By Cory Peters
Los Angeles is home to some of the most recognizable sights in the world. The Hollywood sign, the Santa Monica Pier, and dozens of the city’s other landmarks are featured in countless movies and TV shows. Like any big city, though, Los Angeles also has its fair share of hidden gems. Some, like this selection of secret gardens, are downright delightful!
James Irvine Japanese Garden
The first stop on our tour is tucked away in Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles. The James Irvine Japanese Garden is small, but its cedar bridges, waterfalls, and floral displays are a huge draw. It’s hidden, but the James Irvine Garden’s reputation is out in the open. Its peaceful, delicate atmosphere makes it a shoo-in for the list of L.A.’s best gardens. So if you’re looking for something that’s hidden and less traveled, you’ve got to dig a little deeper.
Amir’s Garden in Griffith Park
A small and beautiful stop for hikers and equestrians, Amir’s Garden is hidden inside the much larger and well-known Griffith Park. The garden is mostly the result of one person’s efforts: Amir Dialameh. It took him 32 years to construct. The 5-acre garden was designed as a peaceful, shady respite for tired hikers and horse riders. While the park’s namesake passed away in 2003, Amir’s contribution to Los Angeles and its garden community lives on.
Virginia Robinson Gardens
In the heart of Beverly Hills sits the Robinson mansion. Home to one of the secret gardens in L.A. If you want to see Virginia Robinson’s six botanical gardens and King Palm Forest (the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere), you’ll need to make a reservation. But the staff loves company and regularly hosts classes and community events. They’ve even got special programs for children.
The S.R.F. Lake Shrine Meditation Garden
The Self Realization Fellowship (S.R.F.) is a social and religious organization founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda. The organization owns multiple properties in the Los Angeles area, but plant and flower lovers should pay special attention to the Lake Shrine Meditation Garden. Built specifically for those seeking silence and stillness, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a few hours of quiet contemplation. To limit distraction, food, beverages, smoking, and pets are not allowed on the grounds. Entry to the garden is free of charge.
Outdoor Solar Garden Stake Lights
Blue Ribbon Garden
High atop the Walt Disney Concert Hall sits the Blue Ribbon Garden. The rooftop garden is a cozy, single acre respite from the busy city. Located a stone’s throw from where the 110 and the 101 meet, Blue Ribbon Garden is smack in the middle of Los Angeles. But this free-admission oasis is a breath of fresh air. Aside from special events and closures corresponding to performances, Blue Ribbon is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Garden of Oz
Built in 1991 and officially made a Los Angeles Historical Cultural Monument in 2011, the Garden of Oz might be the most hidden of all our secret gardens. The loosely-themed space includes a number of decorated thrones along with Munchkinland and a real-yellow brick road. In the park, you’ll find tributes to the Dali Lama, Rosa Parks, John Lennon, and — of course — Elvis Presley. The hours for this odd and artistic spot are as eccentric as the garden itself. The park is open to the public just two hours a week: Thursdays from 10 a.m. until noon.
Cory Peters is a wedding photographer who does her best work at outdoor venues. She’s photographed couples tying the knot on the ski slopes in Colorado and in the Everglades in Florida. She has a passion for shooting flower gardens all over the world.