Descanso Gardens- Japanese Festival

Yesterday I went out to Descanso Gardens, almost an hour drive, for the Japanese Festival.  I was uncertain before I began the trip. Last year's festival looked wonderful, with taiko and dancers and crafts and speakers.  This year's festival looked a little less exciting, with just taiko and some crafts.

Unfortunately, all the hands on stuff was for kids only, something not noted on the website or schedule of events.

Adults did have SOME options-- at a price-- and nothing I was particularly interested in:

I walked around the garden a bit, but was very disappointed as I ran into so many blue cones where areas were closed.  In some cases, they were closed to prepare for the Enchanted Forest program (a holiday lights program) and in others, probably just because nothing was blooming.

At this point I was pretty much pissed off, and not terribly happy to have invested the time, gas, and ticket price.  As I was leaving, I came across docents at a welcome table, and, in one last ditch effort, asked if there were anything good to see at this time of year in the garden.

these two docents were solely responsible for my day turning around, and having a pretty good time at the garden.

I ended up having a great (and lengthy) talk with the docents, and setting off to see some of the other sights in the garden.  I decided to walk the whole area, all the way back into the mountain view and California native plants before going to the Boddy House and the art gallery (up on what they called "Cardiac Hill".)

Now Descanso Gardens is 85 acres of garden, so it's a lot less in size than El Rancho de las Golondrinas, although the winding paths are probably the same total distance, and I really haven't been walking that long, so about 3/4 the way up to mountain view I started feeling a little winded, but once I got up there, the walk was easy sailing.

On my way up I went through the rose garden, which was almost done blooming, and a lot more sparse than other rose gardens I'd seen locally, and frankly Exposition Park has a MUCH better rose garden.  There were a few things blooming before the rose garden (around the restrooms) and a few areas had potted mums so there were some blooming plants.

Along the path were plenty of rest spots, benches, and observation areas.

some blooms and pumpkins in front of the restrooms

a rosebud in the rose garden

the "Spanish Colonial Fountain" at the end of the rose garden

Mountain View Rest Area

I was rather disappointed in the "lakes"... small ponds with some mallard ducks and a single swan or goose (it was rather far away and in shadow, so hard to tell). The best part of the "lake" was the hawk circling overhead.

There was a rather pleasant surprise:

I rather enjoy things like this. 

On to the Boddy House and the art gallery...
The Boddy House seemed to be closed, the gallery open.

I'll just say that I was less than impressed, and leave it at that.

So, back to the main reason I chose this day to come to the gardens: the Japanese Festival.

I also visited the Japanese Garden, which was rather small, but nowhere near as tiny as South Coast Botanical's Japanese Garden.

I think the spot with the most potential for beauty at the right time of year (aside from perhaps the lilac garden) was this small lotus pond:

a dragonfly perched above the lotus

The area I liked most during the walk was the Ancient Forest.  I think, perhaps, if the grounds weren't so crowded I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more, because there is such a peaceful sense in that part of the garden.  I would have liked to sit in silence there for a while... I admired a woman meditating on a bench.  I know I wouldn't have been able to relax and stay focused with all the people walking by.

In summation:
Will I go back?  No, it simply isn't worth the drive for me.  I have the same kind of garden options (or better) locally, and at lower cost.  I'd been thinking of going to Enchanted Forrest, but after hearing about it, I'm pretty sure after Albuquerque's River of Lights I'd be less than impressed with Enchanted Forrest, especially since it's "stations" and a narrated tour. 
Do I recommend it?  If you're local, yes.  But it may be more worthwhile (if you're willing to pay the extra ticket price) to drive to Huntington Library Gardens instead.