Our master plan for the gardens
Descanso Gardens is a distinctive landscape that represents the beauty and diversity of Southern California. Simultaneously curated and wild, the gardens bridge the horticultural and environmental past and future of the land itself.
Continuous changes in climate and the massive increase in membership and visitorship have put a strain on the gardens. Descanso’s leadership decided it was time to think strategically about how the gardens would evolve over the next 15 years.
After a rigorous CEQA process, the final Descanso Gardens Master Plan was approved and adopted by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
What’s in the plan?
A new circulation framework
When the gardens were founded there was no preconceived plan for how visitors would experience the garden or how staff would work within it.
A sense of discovery is an essential part of the experience in the gardens, and we continue to cultivate that feeling of wonder and delight as we move forward. Our new plan explores redirection of paths, roads, and trails to enhance the visitor experience, improve accessibility, and better organize infrastructure, amenities, and services.
Activating the gardens
Descanso’s programs and events are popular. The master plan addresses how to better accommodate and integrate weddings, evening and seasonal events, educational programs, and garden displays more seamlessly with garden collections.
Interweaving water and ecology
The garden’s water system was originally designed to be dependent on antiquated infrastructure from a canyon spring in the mountains. The master plan looks at all the ways the garden can work to reuse, conserve, and store water. It also addresses the botanical needs of our diverse collections relative to water use.
Improving operations is essential to the gardens over the long term. Our master plan looks at everything from the future of parking to upgrading the nursery (which was completed in 2022).