2 things about me: one, I have a black thumb. Fern, succulent, it generally doesn’t matter how easy-care it is (or claims to be), I can probably kill it without meaning to. Two, I am (sometimes) easily impressed. So it was no surprise that a day trip down to Orange County to check out Rogers Gardens, which I’d somehow never heard of and now can’t imagine why, both impressed me AND spurred me to do something about that black thumb of mine. And if you think Rogers Gardens is just a florist/nursery, as they self-describe on their website, well, you’d be wrong to pigeonhole them, because in fact it is like a glorious marriage between Pier 1 Imports and Home Depot – a sweet progeny made up of gift items, rose bushes and high-end lawn furniture all wrapped up in a scenic little bow and plopped smack dab across the street from Newport Beach’s style mecca, Fashion Island.
Surrounded by plentiful free parking, several entrances lead you into a multi-leveled wonderland of flowers, trees, bushes, garden decor, hanging plants, greenery and splashes of vivid color as far as the eye can see. Much like Disneyland or a Vegas casino, once you’re inside, you can’t really see much beyond the property at hand (nor are there any clocks). Its immediately easy to lose your way in a maze of flora and fauna, punctuated here and there by a gurgling fountain, stone sculpture, gazebo, trellis or tent. As its finally fall, our winding walks down the pathways included bright orange and milky white pumpkins peeking out from every corner, some smooth and perfect for carving, others gnarled and bumpy for the perfect touch to your haunted house decor. If you’re the crafty type, you’ll no doubt find inspiration in many of their floral displays, including hanging plants and arrangements, and everything from a foreboding stone lion statue to a miniature doorstop-sized owl figure can be picked up to enhance your front yard. You can also get faux Christmas trees already strung with lights (or with stuffed bears climbing them), outdoor sofas and tables, windchimes…and the list goes on.
But my favorite part of Rogers Gardens were the themed sections, usually housed in a couple of large buildings that skirt the outdoor areas. Blackstone Manor, their name for the Halloween exhibit, was truly an experience and not just for those looking to buy (which you could – everything inside the exhibit was for sale). Room after room of spooky sights included shimmering skulls and skeletons, bedazzled pumpkins, cobwebs, floating candelabras, bugs of all shapes and sizes, lenticular portraits, spectral tableware, body parts, chains, dusty furniture and more. It was a sight to see and a total blast to wander through – it almost made me want to plan a huge Halloween party just to be able to decorate for it.
But not to be outdone, and following quickly on Halloween’s devilish heels, is the Christmas season. The Magic of Christmas literally hurt my eyeballs, because they were darting back and forth so quickly trying to take everything in. I didn’t know where to look first. The idyllic miniature train set, chugging its way along a track outside the building underneath a lovely forest-y set full of moss and tiny bridges and tall pines, was no indication of the candied chaos within. Floor-to-ceiling decor, themed (of course) from room to room, filled the boutique with holiday joy so bright and so sparkly it would make Santa yearn for July.
I, however, am not one to be daunted by a seasonal display. I am Scrooge’s polar opposite – the person who hauls out the holiday tunes on November 1st and will buy a tree too large for her own living room just because its the nicest shaped one in the lot. And so I delved into the Magic of Christmas with bells on, wandering past display after display of ornaments, theme trees (including some made of old watch parts!), cards, table decor, nutcrackers, stuffed Santas, cookie mixes, collectable toys….it was neverending! If you want to be put in the Christmas spirit, albeit a wee bit early, this would definitely do the trick for any seasonal skeptic out there.
And if you happen to get hungry during all this…there’s a rotating bevy of food trucks that park just by the main entrance to keep your belly full while you peruse. Regular vendors have included the Kogi BBQ truck, the Lobsta Truck, Wafflicious and others.
At the end of the day I walked out with just one small souvenir: a little white ceramic owl dish meant to be a tea bag plate but which now sits on my bathroom counter and holds small accessories like bobby pins and rings. But I know I’ll be back soon, because if Halloween and Christmas are any indication, a seasonal visit to Rogers Gardens is a must throughout the year to see what they’ll come up with next!
Rogers Gardens 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd. Corona Del Mar, CA 92625 Open daily, 9:00am – 6:00pm, with some limited seasonal hours Closed major holidays