As you plan your Chol Hamoed activities, you might want to consider the parks and gardens that are local, beautiful, cost-effective and a perfect place to picnic and recite Birkat Ha-Ilan. Los Angeles is blessed to have two arboretums and several impressive and inspiring gardens.
Traditionally, we recite Birkat Ha-Ilan, the blessing of the tree, at the start of Nisan. We have now reached the time of renewal, the time of Pesach, the time when the weather heats up and the withered trees and dark evenings fade away. King Solomon articulated it best when he wrote, in Shir HaShirim, “The times of the rain are passed, the time of the songbird has arrived, the blossoms of the trees are seen throughout the land.”
So where can you visit with your Pesach picnic? As it happens, potato chips, hard boiled eggs, Bisli and chocolate have never tasted better when eaten at The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Garden. This is a picturesque garden with 128 acres of plants, flowers, wildlife, historical buildings and trees. Located in Arcadia, there are landscaping ideas and events which will intrigue all ages. Don’t forget your camera. During Chol Hamoed, at 10am on April 8th, there is a talk by a tomato guru who will discuss everything tomato and you can purchase plants afterwards. Meanwhile, don’t forget to enjoy the peacocks and the waterfall. The arboretum is free for kids under 5 and is $4 for kids up to 12. Adults are $9. Don’t forget the matzah; the picnic area and lawn outside the Arboretum are a great spot to eat al fresco.
If you haven’t found your songbird at the LA County Arboretum, you should visit the memorable Descanso Gardens which are about 20 minutes from Downtown, located in La Canada Flintridge. A peaceful and beautiful outing is all but guaranteed with plenty of birdsong besides. The Oak Woodland Garden has now reopened with 30,000 new plants, there is a memorable Japanese Garden, 3,000 rose bushes in the Rose Garden, Nature’s Garden which is planted with seasonal fruits and vegetables, the largest Camellia collection you will find in North America, Native Plants and a Lilac Garden. If you visit but still feel you are a slave to your schedule, you need to stay a little longer. Perhaps you need a trip on the Enchanted Railroad? At $3 a ride, the train is delightful and runs on Tuesday and Friday between 10am and noon. Admission to the gardens is the same pricing as for the County Arboretum.
Another idea worth considering is a trip to San Marino, near Pasadena, where you can wander through the iconic Huntington Botanical Gardens. A new Visitor Center opened this month and there is more to see than can be managed in one day. There is also a lecture on Thursday, April 9th at 2.30pm which will introduce you to artisanal vegetables that can be grown and eaten but you don’t have to bother yourself with such plans and timings. Huntington is a place where you can walk off the matza brei by losing yourself in the variety of gardens, art exhibits, libraries, Chinese gardens, a kid’s garden with water play, desert garden and so much more. It costs $23 for an adult to enter on a weekday but children are free.
As a final suggestion, you might take your family for a simple trip to the Japanese Gardens in the Sepulveda Basin. The garden is irrigated by the adjacent water reclamation plant and the 6 ½ acre garden, “creates for the visitor a world of meditative calm where it is possible to focus on the simple and beautiful things in nature and in our lives.” This is a delightful place with small paths, giant choy, interesting walkways, Japanese-styled structures and elegant trees. The cost to enter is just $3 although the smells from the reclamation plant cannot be altogether ignored and might just remind you of the maror.