Finding the Fanciful Flowers of the New Year

The petal-laden floats of Pasadena aren't on view in 2021, but Southern California's famous January bloom is making its welcome return.

Rosemary Calvert

What to Know

  • Camellias are a popular winter flower in Southern California
  • Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge is home to a celebrated Camellia Forest
  • The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino is also home to several camellia varieties

Here's a brain-tickler to start 2021 in a put-on-your-thinking-cap way: Are there more blooming flowers in Southern California each year or more flower petals covering the floats rolling through a single Rose Parade?

It's an impossible count to make, of course, and even our best guesses may fall wide of this not-so-serious mark.

But we can say, with celebratory certainty, that locals love seeing big, bursting blossoms on the first day of the year.

Call it a hope-filled symbol of a fresh new calendar, and a reminder that we live in a verdant region where even a rose can open in the heart of winter.

Alas: There is no Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 2021, though other rosy doings, the kind to enjoy from your own abode, are in full abound.

But let us still find hope and joy in the flowers of Los Angeles as the start of January works its joyful magic. For while roses do bloom this time of year, the camellia is actually the ultimate queen of winter's frostier days.

You likely have a spray of spectacular camellia blossoms currently gracing the bush in front of your front door, or you can find a few exquisite examples in your own neighborhood when you're out on a walk.

And we do mean "exquisite," for the camellia arrives in an array of hues, lush with deep petals, making it an ideal flower for both admiring and capturing on film. There are hundreds of species, and thousands of hybrids, which means the last camellia you encountered could be a bit different than the ones you'll see next.

If you're longing for some airy nature, and looking to encounter a camellia or two or several thousand as January rolls out, Descanso Gardens is home to a famous Camellia Forest, and The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is also known for its lovely camellia scene.

Both roomy, under-the-sky spaces are open, but note that advance tickets are a must due to limited capacity, as are face coverings and the observance of safety guidelines.

Of course, you could start 2021 by planting a camellia bush in your own yard, all with an eye to all of the winters still to come.

For the start of the new year is very much about anticipating the good things ahead, and something that may continue to flower over several future winters feels full of light and hope.

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