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Learn About The History Of The Gorgeous Descanso Gardens In This KCET Doc

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There was a time when newspaper publishing meant big bucks, and this was certainly true for Elias Manchester Boddy, who came to Southern California in 1924 to restore his poor health (his lungs were bad). Boddy would make his mark in L.A. by becoming editor of the Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News (which was more interested in celebrity gossip than it was with hard-hitting news). The venture made Boddy a lot of money. So much money, in fact, that it allowed him to indulge in his whimsy and develop a property called Rancho del Descanso, or "Ranch of Rest."

Journalism, of course, is a mercurial business, and by the 1950s Boddy's paper was losing money. To stem some of the bleeding, Boddy sold his ranch to the county—today the area is known to visitors as Descanso Gardens. This luscious sprawl of greenery in La Cañada Flintridge is famed for its collection of camellias, its Japanese garden, and its 8-acre spread of California natives.

The garden will be the subject in the latest entry of LOST LA, the KCET documentary series. It's not just the aesthetic beauty that will be featured, however— as the episode will reveal, the story of Descanso is also the story of L.A. compressed into a microcosm. The land, for example, was flourishing with Tongva villages some 10,000 years ago, housing as many as 30 villages, with some 400 huts each. When California entered statehood in the mid 19th century, the area that made up Descanso Gardens was caught in a tug-of-war between land owners, with titles being the subject of heated debate. More recently, Descanso Gardens was the focus of a sustainability project in which some of the camellias, which need plenty of the wet stuff, were separated from the oak trees, which prefer drier conditions.

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Going from concerns of land ownership to ecology (with particular attention to water), Descanso Gardens encompasses many of the questions that have shaped Los Angeles as a whole. Likewise, LOST LA will explore Descanso not just as a garden, but as a lens through which we contextualize many of L.A.'s most prominent topics.

LOST LA presents: The Descanso Gardens will air on Tuesday, July 18 on KCET at 8:30 p.m.

Descanso Gardens is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and is located at 1418 Descanso Drive in La Cañada Flintridge. (818) 949-4200