Saturday, May 18, 2013

California Dreaming, Part 3: A visit to the Huntington

A gardener's trip to the Pasadena area would be incomplete without a visit to the Huntington Gardens. Since I was having none of that, the Huntington was on my list of required destinations. In addition, my sister-in-law, Susan, was keen to show me an exhibition currently in the Boone Gallery there. Off we went!

On our way to the gallery, we passed through an education building where we saw a massive seed,

a huge single leaf,

and an upside-down plant that reminded me of my cat Elvis's tail.

The featured exhibition, When They Were Wild - Recapturing California's Wildflower Heritage, was a wonderful collection of paintings and drawings of California wildflowers done primarily in the early years of the twentieth century. It showcased some little-known botanical illustrators - mostly women - who in some cases were only now receiving their due as artists, and as early documentarians of California's wildflower wealth. The art was beautiful and inspiring, and we thoroughly enjoyed each piece. If only I could have photographed inside the gallery!

Outside the exhibition, big, beautiful planters held some examples of the native species that had been illustrated, including Erigeron glaucus 'Sea Breeze', Arctostaphylos sylvicola, Sisyrinchium bellum, Salvia 'Alan Chickering' and Eschscolzia californica 'Mission Bells'.

These planters held Penstemon heterophyllis 'Margarita BOP' with Arctostaphylos edmundsii 'Bert Johnson', Fremontodendron 'California Glory', Arctostaphylos morroensis and Solanum xanti 'Mountain Pride'.

A close up of the Sisyrinchium. I love this plant.

The "little apples" that give Manzanita its common name.

We wandered on to the Classical Chinese Garden. I was curious to see how it had matured since my last visit in 2011, when I believe it had been open less than a year.

It was a lot more filled in. Where Portland designers might use Azaleas and smaller Rhododendrons, Raphiolepis seemed the plant of choice and it was in full bloom. At zone 8-9, it's a bit too tender here to get used a lot.

Also still blooming were lots of Pittosporum (I think).
The size of the Huntington's Chinese garden allows for bigger swaths of plants than those in Portland's Chinese garden, resulting in a different feeling to the spaces.
Cercis? I noticed them used more extensively in California than they seem to be in Portland.

Following our brief tour of the Chinese garden, we continued on to the Desert Gardens via the Jungle Garden.

Clivias. I apologize for the washed-out photos: it was hot and very sunny.

 Ficus auriculata fruit.

Now we've reached the Desert Garden - did you guess?


Double wow. This may be the bloom of Erithrina acanthocarpa, but the signage wasn't clear to me.
Pink ice.

Echeverias in bloom.
An Aeoneum arboreum 'Zwartkop' forest.
I love, love, love these stately cactus.

There weren't huge numbers of cactus in bloom, but the ones that were blooming were beautiful. This is Stenocactus coptonogonus.

One of my favorites in bloom: Echinocactus grusonii, or Golden Barrel Cactus.
And one of my favorite groupings: Echinocactus grusonii with Agave parryi var. truncata.
Color love!

Here, topped by a yellow flower with hints of the wine color from the paddles.

Ferocactus pilosis.
Get ready, 'cause here I come!

As I mentioned earlier, the day was hot and sunny, so at this point Susan and I were thoroughly cooked. With a last look back along the path, we repaired to the shady coffee cart and cooled down with a delicious iced coffee.

It was a perfect visit to the Huntington!


  1. I was late to the party, but I'm officially in love with Sisyrinchium too :-)

  2. Great post! Fun to walk with you on this garden visit. I'm learning a lot more about prickly plants. I'm amazed at some of the sizes of them! wow! Cheers, Jenni

  3. Oh Jane thank you!! I do love a visit to the Huntington and if I can't be there myself than tagging along on a blog is the next best thing.

  4. How weird about the Amorphophallus leaf. I loved that classical Chinese garden - thanks for the tour!

  5. Wow Jane - that must have been so much fun... And what a great celebration of natives! Holy crap - AmorphoPhallos titanum is right! The world of plants is so endlessly amazing! I loved the textural combo between the Pink Ice and the spikes - absolutely decicious! Thanks for sharing! :)

  6. Ditto what Loree said. The Huntington was one of the first gardens I visited and it totally blew me away, especially the desert garden and conservatory.

  7. Ah, that wonderful California atmosphere, I can practically feel it in your photos. Huntington Gardens are great, and so great photos of plants to see that won't grow here. But I like the cooler summers here better, even if it means I have to go through 6 months of cold weather to make up for it. The plants are beautiful, though. The Pittosporum smells divine! So much to miss.

  8. Fabulous photos! I love how soft the pink ice looks with the spiky business emerging from it.

  9. Excellent post and beautiful images! Would love to see the exhibit on California's wildflowers - would not have known about it if you hadn't posted. Thank you!


Thank you in advance for jumping through the annoying but necessary word verification hoop to leave your thoughts!