A quick drive north on the 2 Freeway through the Verdugo Mountains takes us to perhaps the most easily accessible public gardens near Burbank – Descanso Gardens. No matter the time of year, there is always something blooming.
January and February highlight Descanso Gardens’ thousands of Camellia varieties, bursting in reds, pinks and whites throughout the expansive park. Also in January and February, the cherry trees, magnolias, winter annuals and daffodils are in bloom.
Miles of paved paths and well-maintained dirt paths allow for access throughout the park’s 160 acres.
The time capsule of the Boddy House, high on the hill, is a must visit when open, with it’s art and furnishings from the earlier part of the 20th century.
A cup of tea and an almond cookie at the Japanese Pavillion is a refreshing treat on weekend afternoons.
Browse the aged Coast Live Oaks, drooping limbs and leaves. Meander through the rose gardens and look for early flowering bulbs.
On weekends, Descanso’s attempt at Brunch is popular for good reason – the food is delicious. Reservations tend to book quickly and the place is constantly busy during serving hours. Never fear if you are seated on the patio during a chilly day – heaters and warm blankets are available.
With a menu created by Mark Salazar of The Patina Group, Maple tips its hat to California and American favorites.
The Street Fruit, sliced jicama, mango, cucumber, pineapple and watermelon, with cotija cheese, chile, lime and an out-of-this-world passion fruit curd, is refreshing and sweet.
Fried Chicken ‘N’ Beignets is another popular item on the menu. The chicken is amazingly crispy and crunchy outside, tender and juicy inside. And the sweet beignets are a perfect complement.
The standard Maple Burger is quite good with cheddar cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato and an interesting maple spread.
The Maple Brunch menu is pretty deep with a lot of egg dishes, toasts and brunchy items. We’ll be visiting for a long time to try all the items that look and sound incredible.
Sweet and cinnamon-y churros with a caramel dipping sauce are a decadent way to finish off your meal.
Service at Maple was attentive although the kitchen was a bit leisurely. The outdoor patio is rustic and small, but fits with the al fresco atmosphere of being in the Gardens.
In addition to the Boddy House, Descanso Gardens also boasts the Sturt Haaga Gallery and Enchanted Railroad. The Gallery, located in the Boddy House garage, showcases rotating exhibits on the arts and sciences through the lens of gardens and gardening.
The Enchanted Railroad is a 1/8 scale replica of a diesel train that transports riders throughout the Gardens near the main pathway.
Descanso Gardens featured sections include the Rose Garden, Camellia Collection, Oak Forest, Ancient Forest of cycads and ferns, California Natives designed by Theodore Payne, Oak Woodland, Nature’s Table edible garden and the manicured Center Circle.
A large lake populated by a variety of California water birds and giant carp now includes a lakeside drink shack, the Lakeside Lounge. Complete with wine and beer hosted by Golden Road Brewing, special events are held at the Lounge in the summer.
In the summer and autumn heat, Descanso Gardens provides a cool and shady respite from the dust and high temps. Whether it’s hot or cool, sunny or rainy, Descanso Gardens is a little slice of gardening heaven in the bustling Los Angeles metropolis.
Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, $4 for children ages 5-12, while members and children under 5 are free. Descanso Gardens is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Descanso is located at 1418 Descanso Drive in La Cañada Flintridge, CA. Parking is free year round.
Maple is open Saturdays and Sundays 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Cafe Descanso, the Gardens’ longtime eatery also managed by The Patina Group, is open daily 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Editor’s Note: While there’s always a lot going on in Burbank, myBurbank’s “Get Out Of Town!” highlights some of our favorite activities and events outside the town borders.