Photographs by Michael Charters

Five years ago I spent about 15 months doing a "What's Blooming at the Los Angeles Arboretum" photo gallery, visiting the Arboretum several times a week, walking every road and trail, spending time in every public greenhouse and garden, and poking into every remote corner that few people ever see. Over the course of that time I photographed approximately 1,650 species and cultivars, and relied on posted signs and wired tags for identifications. I also solicited information from staff members whom I encountered, and sought further information from the garden experts in the library or from online sources such as Dave's Garden. I was often frustrated by the number of plants that were not identified, or that required almost climbing into or through shrubbery to find name tags. Of course, for most people, it is not their name that is of primary importance, but their beauty, and they are content to walk around the grounds without ever looking at a sign.

Like any garden, the Arboretum is not a static place. Some things, like the Bermuda cedar, are gone but others take their place. The Garden For All Seasons has proven to be a disappointment to me, displaying far less than the garden it replaced, but the Serpent Trail that winds sinuously across the Australia section is a pleasure to walk, and the Madagascar Garden, the South African section, the orchid greenhouse, and the other gardens are all thriving. A number of wood and metal sculptures have been added around the grounds, including one of an octopus that I don't quite get.

In January of 2007 the Arboretum was struck by a "Big Chill," an event that caused severe damage to many of its gardens. It was interesting to see how quickly it bounced back. Then in December of 2011 there came the worst windstorm to hit the Pasadena area in 30 years, and some 700 trees were either felled or seriously damaged at the Arboretum. In looking back at my gallery from five years ago, I thought it might be interesting to do a follow-up visit to take note of how it has coped with that disaster. As you walk around the grounds now, most people would see little sign that such a storm had ever taken place. Although August is not one of the better blooming months there, the Arboretum today is an incredibly beautiful place, too large to take in completely on a single visit, but filled with grassy lawns and dense woods, lovely gardens and nicely manicured walkways, and it's not at all hard to find a secluded spot to sit and relax in the shade. But once again I found that many beautiful plants had no identifications, and as a result I have decided to display the pictures here without any. So this gallery is just a quick glimpse based on about five hours of walking around the Arboretum of some of the many lovely bloomers to be seen. I encourage anyone who can to spend some time there. It is a superlatively tranquil place. And keep in mind when you look through these pages what I said about August not being the best time to see blooming plants. It's much better in the spring.