Plant lovers and gardeners: What to do in L.A. right now - Los Angeles Times
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Plant lovers: This is the month to luxuriate in camellias and take garden classes

Camellia flowers bundled with garden tools against a pink background
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

It’s January, the time for Southern Californians to be pruning our roses, prepping our garden soil and admiring exotic camellia blooms at our botanic gardens and camellia shows happening this month and next.

Roses need a good winter pruning to help them bloom strong in the spring. Just avoid tromping in the garden while the ground is saturated because that compacts the soil. Most rose pruning classes seem to be canceled this year, but Green Thumb Nursery has a useful video explaining how it’s done.

Winter is also a great time to replenish depleted garden soil by adding compost, aged steer manure, coffee grounds and other organic amendments. Be sure to let it sit unplanted for a few weeks so the mixture can “cook” while the beneficial organisms break down the organic matter.

As for pleasure, is there anything more lovely than a camellia blooming pink or creamy white against its glossy dark-green leaves? The season for these delicate flowers is short in Southern California, just January and February, but most of the region’s botanic gardens have some kind of display. And the region’s camellia societies are celebrating with a series of shows this month and next.

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Camellia expert Bradford King, president of the Southern California Camellia Society, says two of the best displays are at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, and Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, which boasts one of the largest collections in the country. If you want to grow camellias, King says Nuccio’s Nursery, 3555 Chaney Trail in Altadena, has the best selection; the family-owned business has specialized in azaleas and camellias since 1935.

Here’s our new list of camellia-heavy plant and garden events in the L.A. area into February. Email garden- and plant-related events to jeanette.marantos@latimes.com at least three weeks before they happen , and we might include them in the calendar.





These Plant PPL reflect the diverse demographics of Los Angeles — Black, Latino, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino — and remind us that plants are about more than just botany. They connect us to one another.

Jan. 15 and Jan. 19
“That’s SO Cal: Introduction to Growing Our Native Plants,” is an outdoors class at the South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd. in Rolling Hills Estates, from 2 to 3 p.m. Terry Huang, the garden’s director of living collections, learning and engagement, will discuss SoCal’s unique climate, plant communities and tips about how to select and cultivate native plants. Attendees will also receive a free guide from the Theodore Payne Foundation called “From Lawn to Garden.” Admission is $30, or $25 for members. southcoastbotanicgarden.org

Through Jan. 16
Lightscape at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia, is the resumption of the arboretum’s annual nighttime holiday event, which was canceled last year because of the pandemic. This year’s show is a new collection about a mile in length, including a walk-through winter cathedral of white lights and a “fire garden.” The paths are wheelchair accessible. General admission tickets start at $32 or $30 for adults, $20 or $18 for ages 3-12 and free for children 2 and under (weekends are more expensive). The tickets have timed entries every 15 minutes between 5:30 and 8:45 p.m., but visitors can stay until the park closes at 10 p.m. Members save $3 per ticket, and advance purchase is recommended due to high demand. VIP tickets ($70) permit flexible, priority entry on the ticketed date and VIP parking. Food and drink will be available for purchase on-site. arboretum.org

Jan. 16
Introduction to organic gardening basics at the Cook’s Garden, 1033 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. An introduction to the basic components of organic gardening that includes overviews of soil management, plants for the season, fertilizing, pest and disease control. The class is limited to 20 people. Participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and present a vaccination card at the door. Register online, tickets are $35. thecooksgardenvenice.com

Jan. 16
Plant identification walk at Towsley Canyon Park, 24335 The Old Road, in Newhall from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Plant ecologist Richard Rachman discusses ways to identify and track plants, especially in areas that have recently experienced wildfire. The walk is sponsored by the Theodore Payne Foundation and advance registration is required. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for members and $10 for high school and college students. theodorepayne.org

Jan. 17
Free admission day at California Botanic Garden in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The gardens are usually closed on Mondays but will be open in honor of King’s birthday at 1500 N. College Ave. in Claremont from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are limited and advance reservations are required, except for members. calbg.org

Through Jan. 17
South Coast Botanic Garden’s GLOW (Garden Lights & Ocean Waters) show features thousands of lights throughout the garden designed to evoke bayous, beaches and a kelp forest. This year’s event also includes food and drink and music. Open daily between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $24.95 for members and $34.95 for nonmembers. Children 4 and under enter free. southcoastbotanicgarden.org


Jan. 22-23
Southern California Camellia Society 72nd “Early” Camellia Show at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 23. The general public may enter camellia blooms free for judging from 7 to 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 22. The show is free to visitors after paid $15 admission to the gardens, ($11 for seniors 65 and older and students with ID, $5 for children ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 enter free.) Masks are required indoors. socalcamelliasociety.org

Baiko-En Bonsai Kenkyukai Society presents Winter Silhouettes Bonsai, the only show of deciduous, miniaturized trees in the United States, at the L.A. Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days. The show is free to visitors after paid $15 admission to the gardens, ($11 for seniors 65 and older and students with ID, $5 for children ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 enter free.) Nonmembers should purchase their tickets online for timed entry, and masks are required indoors. arboretum.org

Jan. 28
Native Plant Maintenance Basics, a walk and talk with Theodore Payne Foundation nurseryman Erik Blank at 10459 Tuxford St. in Sun Valley, from 9 to 10 a.m. Blank will provide an overview of summer maintenance practices for native plants in Theodore Payne’s demonstration gardens. Masks are required indoors and out when in close proximity to others. Advance registration required. Tickets are $15 or $12 for members. theodorepayne.org

Jan. 29-30
Southern California Camellia Society 6th Camellia Show at the L.A. Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 29 and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 30. The general public may enter camellia blooms free for judging from 7 to 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 29. The show is free to visitors after paid $15 admission to the gardens, ($11 for seniors 65 and older and students with ID, $5 for children ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 enter free.) Nonmembers should purchase their tickets online for timed entry, and masks are required indoors. socalcamelliasociety.org

Jan. 29
It’s the soil, silly! How to get the most out of your soil organically, a class at the Cook’s Garden, 1033 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. An introduction to the basic components of organic gardening that outlines the secrets of great soil such as good soil tilth, texture and structure, an abundance of organic matter and tips for maintaining the biosphere, or living organisms, that keep your garden healthy. The class is limited to 20 people. Participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and present a vaccination card at the door. $35. thecooksgardenvenice.com

We found the questions people ask most frequently about gardening and outdoor plants and went to local experts in Southern California to get some answers.

Feb. 5-27
What Blossoms: A poetic celebration of camellias at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge. On Feb. 5, a poetry reading from 2-3:30 p.m. features L.A.-area poets Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Kenji Liu, Phoebe MacAdams, Mariano Zaro and Gloria Alvarez, reading their poems about nature, followed by an invitation for attendees to join a mini-workshop in writing haiku. The moderator is author and historian Naomi Hirahara, and the poems are curated by poets Amy Ulyematsu and Peter Levitt. On Feb. 12, haiku poet Debbie Kolodji leads a walk through the garden’s camellias and instruction in writing haiku from 10:30 a.m. to noon. And from Feb. 5-27, garden visitors are invited to add their own poems to a community-created haiku installation at the garden. All the activities are free to visitors, without advance registration, after $15 admission to the gardens, ($11 for seniors 65+ and students with ID, $5 for children ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 enter free). descansogardens.org

Feb. 12-13
Southern California Camellia Society 49th Camellia Show at Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, 1511 Oxford Road, San Marino, from 1 to 5 p.m. Feb. 12 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 13. The general public may enter camellia blooms free for judging from 7 to 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 12. The show is free to visitors after $29 admission to the gardens ($24 for seniors 65+, active military and students with ID and $13 ages 4-11. Members and children under 4 enter free.) Masks are required indoors. socalcamelliasociety.org

Feb. 19-20
Pacific Camellia Society 16th Camellia Show at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 19 and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20. The general public may enter camellia blooms free for judging from 7 to 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 22. The show is free to visitors after $15 admission to the gardens, ($11 for seniors 65+ and students with ID, $5 for children ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 enter free) Masks are required indoors. americancamellias.com

Feb. 26-27
Southern California Camellia Council 62nd Spring Camellia Show at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 27. This show is a joint event involving the region’s four camellia societies in Kern County, San Diego County as well as the Pacific Camellia Society and Southern California Camellia Society. The general public may enter camellia blooms free for judging from 7 to 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 26. The show is free to visitors after $15 admission to the gardens, ($11 for seniors 65+ and students with ID, $5 for children ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 enter free.) Masks are required indoors. socalcamelliasociety.org


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