Monday, January 24, 2011

Descanso Gardens offers camellia events Feb. 5

Camellias have been a beloved part of the Descanso Gardens landscape for more than 70 years. On Feb. 5, the Gardens will celebrate the blossoms with a Camellia Festival. The daylong event includes “faery” tours of the Descanso Camellia Collection, a class on the culinary and wellness uses for camellias, and a guided walk of the collection.

When Descanso’s original owner E. Manchester Boddy created Rancho del Descanso, he planted camellias as a business venture to supply the cut flower industry. Today Descanso Gardens is home to North America’s largest camellia collection with more than 34,000 plants. The Camellia Collection boasts rare and familiar camellias and has been designated an International Camellia Garden of Excellence by the International Camellia Society.

Who better to introduce visitors to the camellias than forest faeries who live among the blossoms? During the festival, these faeries will offer tours of the Enchanted Forest from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Learn flower facts, hear stories of enchantment and frolic, and be prepared for surprises along the way. Tours are free with admission; first come, first served.

Descanso Camellia Horticulturist Wayne Walker will lead two programs during the festival. First up is “Things to Do With Sinensis” at 11 a.m. Saturday. Camellia sinensis is the botanical name of the tea plant. Yes, the world’s second-favorite beverage (water is first place) comes from the camellia plant. Walker will demonstrate culinary and wellness applications for tea, like green tea ice cream. The cost of the class is $20 ($10 for Descanso members). Advance registration is required; phone (818) 949-7980.

At 1 p.m., Walker will lead a camellia “walk and talk” through the collection. Learn to identify the different kinds of camellias and get plant care advice from a pro. And enjoy a winter ramble through these gorgeous blooms. Tour is free with admission.

Descanso Gardens is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas. Admission is $8 general, $6 seniors and students with I.D., $3 for children 12 to 5, free for children 4 and younger. For information on the Gardens, phone (818) 949-4200 or visit

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