Monday, March 5, 2012

Gardens at the Huntington

This last week in California has been rather hectic compared to my previous quiet five months. As well as my trip to Disney I was also able to visit the Huntington Library. This should have happened three weeks ago, but the good friend Jim who offered to drive had been unwell so it had to be rescheduled and ended up in this last crowded week. The Huntington Library is situated just outside Los Angeles and includes, inevitably a collection of rare books, some major art works and the reason for our visit, 120 acres of beautiful gardens. The original house and gardens were developed from around 1902 by the businessman Henry Edwards Huntington. Check their website here.

The Chinese Garden

Prunus tomentosa 'Manchu Cherry' in the Chinese Garden
Jasminum nudiflorum (or is this humile?) growing as a trailing waterside plant - I like this!

It is difficult to compare this garden to others but to give UK gardeners some idea, it is half the size of Wisley gardens and contains 15 different themed areas, some of which are quite extensive such as the huge Chinese garden which is an ongoing project. There is also a rose garden, jungle garden, Shakespeare garden, Australian Garden, a vast Conservatory, lily ponds and a desert garden.  The Japanese garden was closed for restoration. The climate is subtropical to Mediterranean and enables the growing of a huge range of plants from Camellias and roses through to tender exotics, cacti and succulents. I think this is a Zone 10b garden, (please correct me if I'm wrong!) although it does experience some light frost and we discovered patio heaters positioned near some tender plants.

Anemones in the flower garden

Kniphofia rooperi - what a cracker!
Some discussion on this! Sean from  HTUK suggests Chamaedorea seifrizii but Lee says C. microspadix. Anyone adjudicate?

Sonchus acaulis - a wonderful relative of the sowthistle from the Canary Isles - grows to 1.9m (6ft)

I was so taken with the patterns in this palm crown that I forgot to check the label!
Justicia leonardii

Gas heater over Euphorbia millii

Those of you that read my recent blog on the local gardens tour will know that I have reservations about desert landscape which can be rather too minimalist and bland for my taste. However I think I can genuinely say that I am now a firm convert! This desert garden was planted on a scale like nothing I have ever seen in my 45 years gardening. As well as the strong shapes we are all familiar with in desert landscapes, this just sparkled with electric colour! Jim who is an artist rather than a gardener was equally entranced but saw it all as painting opportunities -  shapes,  colour, and dramatic shadows in the afternoon sunshine. This is reputed to be one of the most extensive and best desert gardens in the world.

Desert garden - just one view

Puya venusta and others - just one of many beautiful plant groupings
Another general view

Aloe berhana
Opuntia microdasys
Aloe excelsa - with just a glimpse of a pretty little red crested bird in the crown

Agave in flower
Dracaena draco - the Canary Island dragon tree

Echinocactus grusonii en masse

Kalanchoe lucilae

Lampranthus - not sure of species or cultivar - sorry!

Aeonium arboreum 'Atropurpurea' in the late afternoon sunshine
This wonderful plant collection was all labelled but the afternoon was slightly marred when I was chastised but a young member of staff for leaving the footpaths to check a label! I was annoyed and subsequently emailed the Curator to comment on this. Not only did I receive a reply from the Curator but also an apology from the man involved who has offered to show me round the next time I visit! Now that's a response!

Camellia 'Elizabeth de Bay' - a few late blooms but most camellias were over.
The Huntington is only open in the afternoon and suddenly our time had gone. with a brief look at the camellias which were fading, we returned to the car realising that we had totally forgotten to look at Gainsborough's 'The Blue Boy', the one painting that Jim had wanted to see - such is the magic of good gardens and spectacular plants!


  1. Looks like 120 acres of garden bliss! Stunning displays, especially the anemones and succulents!

  2. What a beautiful place! I would really like to visit there someday. Alas, California is so far away from South Korea....

    By the way, I think the palm you labeled Chamaedorea seifrizii is in fact C. microspadix. Unlike C. microspadix, which has reddish orange fruits born on pendulous infructescence as shown in the picture, C. seifrizii has black fruits and erect infructescence that turns its color from green to orange as the fruits ripe.

    And, that 'Lampranthus' might be Cephalophyllum alstonii, though I am not so sure about that one.

  3. Lee - thanks for this. The red fruits do seem to be distinct to C. microspadix