Descanso Gardens and Boddy House

Saturday, April 18th (part 3) ~ Descanso Gardens, La Canada, California

Rose and bee

Rose and bee

Descanso Gardens

Elias Manchester Boddy was a self-made man. Coming from very humble beginnings, he started out selling encyclopedia’s door-to-door. Serving as a second lieutenant in World War I, he was gassed in Argonne and eventually sent home disabled.

After the war, he moved west for his health and founded a book publishing company. This was followed by getting into the magazine business.

“For fifty dollars he purchased an unsuccessful publication called Smiles and persuaded the Commercial Board of Los Angeles to take the magazine as its house organ thereby establishing himself as a publisher” ~ Wikipedia

Side note: I learned something new today – what a house organ is. If you too don’t know, click the underlined link above.

Anyway, back to Mr. Boddy… 

In 1926, he was hired as editor of the then failing Los Angeles Illustrated Daily News, and within a short time turned it into a thriving publication. After purchasing the newspaper, he changed the publishing philosophy of his predecessor and switched the focus of his news to local police corruption, gambling and prostitution.

In 1936, he purchased 160 acres of land in La Canada and named his estate Rancho de Descanso, which translates as “Ranch of Restfulness (or Repose)”.

The estate was later deeded to the city of Los Angeles and is open to the public now as Descanso Gardens. The home he built for his family is situated on the property and is set up as a museum of sorts, but can also be rented for functions.

There is a 1950 Hollywood film “Malaya” starring John Barrymore that is based on Boddy’s story of helping collect rubber during World War II and later influencing President Roosevelt in getting rubber out of Japanese held Malaya.

The gardens are divided up into several distinct sections including a Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Oak Forest, Main Lawn, Oak Woodlands, a lake and California Natives.

What I especially enjoyed was that much of the garden is left natural with a variety of large trees. It is like returning to the forest, without having to drive to the mountains.

Large tree branches shelter the open paths.

Large tree branches shelter the open paths.

This was our third stop on a well-played day. I was last here many years ago in the heart of winter and have vowed to return at a better time ever since. Today was the day!

As it tuned out, we spent a couple of hours here and still did not see all of the gardens. Somehow we missed an entire section of the lake, bird observation area and Boddy Lodge. After speaking to a docent, I have made up my mind to return once again, next time around the middle of March to see the tulips and other bulb flowers all in bloom.

In April there is still a good variety of flowers. The wildflowers were still colorful, as well as roses, rhododendron, camellias, irises, and some California natives. Here is a sampling of what we saw:


Each plant had a label, but I did not make notes this time


At the entrance to rose garden

Grapes just starting to form

Grapes just starting to form

Yes, I do love Iris

Yes, I do love Iris

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Boddy House

A 12,000 sq ft, 22 room mansion sits at the top of the property. Designed for the Boddy family by noted Hollywood Architect James Dolena, there is a view from every room.

In 2007, Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts chose the Boddy House to be transformed into its 43rd annual Pasadena Showcase House of Design.

Sitting or Living Room

Sitting or Living Room

Office and Library

Office and Library

We were enjoying the afternoon with our dear friends, Michael and Laura. We found a few places throughout the gardens to snap couple pictures of ourselves. Still wearing our bright orange t-shirts from the morning 5K walk to support Autism Speaks, these were very casual snaps. Fun none-the-less!

Tim and Joanne in the Japanese Gardens

Tim and Joanne in the Japanese Gardens

Michael and Laura in the Rose Garden

Michael and Laura in the Rose Garden

Of course I wanted one of Tim and me in the Rose Garden as well. Not great, but fun happy memories.

Tim and Joanne in the Rose Garden

Tim and Joanne in the Rose Garden

And our outtake for the day…

Trying to balance sitting on top of Tim’s knee, I fell over and landed in the middle of a rose bush.

Ouch, those thorns are SHARP, especially when embedded in your backside!

Ouch, those thorns are SHARP, especially when embedded in your backside!

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for roses that actually have a fragrance. So many of them have lost that smell. When I can breathe in that lovely fresh floral aroma, I feel like I am smelling Mother Nature. I’m also grateful for Michael who kept the shutter snapping to capture these less than flattering moment. Sometimes those create the best memories after all!

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
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