So many gardens, so little time....

davissue_zone9(z9 Sunset 14)March 10, 2005

I'm running down to the desert next week to view the wildflowers (supposedly the best display in fifty years with all the extra rain california has had this winter). While I'm down there, I was thinking of swinging thru the San Diego area and LA on the way back home to Sacramento to see the Japanese gardens in the area. I went to Bob Cheetham's site and brought up a list of Japanese gardens in the Southern California area, and am a bit dismayed that there are so many, I can't possibly see them all. I assume some are better than others, and you-all are the ones to ask where I should concentrate my time. I'm not sure this link will work, but here is the list that my search of bob's site brought up-

Here is a link that might be useful: list of south CA japanese gardens

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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

Both The Huntington and Descanso have mature forests of hundreds of Camellias (Descanso's are under oaks).

Descanso has a teahouse, koi pond, small bridges and you can buy tea and cookies on the weekends only after 11 am. No more are the Japanese ladies wearing stunning kimonos serving you, just a couple teenagers in jeans (to my disappointment) behind the counter. It looks like they've just put in about a dozen flowering cherries among the Camellias and oaks. I love Descanso but not for their Japanese garden, much better is...

The Huntington. Which has an elaborate Japanese Garden including a large arching bridge, traditional Japanese house, walled Zen garden and bonsai display area (also the stones, I forget what they are called, that look like mountains). They also have a large pond with koi and as far as I can tell a greater variety of species. I was there two weeks ago and although the P.mume's were bloomed out for the year (there is a little grove of them all together) the red flowering peaches were stunning and the sound of the breeze through the stands of bamboo unforgettable.

There is another Japanese garden I did not see on your list, it is in the San Fernando Valley. I haven't been there myself but it looks spectacular from the outside. Also the park across the street, Lake Balboa, has a couple hundred Pink Cloud flowering cherries. This year's floral display - WOW!

Here is a link that might be useful: Tillman Japanese Garden link

    Bookmark   March 14, 2005 at 2:09PM
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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

OK, I went there on my lunch break. It's a big open sort of garden in the style of Chisen-Kaiyushiki (wet garden with promenade), all is well-pruned & groomed. The designer is Koichi Kawana, one of the docents told me he is a genius (I asked her what one of the trees was and she told me he smuggled it into the US - a weeping double flowered pink peach - superb). There are various outbuildings, walls, fences, bridges, stepping stones, etc. in the traditional Japanese style and while I was there two white pelicans landed on the "lake." I was surprised to see some non-Japanese plants there (Kaffir lilies - South Africa) but the garden has been there for many years and perhaps they were a later addition.

Personally, I prefer the Huntington for the sheer number of species to peer at (and most are labelled) and the house there is fabulous. It's a bit more of a natural setting, less formal than the Tillman garden.

Once again I was mesmerized by the sound of the breeze in the bamboo - just wonderful. Have a nice trip!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2005 at 5:55PM
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davissue_zone9(z9 Sunset 14)

Thanks, Greenwitch, I wasn't expecting you to go out and vet them for me, but it's mightily appreciated! I'm sort of surprised the regulars haven't had any comments, but most are back east and perhaps haven't had the oportunity to visit the west coast gardens. I have been purusing the book, Japanese style gardens of the west coast and am leaning towards the one in Balboa park, the one at the San Diego tech center, the one you visited today, and Descanso gardens. I'd like to see the James Earl Miller garden and the Hannah Carter one, but I can't time my being there during the time they are open. Bummer. Some other time, I guess. Thanks again for the input. I should be less cheap and spring for Huntington Gardens, but the entrance fee is so steep, and I'm so cheap....

    Bookmark   March 14, 2005 at 8:14PM
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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

Dave, I've stood outside the walls of that garden so many times and because it was by appointment only (now open for self tours during the weekdays). I have never gotten in until yesterday! I'm sure you probably understand the vocabulary of Japanese gardens better than I and you would enjoy it very much.

Also, Lake Balboa Park's cherry tree bloom display is past it's peak - I drove through on my way to Tillman to see it again; next year I'll bring a picnic to spread under the trees (including some plum wine, heh heh).

I know what you mean about the Huntington's price. Last year it was ~$12 to get in and $60 for a membership, this year $15 and $100 for a membership! We used to go there when we were kids for free.... At this rate I wonder how many patrons they'll have when it's $25 to get in?
Unfortunately, the Japanese garden there is really fine - it is my favorite one, maybe because it is older, and situated in a gulch. Also like I said, a great diversity of species and the display house is one you want to move into!
When my mother took my brothers and me there, I remember the arching bridge was bright red and there was a huge bronze bell that we would ring with the very large bamboo striker (I think it's still there, just no longer accessable/ringable).

If you can spring for the entrance fee I promise you that you will be enchanted. I like many things about Descanso but their Japanese garden is not one of their strong points (unless you are a Camellia maniac - even then, IMO there are a greater number of types of Camellia at the Huntington including my favorite, the fragrant species C.lutchensis).

I'm sure the gardens you choose to visit will be delightful. Do report back on your experiences won't you?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 12:21PM
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davissue_zone9(z9 Sunset 14)

Well, I'm back, the wildflowers were as spectacular as advertised. I got in three Japanese gardens, the Japanese Friendship garden in San Diego, the Earl Burns Miller garden in Long Beach, and Descanso gardens. Wish I had had more time to see the others, but there will be a next time, I'm sure! The best by far was the Earl Burns Miller garden. Descanso was a disappointment, and the San Diego garden was lovingly maintained, but not very authentic, in terms of the pruning and carpentry of the buildings. Here's a couple of pictures of the Miller garden.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2005 at 1:56PM
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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

That looks like a beauty. I grew up in Gardena, which is not far from Long Beach, and have never been there (actually didn't know it existed until you brought it to my attention).

At one time (perhaps still) Gardena had the largest population of Japanese in the US, our gardener was from Japan, many houses have shrubs trimmed in a Japanese style, if not architectural accents hinting of Japan. My best friend was Canadian-Japanese. Unfortunately, I was not given a vocabulary to describe what I grew up with, but it had a lasting impression on me.

I'm glad you enjoyed your road trip, I saw your wildflower pics on another thread - beautiful wide open spaces scattered with color.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 5:17PM
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