Garden Calendar: Botanic light shows and serious soil-prep workshops

LA Zoo Lights holiday show
LA Zoo Lights, with its animal-themed light displays, is one of many holiday light shows illuminating Southern California botanic gardens this season.
(LA Arboretum)

If you have a plant-related class, garden tour or other event you’d like us to mention, email — at least three weeks in advance — and we may include it. Send a high-resolution horizontal photo, if possible, and tell us what we’re seeing and whom to credit.

Now-Jan. 5

L.A. Zoo Lights includes animal-themed light displays, 3-D projections, disco-ball forest, “Twinkle Tunnel” and—new this year—the “World’s Largest Illuminated Pop-Up Storybook,” from 6 to 10 p.m., closed Nov, 28 and Dec. 24-25, at 5333 Zoo Drive in Griffith Park. Odd Market Nights, a holiday gift bazaar featuring crafters and live music, on Saturdays and Sundays Nov. 30-Dec. 22. Tickets $11 for members, non-members pay $15-22 for adults 13 and older, and $12-17 for children 2-12. LA Zoo Lights Overnight Adventure Nov, 23-2, Dec. 7-8 and 1-15 and Jan. 4-5 includes indoor overnight “camping” at the zoo and morning animal encounters, $85.

Descanso Gardens’ Enchanted Forest of Light is a gentle one-mile walk through the gardens highlighting some of the most popular locations with large-scale light displays. New this year is a “magical ‘stained-glass’” creation at Mulberry Pond by contemporary sculptor Tom Fruin. This year’s exhibit also features updated versions of the popular “Celestial Shadows” display of spinning polyhedrons, the “Lightwave Lake” light show and Jen Lewin’s flowing interactive landscape of meandering pathways called “Aqueous.” Students from California School of the Arts will perform Dec. 6-7 and 13-14. Member-only nights Dec. 20-23 and 26-28. General admission tickets start at $30, members pay $5 less. Children 2 and younger, free. Tickets must be purchased in advance.


Nov. 23-24

Landfill to Landscape in Altadena: Hands-on Hugelkultur/Bioswale Workshops These two-day rain garden and bioswale workshops by Shawn Maestretti Garden Architecture are $20 a day, with a $10 refund on Day 2 if participants attend both days. Hugelkultur is a technique for creating raised garden beds using logs, branches and other clippings covered with soil. Rain gardens and bioswales are techniques for collecting, filtering and storing excess water. Specific location to be announced Nov. 20. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

Nov. 29
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Green Friday plant sale and free admission day offers plants from the garden’s nursery of all California native plants with 15% discount for members and 10% discount to the public on all nursery inventory. 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1500 N. College Ave. in Claremont.

Dec. 3-8, 10-15, 17-23 & 26-30

San Diego Botanic Garden’s Holiday Nights in the Garden promises a family-friendly range of activities such as nightly “snowfall” and a play area with real snow, visits with Santa (through Dec. 23), holiday crafts, a 10-foot poinsettia tower and a “romantic mistletoe hideaway” (something to keep the parents busy perhaps, while the kids are tossing snowballs?). Admission prices range from $25 for nonmembers on weekends to $17 for children 3-17; prices slightly lower on weeknights, at 230 Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas.

Dec. 4
The Malibu Garden Club features Jack Smith, TreePeople nursery manager and former project manager for the Mountains Restoration Trust, to talk about habitat restoration and native plant nurseries, 9 a.m. in the Point Dume Club House, 29500 Heathercliff Drive, in Malibu.

Dec. 5-8, 12-15, 19-22

The sixth Nights of 1,000 Lights at Sherman Library & Gardens celebrates the holidays with a 12-night garden light show Thursdays through Sundays. The event, which includes music, has been expanded this year. Ticketed guests get free photos with Santa, a chance to make a traditional Scandinavian Julehjerter (heart-shaped Christmas decoration), complimentary coffee, hot chocolate and s’mores around a bonfire, along with beer, wine and other food on sale. Tickets on sale now; $15 members, $25 nonmembers, children 3 and under free. 6 to 9 p.m. at 2647 E. Coast Highway in Corona del Mar.

Dec. 10

California Native Plant Society board President Steve Hartman recaps his 45-year history as a CNPS volunteer and conservationist during the monthly meeting of the Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica, 1008 11th St. Admission is free.

Dec. 11-13

Rancho Los Alamitos Holiday Open House will light up the grounds of the 18th century ranch house and gardens between 4 and 7 p.m. each night. A special event for children ages 3 to 8 is set for Dec. 12, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., and reservations are required. The children’s event includes stories about holiday parties and family traditions from the Rancho’s past, as well as an interactive concert by the Long Beach Camerata Singers and craft activities in the barnyard. Children must be accompanied by an adult. $15 adults, $10 children under 12. Children 2 and under are free. The three-day evening open house features music, light refreshments at the barn, seasonal displays outside and tours of the ranch house decorated for the holidays at 6400 E. Bixby Hill Road in Long Beach. Admission is free but parking reservations are required; call (562) 431-3541.

Dec. 13-14 and 20-21
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s Luminaria Nights will illuminate this botanical garden devoted to California native plants with more than 1,000 hanging lanterns and musicians providing “a contemplative and serene ambiance,” 6 to 9 p.m. at 1500 N. College Ave. in Claremont. Members pay $12 for adults, $8 for seniors/students/children. Non-members pay $16 for adults and $12 for seniors/students/children.

Dec. 13-Jan. 5

Jungle Bells at the San Diego Zoo transforms the zoo with music, lights, animal-shaped light sculptures, special animal experiences and holiday-themed entertainment, including acrobats and Dr. Zoolittle, the zoo’s costumed characters and Santa Claus (through Dec. 25). 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. except Dec. 24, when the zoo closes at 5 p.m., at 2920 Zoo Drive in San Diego. Free with admission to the zoo, $46 ages 3 to 11, $56 12 and older.