Discovering Arlington Gardens, A Scene For Serenity in Pasadena

In a city that knows something about world-class botanical gardens there’s a 3-acre parcel on “Millionaire’s Row,” at the corner of Arlington Drive and Orange Grove Boulevard, where serenity can be found by anyone—for free.

Arlington Gardens, designed by landscape artist Mayita Dinos, began planting in 2005 on a weed-filled lot owned by Caltrans. It was Charles “Kicker” McKenney and his wife, Betty, who proposed a solution for the blighted property next door to their home. Working with Caltrans, the City of Pasadena, and Pasadena Water and Power, the McKenneys brought to life their vision of a public, water-wise garden celebrating Southern California’s Mediterranean climate.

Charles, who died in 2015, was a former councilman who knew the ropes, but it was Betty’s passion that made the garden bloom; she called it her “full-time hobby,” and she remained its driving force until her death in 2018. The nonprofit continues to thrive thanks to support from garden clubs, local businesses, and volunteers.

Arlington Gardens open and free to the public, 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Head gardener Leigh Talmo teaches sustainable gardening techniques from 9 a.m. to noon on “Volunteer Tuesdays.” Free adjacent street parking is available.

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