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A SPRING GARDENING SAMPLER | Taking in the Sights

Acres of Spring Flowers Await Your Visit

April 01, 1999|CONNIE KOENENN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Few things are more restful for a gardener than viewing someone else's work, and few times of the year are more favorable than right now.

"April is a good time for any garden in Southern California," says Jim Folsom, director of the famed Huntington Botanical Gardens. If you grew up in a part of the country that really has seasons, he adds, the profusion of tulips, roses and iris will remind you of home. "Our spring flowers will make you think more of England than Hawaii."

To help you enjoy the spring flowers, Southern California's many botanical gardens offer an assortment of walking paths, trams, maps, teas, picnic tables, fountains and meditation nooks. There is one common theme: Look, don't pick. The only way to take home a bouquet is to bring your camera.

A sampling:

* Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, 1212 Mission Canyon Road. Sixty-five acres in the Santa Ynez foothills featuring more than 1,000 species of native California plants spanning regions from the desert Southwest to the Oregon border. Spring is peak blooming period for meadows of bright orange matilija poppies, clusters of blue and white ceanothus, iris, monkey flowers, coral bells and fragrant sages, as well as a bonanza of butterflies.

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and teenagers, $1 for children. Five miles of trails lead hikers through redwood groves and ridge-top views of the Channel Islands. Picnic areas and docent-led tours are available. Information: (805) 682-4726.

* International Center for Earth Concerns, 2162 Baldwin Road, Ojai. Located on 275 foothill acres, it combines an environmental education center with 30 acres of formal botanical gardens featuring Australian and South African native plants. Spectacular flowers such as bird of paradise and calla lilies feed myriad bird life, including a parrot sanctuary. April's ice plant creates a carpet of color.

Reservations required. Open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; garden tours on Saturday; closed Sunday. Admission: $7 donation. Free parking. Information: (805) 649-3535.

* Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, 1500 N. College Ave., Claremont. Dedicated to the preservation of native California plants, the 86-acre garden offers more than 2,800 species. A wildflower show the first full weekend in April is augmented through the month with a profusion of roses, irises, bright yellow meadow-foam and single and double California poppies in red, white, pink and purple.

Open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., no admission or parking fees. Tours by mini-tram require reservation a week in advance. Information: (909) 625-8767.

* Arboretum of Los Angeles County, 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia. A narrated tram tour guides visitors through the 127 acres of forests and gardens, where April's color will include daffodils and flowering fruit trees, exotic agapanthus and orchid trees. Also on the tour are a begonia greenhouse, orchid greenhouse and drought-tolerant gardens.

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and students, $1 for children. Public shuttle tram, nonreserved, is $1.50 a person. Information: (626) 821-3222.

* Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada Flintridge. Spectacular 160-acre woodland garden celebrates "April Tulip-Mania," with 16,000 tulips creating intense drifts of color among pansies, primroses and English daisies. Upcoming May 1-2 is a Rose Revel festival in the 5-acre rose garden. Visitors on foot or tram will also enjoy forests, streams, a lake and bird sanctuary. Picnic lunch and snacks available at Garden Cafe.

Open daily, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, $1, children. Free parking. Information: (818) 952-4400 or http://www.descanso.com.

* Exposition Park Rose Garden, 701 State Drive, Exposition Park, Los Angeles. Fragrant strolling through thousands of bushes, with gazebos and green grass for picnics. April produces the first blooms of the year for the garden, which is closed between Jan. 1 and March 15 for pruning and fertilizing. Test beds show off new varieties.

Open daily, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission, free; parking, $5.

* Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino. Amid the 130 acres of fountains and walking paths, the last of the flowering dogwoods and late cherry trees will be giving way to the spring flowers spectacle of formal garden color, starting with the first blush of roses after winter pruning. The spring flower abundance includes iris ranging from white and lavenders through hybrid pinks, oranges and reds. Azaleas and the beginnings of some tropical plants, such as South American trumpet trees, should add to the ebullience of color.

Open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, and 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekends. Admission: $8.50 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for students; children younger than 12 free. Information: (626) 405-2141 or http://www.huntington.org.

* Sherman Library and Gardens, 2647 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Corona del Mar. Small (2 acres) though spectacular gardens, popular for homeowner classes, offer bright spring flowers including tulips, daffodils, primrose, crocus and red, pink and white azaleas. Roses and multicolor ranunculus also contribute to the ebullient mix of major formal gardens and hanging baskets, which accent the Early California architecture of the surrounding buildings.

Open daily, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: $3 for adults, $1 for youths 12 to 16, children free. Admission is free on Mondays. Information: (949) 673-2261.

*

Wildflower Watch: For detailed weekly updates on choice wildflower sightings and hikes in the Southland, call the 24-hour Wildflower Hotline of the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley: (818) 768-3533.

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