The American Public Gardens Association defines a public garden as “an institution that maintains collections of plants for the purposes of public education and enjoyment, in addition to research, conservation, and higher learning. It must be open to the public and the garden’s resources and accommodations must be made to all visitors.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, public gardens have become very popular destinations, serving as places of hope and healing for a weary public. Los Angeles County is home to numerous public gardens, including Descanso Gardens, which is one of four botanic gardens/arboreta in the county’s park system.
As Mary Forgione reports in the sourse article, the Wishing Tree at Descanso Gardens was created in November 2020 using hunks of a native oak that fell down over the summer. The tree was made to allow visitors to write down their wishes for the New Year. Descanso staff first provided 10,000 pink note cards and ended up ordering 20,000 more due to the overwhelming demand from the public to share their wishes. Some children wished for a unicorn or to become a princess, while others wished for good health for their families amid the COVID-19 crisis. They all provided a snapshot of what was in the minds and hearts of Southern Californians during the most devastating health crisis in a century.
Wishing trees are a tradition in many cultures in which they serve as places to leave offerings and messages. For example, Japan holds annual Tanabata festivals in July and August during which people write their wishes on pieces of paper and hang them on a bamboo tree made for the occasion.