Where: 301 North Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia, CA, 91007
Hours: Open daily from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; admission closes at 4:30 pm
Fee: $7 for adults, $5 for seniors (62 and over), $5 for students with ID, and $2.50 for children 5- 12. Children under 5 free
The Arboretum of Los Angeles County is only about 30-minutes drive away from where I live. My previous visit was years ago, but I still remember it was quite laid-back and pleasant. It is not a garden for the die-hard botanical scientists who are looking for the rarest plants, but it is a fabulous place to stroll down with your family and friends. Even though the main attraction is not orchid, they do have some orchids. Therefore, on an idle summer Saturday morning, with not many flowers in my own collection at the moment, I decided to check out what’s blooming in The Arboretum.
As you enter the 127-acre botanical garden, you will be greeted by the residence magnificent peacocks that roam around freely. These puppy-dog tamed birds are so used to people that they wouldn’t even flinch if you walk right up to them (don’t worry, they don’t jump on you like puppies do). I am marveled that some of these huge birds sit on tree branches; I wonder how they manage to climb trees as I am sure they don’t fly. I heard that the peacocks are quite beneficial to the garden as they keep the plant-snacking snail population under control.
The Tropical Orchid Greenhouse
My first destination in the garden is, of course, the orchid area. The Arboretum has a small but wonderful collection of orchids, and the blooming ones are on display in the Tropical Greenhouse while the non-blooming ones are in another greenhouse nearby. The general public cannot enter the non-blooming greenhouse, but it is open couple of times a year to hold orchid sales event to reduce their “inventory.”
Situated by the entrance of the Tropical Greenhouse is a 12-foot tall American Indian style stone statue. As you enter the greenhouse, you will definitely feel the climate change from the desert-like Southern California to a Tropical forest. This 2000-square foot greenhouse supplies plenty of refreshing humidity to the orchids inside. In fact, you can see the mist constantly gushing out beneath the plants.
In the greenhouse are different types of orchids: Phalaenopsis, Ladyslipper orchids (Paphiopedilum and Phragmepedium), Oncidium, Cattleya, Vanda, Encyclia and Epidendrum. Along with the orchids are also some trees and non-orchid plants, such as the vigorous climber Stephanotis floribunda, to make the place look like a natural garden. The view is completed with a little pond with some koi fish. It is truly a peaceful scene. There was also a vanilla plant climbing on trees, but it was not in bloom. The bigger Oncidium plants were grown in wire baskets. The flowers were tiny but there must have been at least 500 flowers in bloom in each pot.
My only complaint is that most of the orchids are not tagged. It would be fine if all you want to do is to enjoy the beauty of these flowers. But for me, it would be even more interesting if I get to know the names of these orchids. I do recognize some of these orchids, for example, I see a Paphiopedilum esquirolei with its eye-catching dark pink petals and several Cockleshell orchids, Prosthechea cochleata. My favorite is
Anacheilium baculus. It is an orchid from Central and South American. I enjoy its fragrant octopus-shaped flowers, but more interestingly, I find that the cylindric pseudobulbs even appear more to me. They are smooth and long, with the base slightly bigger than the top. They are quite different from other orchid pseudobulbs.
After spending an hour in the Tropical greenhouse, I wanted to go take a closer look at the Baldwin coach barn. It is a historic building from the 1800s. We settled by the Baldwin lake in front of the barn and observed the turtles and birds. There were several blue birds standing in the shallow water hunting for fish. We captured couple good shots of them with catfish in their mouths. We also went by the waterfall and the Zen Garden. As well, we visited the live sculpture, which is an art formed by leafless willowy branches twisted together. I suspect that I would appreciate it more if I were more of an artsy type.
The sun was getting very intense, so we decided to get some ice-cold drinks and snacks at the Peacock cafe. The view from the cafe was quite picturesque, and of course, peacocks were roaming around. We completed our trip by visiting the gift shop, where they have books, plants and little souvenirs for sale.
The Arboretum hosts many events throughout the year, such as tomatoes tasting, California Philharmonic concert and LA Garden Show. It also offers many classes such as flower arrangement, botanical painting, fitness and even cooking classes. Many botanical societies also hold regular meetings at the Arboretum. Check out its website to find up to date events. http://www.arboretum.org.