Early Pasadena: An Astonishing Garden of Flowers

A hedge of Cherokee Roses on Arlington Drive

A hedge of Cherokee Roses on Arlington Drive was a notable feature of the gardens in front of the Durand home.

Early Pasadena was often described by visitors as a paradise.  Webster defined paradise as “any place … of blissful delights,” and one of the delights of early Pasadena was an array of floral beauty that dazzled many.

A 1911 article in Sunset magazine titled “Pasadena – Paradise Regained” noted that “Everyone concedes that there is a sound reason for referring to Pasadena as another Paradise.  Wide celebrity has been given it because of the great number and variety of its …flowers.”

“Flowers in Pasadena?  They meet the eye whichever way you turn – in hedges, in plots, in long winding borders, in masses against house walls.  If you don’t like flowers it would be advisable to keep away from Pasadena.  For they won’t let you alone.”

Postcard featuring bungalow covered in roses

“That beautiful bungalow yonder is buried in a bower of flowers and fruit. There is a rose-vine climbing all over it …” Elbert Hubbard.

In 1914 Elbert Hubbard wrote that “Pasadena is a delightful and astonishing garden of flowers.  It is smothered in sweet-smelling, gorgeous garlands of roses, passion-vines, heliotropes and geraniums.”

“Every fruit, flower, ornamental tree or shrub known to California is represented in this ideal spot – this modern Garden of Eden.”

“Heliotropes and fuchsias are everywhere – pendent from porches or smothering some building blooms and foliage.”

“The humblest cottage is a blaze of beauty, a cabaret of color.  In the yard you will see huge beds of the mammoth California violet, of calla-lilies and begonias.”

After a visit in the spring of 1886, an Illinois man sent a letter to the Rushville Citizen praising Pasadena as “the little city whose growing fame as a health resort and wonder of beauty is spreading the world around.  …From every nook flowers of infinite variety smile up at the passer-by.  The air is loaded with fragrance and fans the cheek of beauty with a soft touch.  At every turn nature, under the guiding hand of man, affords new surprises, and one may wander and admire, and never grow weary.”

– Kirk Myers

This article was originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of West Pasadena Residents’ Association’s The News.

To learn more about Early Pasadena, come view our current exhibition, Starting Anew: Transforming Pasadena, 1890-1930.