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Go now: L.A.'s cherry blossoms are popping, but not for long

Cherry blossoms at Huntington Gardens
Cherry trees erupted in pink last week at the Huntington Gardens in San Marino.
(Anne Harnagel)

Cherry blossoms are expected to peak March 19-25 in Japan and March 27-30 in Washington, D.C. But you don’t have to travel that far to see the delicate blossoms that define spring. Southern California already has trees in bloom in easily accessible areas.

Here are four places where you can see them now — and I mean now. Once trees blossom, their pink halo lasts only 10 days or so. And rains can dissolve the petals on the ground into pink puddles.

Call the gardens before you go to make sure they aren’t closed because of rain or coronavirus precautions.

Descanso Gardens

Cherry blossoms just started to open last week at the Japanese Garden at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada-Flintridge, Calif.
Cherry blossoms just started to open last week at the Japanese Garden at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada-Flintridge, Calif.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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La Cañada-Flintridge’s bucolic refuge takes pride in its authentic Japanese garden. Among the native Asian plants are the same types of cherry trees that thrill people throughout Japan this time of year: Okame, Pink Cloud, Akebono and Beni Hoshi. (Gardens are scheduled to close indefinitely Thursday because of the coronavirus.)

Enjoy them as you stroll over the arched bridge and around the koi-filled stream. You’ll see trees with blossoms that range from pure white to soft pinks and vivid magentas; some are even a delicate yellow.

Cherry trees are expected to hit their peak soon at Descanso Gardens.
Cherry trees are expected to hit their peak soon at Descanso Gardens.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

That’s because the Japanese garden is home not just to cherry trees, but to other blossoming stone-fruit trees like plum, nectarine, peach and apricot, fellow members of the plant genus prunus.

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Wondering which tree is which? Descanso Gardens makes it easy with this handy blooming-tree tracker map. Join a docent-led spring-blossom walk on Fridays at 1 p.m. or on Saturdays at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. through May 9.

It’s tulip time at Descanso Gardens.
It’s tulip time at Descanso Gardens.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Check out the tulips as well as the cherry trees at Descanso Gardens.
Check out the tulips as well as the cherry trees at Descanso Gardens.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

And don’t miss the tulips: They’re putting on a show now too.

General admission costs $15; seniors and students, $11; children 5-12, $5.

Info: Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada Flintridge, (818) 949-4200

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Cherry trees at the Huntington Gardens
Cherry trees are blossoming at the Huntington Gardens.
(Anne Harnagel)
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Many flowering fruit trees are in bloom in the Huntington’s marvelous Japanese and Chinese gardens, including peach, Japanese crab apple and Chinese redbud. (The gardens are closed through April 14.)

Visitors often mistake these for cherry trees, but no worries. The Pink Cloud cherry trees are also blossoming. Relish vistas of the Japanese garden’s graceful moon bridge, koi-filled ponds and ceremonial tea house, and marvel at the rotating display of traditional (miniature) bonsai trees, some more than 1,000 years old.

It’s a quick walk from there to the Chinese garden with its serene lake, dramatic rock sculptures and waterfall. An added bonus for a trip to the Huntington Gardens: The iconic “Blue Boy” painting by 18th century artist Thomas Gainsborough, which was off view for an 18-month restoration, will be back on the wall March 26.

Adult admission costs $25 weekdays and $29 weekends; seniors, students & military $21 and $24; youth 4-11 $13; children under 11 free.

Info: The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino

SuihoEn, the Japanese Garden

Many Southlanders are unaware of this peaceful Japanese garden in the San Fernando Valley. SuihoEn, Japanese for “garden of water and fragrance,” opened in 1984 as an example of how something beautiful could be created with reclaimed wastewater.

The garden’s website currently says it currently is closed; that could change, so call before you go.

The wastewater comes from the adjacent Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, but visitors forget all about it as they stroll the footpaths around the pond and admire the bridges, islands and flowering cherry and other stone-fruit trees.

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You’ll find a few flowering cherry trees in nearby Balboa Park, especially near the lake, which is also filled with the plant’s reclaimed wastewater.

Admission: Adults $5; seniors and children 12 and under $3.

Info: The Japanese Garden, 6100 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys

Info: Lake Balboa/ Anthony C. Beilenson Park, 6300 Balboa Blvd., Van Nuys (free admission)

South Coast Botanic Garden

South Coast Botanic Garden
You can hunt for blossoms at the South Coast Botanic Garden.
(Stephanie Cary / South Coast Botanic Garden)

A hidden gem on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the South Coast Botanic Garden celebrates spring with a month-long daily “blossom hunt.”

A map helps visitors identify the blooming cherry and other trees, and fills them in on their history and significance. Kids get bug-like goggles along with a map to introduce them to the bees, ladybugs, ants and spiders in the garden.

They’ll also appreciate the Children’s Garden with plantings designed around nursery rhymes. One-hour docent-led tours are offered at 11 a.m. Saturdays.

Admission: Adults cost $15; seniors and students, $11; children 5-12, $5; children 4 and under free.

Info: South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula


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