One of the Pasadena area’s most beautiful places to enjoy the outdoors is the Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge. The 150-acre botanical garden is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with advance reservations required for non-members, and the usual mask and social-distancing policies enforced.
For those staying closer to home, Descanso offers online tips for appreciating your own home and neighborhood environment. The suggestions are particularly useful for students–the first has youngsters select a favorite spot in their area and then regularly record observations and drawings in a nature journal, as the space evolves.
The goal is to strengthen scientific observation, writing and life-drawing skills, while cultivating a sense of stewardship of the natural world. Descanso offers a free downloadable and printable nature journal for recording observations on self-guided walks.
For more home-based nature-love, Descanso provides coloring pages of tulips, cherry trees and animals, as well as instructions for writing haikus.
The website also offers resources for in-person visits, including a free downloadable habitat guide for teachers or chaperones leading self-guided tours of the grounds. In the rose garden, for example, the guide can help students find butterflies, bees and birds, while the section on the lake advises tracking mallard ducks, turtles, fish and various migrating birds.
The habitat guide can also help visitors distinguish between Oak Grove and Camellia Forest Coast live oak trees, both keystone species in the Southern California ecosystem. The trees provide shelter and acorns–a key food source for many of the animals there. A guide to Descanso’s most common animals can be downloaded here.
For those averse to visiting Descanso in person because of the pandemic or smoky skies, there are six virtual tours of the gardens. Still, the venue is confident in its measures to keep visitors safe.
“Descanso is a great place to walk and wander during this time, and Halloween is not being canceled at Descanso,” says Jennifer Errico, Descanso’s marketing and public relations manager. “Visitors can come during the day and see special fall displays including a pumpkin house on the main lawn, a pumpkin serpent in the pond and other surprises. We also opened Gourmet in the Garden. With advance registration, you can pick up a meal from The Kitchen at Descanso and eat at your reserved socially-distant table.”
Descanso Gardens is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at 1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge. Admission costs $5 to $15. Call (818) 949-4200 or visit descansogardens.org.