Arlington Garden – Pasadena

Pasadena’s Dedicated Public Garden

Arlington Gardens PasadenaArlington Garden – Pasadena

Last Visited: April 2017

On a beautiful Sunday morning in Pasadena (and aren’t they all), our corgis were feeling a bit restless. Luckily, we live very near to one of Pasadena’s beautiful hidden secrets, Arlington Garden, a three-acre site that also happens to be Pasadena’s only dedicated public garden. With thoughts of birds, bees and butterflies dancing in their heads, we packed the “kids” in the car, and we were off on our Sunday morning corgi adventure.

Corgis at Arlington GardenIn 2005, Arlington Garden founders Betty and Charles McKenney, along with its designer, Mayita Dinos, received inspiration for this garden after reading Jan Smithen’s book Sun-Drenched Gardens: The Mediterranean Style.

The garden is located between Orange Grove and Pasadena Avenues, an area that once housed costly homes, so expensive that it was called “Millionaires Row.”  Arlington Garden stands on the plot of land that was once a garden to one of those gorgeous mansions (the Durand Mansion), which are now mostly long gone, this one thanks to Caltrans who stored heavy equipment there.

When you see photos of those old homes, you realize what a tragedy it was that they were torn down.


During one construction phase of the never-to-be-completed 710 freeway extension, Caltrans purchased the land. Fortunately, Charles McKenney, a former Pasadena congressman, thought this area could use a few trees.

A 2011 Los Angeles Times story reported, “After local colleges were enlisted to kick-start collective dreaming, Cal Poly Pomona drawings helped to visualize a public garden. By the time Betty had the idea to make it a demonstration garden, the project had backing from their councilman, parks department, Caltrans and Pasadena Water and Power.”


According to the Arlington Garden website, the ”goal was to create a public, water-wise garden that celebrates Southern California’s Mediterranean climate. The garden demonstrates how beautiful and practical a well-planned, water-conserving and climate-appropriate garden can be.” I keep trying to tell people we live in a Mediterranean climate, not a desert environment, but I only play a horticulturist on this website.

Volunteer labor and donations have helped grow the area into what it is today, a cute and lush space where people can take leisurely strolls along its meandering paths through gardens featuring numerous types of flowers and trees. It’s also a place to take a picnic lunch and plop down in one of the few dozen outdoor “rooms” located throughout these few acres.

It’s also free to visit (open during daylight hours).  Dogs on a leash are welcomed but remember those poop bags (if you own corgis, I recommend two bags).  Speaking of dogs, ours were ready to go and so were we.  Here’s a smattering of what we saw.

Inside, we observed structures that provide the gardens some dimension.

A The fountain also has a sign informing us this is a “Certified Wildlife Habitat,” which provides four essential elements needed for wildlife to thrive: “food, cover, water and places to raise young.”

Arlington Garden FountainThe only wildlife we saw on this morning were Frankie and Remi who crossed this bridge when they came to it.

We passed by one of the numerous sitting areas in the garden…

…and along the trail flora flourished.


Hey, you don’t need to drive all the way to the desert for those wildflowers.


Frankie loves wildflowers!

Bees also love this place because Arlington Garden contains so many pollinating plants and flowers.

Next up was the Vernal Pool. When the pool is inundated with water (not today), you can see fairy shrimps and diving beetles, not that I would have recognized them.  One of the signs along the way also stated that of all these essential habitats in Los Angeles County, 99% have been lost (as you see, you can download an app that will give you a QR code to access even more information).

                                                               Vernal Pool Arlington Garden

There are many “rooms” at Arlington Garden where you can sit, relax, and bring a little picnic lunch, read a book or meditate.


With corgis, it’s never quite enough to meditate.

What’s ahead, a mini Stonehenge?  Nope, it was the famed Arlington Garden Labyrinth. Betty said, “The labyrinth was created by the 10th-grade class at Mayfield Senior School. It’s a classical seven-circuit labyrinth, and the girls created it in about three hours in 2010.”  A sign states, “The labyrinth is merely a circuitous route to the center (which is sometimes seen as the center of your inner thoughts).”  They can also stimulate right brain activity, but since I had downed a couple of martinis the previous evening, my brain was not functioning at full capacity.

There are various spots in the gardens where birds, bees and butterflies like to hang out.

After putting on an exhibit at One Colorado in Pasadena where more than 90,000 wishes were attached to the trees, Yoko Ono donated the 21 pink and white crape myrtle trees.

                                                       pink and white crape myrtle trees donated by Yoko Ono at Arlington Garden

Betty told me by email, “She wanted to be sure they would have a permanent home afterward.”

Remi just wished we’d brought more treats and staged a mini sit-down strike.

This room (which I had photographed on a previous trip) is called the Wish Trees Terrace. Betty emailed that there were about 35 different rooms at one point with a sign with a QR code on each sign. They needed to redo them since they had faded over time.

As the sign said, The Toyon Patio is framed by “dense foliage of toyon with red or yellow berries.”

Betty said that the Olive Tree area is called the Olive Allee, “and it’s the most formal Mediterranean room of all, with a rectangle shape, mirrored sides, a pomegranate in each corner. Originally we had lavender down the middle but as the olive trees grew there was too much shade for the lavender to bloom.”


Tracy, Remi, and Frankie sought refuge…

…under some wisteria.


Succulents can be found everywhere…


…and some of them are incredibly colorful…

…as are these.


You never know where you’ll find a secluded spot to take a load off.


Look closely, and you’ll run into some whimsical pieces located throughout Arlington Garden.


By now I was getting a little sluggish.

Remi was particularly fond of the watering wands that form a California poppy with four petals, and the wands are the stamens (Seed heads).


She’s a big fan of Garden Art.

Frankie was just thirsty.

Unless you look closely, you wouldn’t know that homes are located nearby.


We wandered back and forth for over an hour…


…and even ran into St. Francis.

This is a place you can return to often because of the flora changes throughout the year.

I’m sure it’s different now, even though it has only been a short number of weeks since our last visit.

We’re lucky to have so many nearby gardens including The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, Descanso Gardens, and even the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden across the street from Arlington Garden.  You can click on those links for my descriptions of those gardens.


If you’re in the neighborhood, Arlington Garden makes for a peaceful stop during your day.  Bring a picnic lunch, a relaxed attitude…

…and maybe even a corgi or two.

Arlington Garden
275 Arlington Drive
Pasadena, CA 91105
Hours: Dawn-Dusk
Parking: Street (free)
Phone: 626.441.4478

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