Sunburn Sizzles the Iconic Camellias of Descanso Gardens

The La Cañada Flintridge garden reports that "about 75%" of its camellia collection felt the sizzle during the heat wave; the flowering shrubs are expected to recover.

What to Know

  • La Cañada Flintridge
  • "(O)ver 75% of the camellia collection" is "sunburned"
  • The flowers are expected to return for their winter bloom

Name some of the most well-known, on-view floral icons around Southern California, and you might instantly cite the roses of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, the wistaria of Sierra Madre, and the dahlias of South Coast Botanical Garden in Palos Verdes.

You'd also, of course, pay flowery tribute to the camellias of Descanso Gardens.

For those showy, soft-petal'd wintertime superstars are so intertwined with the La Cañada Flintridge destination's character that it is hard to talk about Descanso without mentioning its robust forest of camellia beauty.

Alas, even a robust flowering shrub doesn't always weather a heat wave with ease.

Descanso Gardens reported on July 9 that "over 75% of the Gardens' historic camellia collection" received "... a sunburn from the hot temperatures," temperatures brought about by the heat wave that swept through Southern California beginning on July 6.

But stay glad, flower fans, for Rachel Young, the Director of Horticulture and Garden Operations at Descanso Gardens, says that "we expect the camellias to bloom as usual this winter."

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In fact, the beloved blossoms have endured sunburns in the past, says Ms. Young, and, that "with care," the stately symbols of Descanso Gardens can once again open their pretty petals come the cooler days of January and February.

What to do if your own at-home camellia also has a brand-new sunburn?

Descanso Gardens shares these tips: Leave the burned leaves in place (as protection from "additional damage"), cease pruning for the season (to help the plant maintain its energy and aid recovery), "(w)ater deeply at night when there is not too much risk of the hot temperatures," no more fertilizing before cooler temperatures arrive, and no spraying the plant with water (this can "intensify" the burn).

In addition to its camellias, garden pros are keeping a close watch on some of the most towering denizens of Descanso, the Coast live oaks and redwood trees, to see how they do as we exit this sweltering spell.

Now that (slightly) cooler days are returning, check out the Descanso Gardens schedule, which is full of alfresco summertime events. 

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