Huntington Library & Gardens
Huntington Library & Gardens
San Marino, California
This massive research library, art collection, and gardens has a lofty air, with its big classical style buildings standing proudly against acres of botanical treasures and park areas. But despite the haughty appearance, I felt welcomed to walk across manicured lawns and explore the grounds quite thoroughly, and found hidden spots and welcoming benches popping up in unexpected places. It’s world-renowned for a reason: Huntington packs a top-rate garden experience into its 120 acres with just about every garden attraction I could hope for. Twelve different gardens and greenhouses are interspersed among the impressive architecture and it would be impossible to take it all in in one visit. This was my second trip and I would happily return again tomorrow!
My favorite aspect of this garden is the play of the landscape with the buildings housing the manuscripts and art collections. The Library Exhibition Hall rises majestically above the manicured grass, stepped hedges, and magnolia trees. The quaint Tea Room rises above a sea of rose bushes in bloom. And I was quite taken by the columned-porch jutting out from the Art Gallery (the former Huntington residence) enrobed by thick plantings of palm trees.
Having geographically themed gardens is nothing new, but Huntington just seems to do everything larger and more lavishly than other places. The Japanese Garden has a magical quality, nestled as it is in a tiny valley with a winding stream, bridges, and sculpted bushes and trees covering the sloping hillsides. Next door, the Chinese Garden surrounds a large lake with interesting waterfall and stone features. It is apparently the largest Chinese garden outside of China. Once I walked through the shaded Jungle Garden and out into a clearing, it seemed as though the fixed layout of the gardens loosened up and felt more natural. The Palm Garden was a collection of palms planted sporadically down the side of a hill that invited aimless wandering among grassy pathways.
Desert and succulent gardens I have seen tend to be a little bland and all basically seem to look the same. Or so I thought before experiencing the Desert Garden at Huntington which seems like the surface of another planet teeming with alien life. It begins with bountiful barrel cactus of all sorts scattered at the bases of all type of taller varieties. The garden only got more otherworldly and interesting from there as I became surrounded and dwarfed by succulents of various sizes. Snake-like spiky protrusions stretch out onto sidewalks while odd-shaped ancient trees tower above. I really felt as if I was trampling through a desert landscape and even spotted a mangy coyote dodging warily through the underbrush.
Final Rating: The stately character of Huntington could seem a little stuffy at first, but on closer inspection this garden has a lot of personality and endless areas to explore. These were some of the most thorough geographical gardens I have encountered, and each region really explores that garden style fully. Huntington does not come across as too showy but rather as an inviting place that encourages you to enjoy and appreciate what a large garden collection can be. Similar to the hordes of amazing unique artifacts inside the libraries and museums, there are so many botanical treasures on display with real respect for their appearance and preservation. FIVE BLOOM RATING