In my last adventure post, I spent quite a bit of time discussing place and its import to me as a writer. I’d like to take some time now to celebrate a place that proved to be essential to me during my time in LA, both as a writer and as a human being trying to find some sense of stability: the Los Angeles County Arboretum.
The arboretum was a place that truly soothed and reinvigorated me every time I visited. I went several times during my time in LA and every time, the peafowl were out in full force.
The arboretum boasts a series of small tropical greenhouses that are pocketed away and covered with vines. It was incredible to walk into one of those spaces and be transported from drought-ridden southern California to a place of bright, delicate-leaved greens and orchids.
There were also, in true rainforest form, some plants that defied imagination. Henri Rousseau would have been in heaven.
I could have easily spent an entire day just wandering through those greenhouses. Every time I went, they drew me in. But, let me tell you about the Madagascar Spiny Forest. By now, you should know of my love of prickly plants.
The Madagascar Spiny Forest. I couldn’t get over this place. It was a winding trail through some of the strangest, Dr. Seus-inspired plants I had ever seen.
Choosing which beauty shots to represent this part of the arboretum was a real struggle for me. It was photographic heaven, to say the least.
I am sure I am not the first person to think this, but don’t cacti sometimes remind you of coral reef formations? Their forms are just so alien, especially to someone like me who has never lived anywhere that remotely resembled a desert, that I have no other frame of reference for which to describe them other than to equate them with the equally surreal ocean world.
The arboretum is mostly flat with several large open lawns. The second time I was there, some geese had settled into a few of the ponds. There is one climb that takes you up past a small waterfall and to a place known as “The Plumeria Trail.”
The plumerias were in full bloom during my first visit. This was the last area of the arboretum that I explored on that trip and it was easily the most deserted. It was also drawing close to sunset at the time.
Plumeria and hibiscus always remind me of my grandparents. They loved Hawaii, probably partly due to the fact that they spent their entire lives in the Pacific northwest, and we used to go every summer when I was little. My grandfather grew hibiscus in hanging pots on their porch and my grandmother would wear shirts delicately sewn with Hawaiian flora all summer long.
In the centre of the arboretum is the prehistoric forest. It is rung round with often claustrophobic dirt trails that open up into small ponds.
The prehistoric forest is a dense mass, so different from the experience of wandering through the Madagascar Spiny Forest or the gentle reading and herb gardens that the arboretum also holds.
The forest encircles a small lake that was used as a filming location for Gilligan’s Island. On the lake sits one of the arboretum’s historic structures, the Queen Anne cottage, completed in 1886. The cottage has a wrap-around porch with benches looking out over the lake.
Next to the Queen Anne Cottage is a small rose garden. I am fairly certain that roses were in bloom the entire time that I was in LA.
The array of plants and landscapes in the arboretum is truly stunning. I couldn’t recommend it enough for anyone visiting or living in LA. If anyone lives in LA and has yet to go, you must rectify this fault in your character immediately. Probably this weekend. Probably for Valentine’s Day. Probably every day for the rest of your life.
There was even a bamboo forest. Because no arboretum is complete without a bamboo forest. All the other arboretums would scoff.
I couldn’t help but be enamoured with the turtles in the turtle pond. This little guy was particularly keen to model for me. Or he thought I would feed him. I did bring myself a refreshing quinoa salad and I am fairly certain he saw me eating it while I was sitting on a nearby bench. What turtle doesn’t love a quinoa salad?
Weddings are a very popular event at the arboretum. There was even a couple that I surreptitiously followed during one trip that were there to tour the arboretum for their upcoming wedding. This move may seem rather basic, I know, but I can 100% get behind it. I wish random-couple-I-stalked all the luck in the world.
The past few months have been a bit rocky for me and the arboretum was one of the few places in LA that allowed me to find moments of calm. I couldn’t be more grateful and I will miss it, and so many other parts of LA, dearly. Particularly all the mad cacti that I encountered.