Come For The Tulips, Stay For The Native Flowers
Descanso Gardens is awash in flowers right now.
The Los Angeles County-owned park in La Cañada Flintridge is again offering its annual tulip display that brings out visitors in droves with their cameras and selfie-sticks.
Standing beside a long bed bursting with the blooms, Jennifer Erirco, the organization's director of communications, described the process of buying the bulbs in Washington state, where they emerge from freezers for the trip south.
"Every January, we come out with a whole group of volunteers and we plant 30,000 tulip bulbs," she said. "They were a little slow to come up this year because of all the rain, but now they are blooming and it's beautiful."
She said the array includes the classic single tulips, ones with fringe, double-petaled varieties and Tulipa 'Ice Cream' that resembles a scoop of vanilla in a pink cone. They bear names such as Parrot, Triumph, Lilly and Darwin. The larger ones have the regal designation of Emperor. Others display tight bunches of petals resembling peonies.
But the splendor is fleeting. The tulips don't last forever, Errico noted, "so you have to come see them when they bloom," which will be for the next week or two depending on the weather.
Visitor Alejandra Martinez came for the tulip display but was soon guiding family members to the native plant section of the garden where clumps of lavender flowers poured forth from Ceanothus shrubs and pink blossoms adorned the Western redbud trees.
The plant biologist, who teaches ecology at Occidental College, said she loves to visit Southern California's botanical gardens, especially Descanso.
"We're here all the time," she said as she held her 3-year-old son in her arms. She's partial to desert plants, noting "they have amazing adaptations."
Martinez brought her class on a field trip earlier in the spring and made a point to return for the flowering natives such as the purple Foothill Penstemon, white Douglas Iris and the golden poppy, which is California's state flower.
Elsewhere in the garden, visitors photographed the riots of blossoms from such trees as the Japanese Crabapple and cherry varieties Okame, Akebono, Beni-Hoshi and Pink Cloud, which seems to have named itself. Many are clustered near the Japanese Garden, where white and magenta azaleas are in full bloom.
Nearby, a variety of lilacs stand in relative isolation at the edge of of the gardens, their blossoms just starting to fill the air with a delicate scent.
Descanso Gardens visitors will also see an unfortunate toll taken by the winter storms. Several of the park's massive oak trees became uprooted in the saturated soil and lie whole or in pieces awaiting their fate.
The staff there is considering what to do with all that lumber. Perhaps create some outdoor furniture with the wood? Meantime, much of it remains scattered on the ground, with birds and ground squirrels darting in and out of the branches of the forlorn fallen giants.
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