Descanso growing new tradition

Descanso Gardens is hoping its latest offering will bloom.

Anyone with an ID showing their La Cañada address got themselves and their immediate family into the gardens at no charge Wednesday evening..

"La Cañada Free Night" was the first of its kind at Descanso.

"It is a thank you to La Cañada for supporting us," said Timithie Norman, membership manager. "We are a pretty well-known regional destination in this town of La Cañada and we have received so much support from the community in their attendance and philanthropy."

After 111 La Cañadans came out for the free event, Descanso will evaluate on whether to make it an annual event, but Norman said she would be surprised if they didn't bring it back for next year.

"We got a few fewer people than I was hoping for but I was very pleased with the event," Norman said. "We got some new people in the door and it was a great way to reach out to La Cañada."

Fresh visitors and seasoned veterans of Descanso alike made the short trip to the secluded oasis.

Thomas and Veronica Yeu recently moved to La Cañada and didn't hesitate to take advantage of their new residency.

The Yeus had only been to Descanso Gardens once before — to celebrate the birth of their daughter and have their picture taken together as a new family.

"We got in for free today; it's excellent," Thomas Yeu said. "I think it's good for the neighbors to come and enjoy the gardens."

Veronica Yeu said "La Cañada Free Night" allowed Descanso to serve as a meeting place for local residents; allowing them to develop relationships as neighbors, which is most important, she said.

On the other side of the spectrum from the Yeus are Susanne and Steven Horn. The Horns have been to Descanso Gardens more times than they can count.

"I grew up in La Cañada so I come out here a lot," Susanne Horn said. "I teach in La Cañada and this used to be a field trip for first grade. We would bring them here to look at the leaves, habitat and pond life; I've been here countless times.

"I think it is wonderful," Susanne Horn said. "I wish they would [offer La Cañada Free Night] a lot more often, maybe once a month or something. It would mean a lot to La Cañada. I think people should frequent peaceful, beautiful nature."

The gardens hosted a myriad of things to see outside of the beautiful shrubbery. A filming crew was wrapping up right as La Cañadans flocked in and a large information board stood near the site of Descanso's soon-to-be-built attraction, the Sturt Haaga Gallery, which will be opening spring 2011.

The summer is one of the only times during the year when the gardens are open until 8 p.m. and the Camellia Longue served cocktails, wine and appetizers in the Japanese Gardens as a night cap.

"It is a chance to enjoy the gardens at a special time in the evening when it's cool out and the sun is going down," Norman said.

The Enchanted Railroad took young visitors on a leisurely trip around the gardens as the sun was setting.

"We are in La Cañada and La Cañada is a big part of our identity," Norman said. "We hope we are a big part of La Cañada's identity as well."

Steven Horn definitely thinks so.

"[Descanso] gives La Cañada depth and a sanctuary for them to go to," he said. "It's just a very peaceful place for residents and visitors of La Cañada to come; it's a treasure. How many place like this are there? It's really a priceless asset to the community."

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