Descanso Gardens teams with designers to create stunning 'Enchanted: Forest of Light'
By Sara Cardine

After six weeks of detailed preparation and careful installation, not to mention months of envisioning a nighttime attraction that would showcase the beauty and majesty of plants, Descanso Gardens unveils to the public Friday evening its newest exhibit "Enchanted: Forest of Light."

The 45-day seasonal show runs through Jan. 8, allowing spectators to view Descanso's trees and botanical collections through a nocturnal, otherworldly lens. In a roughly one-mile walking tour, spectators can meander through 10 stunning light displays and, in some cases, interact directly with audio-visual exhibits.

In a media preview Monday, Rachel Young, Descanso's director of horticulture and garden operations, explained how staff collaborated with lighting and visual design company Lightswitch to create installations custom-made for the site.

"They helped us craft something that was just for this place and our collections of plants," Young said. "So the grounds themselves are really featured in the displays."

Most of the exhibits take advantage of spaces and paths already used for public events, and lights have been carefully placed so as not to disturb the plants' habitats, Young explained. For instance, the installation of thousands of lighted tulips near the garden's railroad station was placed in the area where in the spring thousands of real tulips will bloom.

Another area, "Symphony of Oaks," invites visitors to take an up-close and personal look at the grandeur of Descanso's native oaks in an interactive display where footsteps orchestrate the chiming of bells. The lake at Oak Woodland invites guests to manipulate joysticks that can change the direction, pattern and color of limnal luminescence, while "Garden of Good Fortune" features hundreds of red lanterns in the meditative Japanese Garden.

Timed tickets cost $24 to $28 and can be purchased at Snacks and refreshments are available on the grounds from 5 to 10 p.m. Through Jan. 8, Descanso's newly opened restaurant, Maple, will extend its hours to offer a full dinner and dessert menu from 5 to 10 p.m. for ticketed guests of "Enchanted."

There, seasonal menu items include a winter squash salad, herb-crusted salmon with cranberry couscous, empire apple tart and chocolate pretzel bread pudding. Call (818) 864-6435 for dinner reservations.


Sara Cardine,

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