag a reservation prior. Founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda, all are welcome to experience inner and outer peace here and to appreciate the flowing waterfalls, grounding scenery, and floating carefree swans.
Neighborhood: Griffith Park
We all know about the cuddly creatures at the zoo, but the renowned spot is also home to a wide variety of botanical wonders, from native plants to rare shrubbery used for animal food, shade, and enrichment, such as mulberry and eucalyptus trees. The gardens at the zoo are an urban oasis featuring over 800 different plant species.
The Central Garden at the heart of the Getty Center is a living and ever-changing work of art that is part of the Getty Museum’s collection. More reason to plan at least one visit a season, as each time, we will guarantee you’ll find something new and awe-inspiring about the plants, sculptures, lighting, and modern architecture. The maze of azaleas is truly something you have to see in person, and you’ll definitely have a main character moment as you stroll along the ornamental bougainvillea.