Visiting The Gardens

You are invited to visit the gardens during our normal business hours. Guests are welcome to walk in the California Native Garden, and our historic backyard garden, between 1pm and 5pm Wednesday through Sunday. The backyard garden is accessible via the Orchard Gate.

Guided tours of the gardens are available on Saturday and Sunday. Inquire about tours in the Visitor's Center.

Food and beverages are not allowed in the gardens, or the 171-year old adobe house. Smoking and pets are not allowed anywhere on the site.



Temple's Garden, 1844s-1866

Formal gardens at Rancho Los Cerritos were first planted by John Temple in the 1840s and '50s. Surrounded by a high redwood fence to keep out the livestock, Temple's garden echoed a colonial garden style found on the East Coast. There was a main path leading from the central door to a focal point, a Moorish summerhouse, with secondary pathways providing access to a dozen raised beds filled with flowering shrubs, perennials, fruit trees and grape vines. Five Italian cypress trees provided vertical accents and, in time, became landmarks for travelers. A perimeter planting of black locust trees added seasonal interest. Plants undoubtedly came from local mission stock, trading ships, and even back East; the museum's archives include letters from Temple to his half brother in Massachusetts, seeking black locust, peach and plum seeds to plant. The garden was cared for by Native Americans, who hauled buckets of water from the river to nourish each planter bed. It was not until a severe drought in the early 1860s that Temple dug a well and built a cistern to provide a steady water supply.

The Gardens Serve New Owners, 1866-1881

Under Jotham and Margaret Bixby's care, and with the installation of a windmill and water tower, the gardens recovered from the 1860s droughts to provide nutritious fruit, glorious color and cool shelter for the family. The children stored their croquet set in the summerhouse, and the women often sewed, read or watched over the young ones, taking shade under the orange trees or veranda in the heat of the day. The only surviving plants added by Jotham and Margaret Bixby during this time were two Australian Moreton Bay Fig trees, which eventually grew together and today have a dominating presence.

Decline and Rebirth

Between 1890 and 1927, when the adobe served as home to various boarders, the gardens were planted with row crops and used to house chickens and pigs. Their glory destroyed, there were only a dozen or so trees still standing when Llewellyn and Avis Bixby remodeled the house in 1930. Selecting noted landscape architect Ralph Cornell to redesign the gardens and grounds, the Bixbys directed their landscaper to incorporate existing trees and the old water tower into the new plan, and to reintroduce historic vegetation known to have been planted in Temple's garden. A vast lawn was installed for the family's use, and the central pathway was gently curved to soften the look and to get around one of Temple's cypress trees!

Cornell also planted the inner courtyard for the first time, since it no longer served as an entryway for horses and carriages of the 19th century. The courtyard became an intimate garden with fruit trees, sycamores and flowering plants, extending the family's living space. A small pond served as a focal point, with a bronze toad presiding over the water lilies.

To the south of the ranch house, Cornell planted a subtropical orchard with a variety of avocado, citrus, macadamia nut, loquat, sapote and cherimoya trees, surrounded by a hedge of lemon and strawberry guavas. This orchard was restored in 2003 with a grant from the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association.


In The Garden Today

The gardens at Rancho Los Cerritos are ever-changing with the season and may be toured throughout the year during public hours or by scheduling a special garden tour. Garden tours are held every Saturday and Sunday. This is a wonderful opportunity to journey through various species of plants at the Rancho. The historic site boasts many unique plants and features, so stop on by today and see what’s in bloom!


Visitor Center

Mahonia ‘Golden Abundance’

Located in the island bed, this evergreen shrub had bright yellow flowers in early spring; the colorful fruit are the results of pollination.  Although evergreen, as the leaves age they change color before dropping, adding yellow and red tones to the dark green plant.








Penstemon heterophylla – Foothill Penstemon

Located in the island bed and in pots, this is a native perennial, thanks to the work of hybridizers we now have dozens of selections to choose from; the most common colors are purples and blue.



Zauschneria californica – California Fuchsia

Located in small island beds as well as on Virginia Road slope, this perennial blooms in late in summer and into autumn.  The bright orange tubular flowers are popular with hummingbirds.  Once they get established the spreading roots can colonize an area.



X Amarcrinum

Located in the shade garden, these bulbs have foliage reminiscent of Agapanthus but instead have fragrant pink blossoms.  There are two clumps in this area, one currently in bloom and one not yet in bud.  Also look for Amaryllis blooming by the trypot and soon near the pomegranate trees.  These smaller flowers will look similar but are not fragrant and have no foliage.


Cosmos bipinnatus

Located next to the central brick pathway adjacent to the veranda, these annual flowers are adding late summer color.  They are also popular nectar plants for beneficial insects.






Located at the margin of the lawn with a second tree next to the wisteria arbor, this is a popular flowering tree in southern California that adds brilliant splashes of color in the summer.




Inner Courtyard

Nymphaea ‘Attraction’ –

Water Lily

Located in the pond, this hardy water lily opens its flowers with the sun and closes them at night.  Thirsty insects land on the lily pads to sip from puddles captured by the leaf or to drink from the leaves' edges.



Polianthes tuberosa - Tuberose

Located in pots, this plant has a wonderful fragrance.




Eustoma grandiflorum – Lisianthus

A popular cut flower, these flowers are sometimes compared to a rose and sometimes to a tulip!  While not fragrant, their color makes the flowers a worthy addition to old- fashioned gardens.









Products of their bounty, from various species of plants at the Rancho, including jams and seeds, are available through the Museum Gift Shop.






©Copyright 2003 Rancho Los Cerritos, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Website design by Purpose Media.