Southern California

Winter Star: Camellia Fest at Descanso Gardens

The wintertime star gets its own weekend-long party, in La Cañada Flintridge.

A lot of blossom-lovin' eyes are watching our regional deserts nowadays, and with excellent reason, too: Recent rainfall has been impressive, and heavy, and just the sort of (literally) splashy event that coaxes colorful flowers from the arid ground when winter melts into spring.

And while the desert wildflower show hasn't fully revved up — and we'll include the Antelope Valley poppies in that, since they're still another month or so out — you don't have to look far to find the astonishing and seemingly unlikely flowers of wintertime.

We have plenty of those, here in Southern California, and while a few different varieties reign during the colder months, there's one flower that gets a gorgeous, weekend-long party each year.

It's the camellia, a hue-happy bud that's much associated with our larger, stroll-about gardens, including Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge. 

In fact, the historic 160-acre spread is home to the Descanso Camellia Collection. And the middle of winter, just about February, is when the floral fireworks truly shine brightly.

See the camellias, in all of their soft-of-petal loveliness, on Saturday, Feb. 11 and Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Descanso Gardens Camellia & Tea Festival.

A tea tasting is part of the day, as the name reveals, and Camellia sinensis will give the brew its kick. Camellia stroll-abouts, camellia crafts, live dance, and a chance get up-close with the cold-weather icons are all on the schedule.

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Two things are true: Roses rule our Valentine's-focused attentions, and we'll definitely see the pretty buds around in the coming days.

But, here in Southern California, the camellia could also make a claim to be a Valentine's favorite, in large part because it grows so very well when the middle of February arrives.

The other true thing? The desert petals are definitely on the way, and hopes are high that 2017 will bring a spectacular show. Still, if you need some flower action prior to your drive out to the scrub and chaparral, you can find delight, and an unlikely but prominent flower of wintertime, at Descanso Gardens.

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