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The Botanical Collections at The Huntington


Botanical GardensIn 1903 Henry E. Huntington (1850–1927) purchased the San Marino Ranch, a working ranch about 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles with citrus groves, nut and fruit orchards, alfalfa crops, a small herd of cows, and poultry. His superintendent, William Hertrich (1878–1966), was instrumental in developing the various plant collections that comprise the foundation of The Huntington’s botanical gardens. The property—originally nearly 600 acres—today covers 207 acres, of which approximately 120 are landscaped and open to visitors. Some 14,000 different varieties of plants are showcased in more than a dozen principal garden areas.
 
The Australian Garden features some 150 species of eucalyptus plus acacias, bottle brushes, cycads, and melaleucas.
 
The Huntington’s distinguished Camellia collection, located in the Chinese and Japanese gardens as well as in the North Vista areas, features nearly 80 different species and more than 1,200 cultivated varieties covering 10 to 12 acres. Shaded by oak trees, gravel paths meander among sasanqua, japonica, and reticulata species plus other species of camellias and hybrids. A cultivar, Camellia japonica ‘Henry E. Huntington’ (a large pink, semi-double), hybridized by Nuccio’s Nurseries in Altadena, was introduced in September 1994 in honor of The Huntington’s 75th anniversary.
 
The Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden introduces youngsters to the wonders of the natural world with interactive sculptural elements based on the themes of earth, air, light, and water. With elements designed by California kinetic artist Ned Kahn, the garden features a fog grotto, rainbow room, magnetic sand, pebble chimes, prism tunnel, and other attractions that have proven irresistible to children.
 
The Huntington’s 3.5-acre Chinese Garden, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, or Liu Fang Yuan, features a lake, a complex of pavilions and bridges, a teahouse, and a landscape showcasing native Chinese plants among native oaks, redwoods, and pines. Reflecting the traditional style of scholar gardens in Suzhou, China, the garden incorporates the craftsmanship of Chinese artisans as well as rocks and other materials imported from China.
 
Botanical education has become a focal point for The Huntington, and The Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science is expressly geared toward engaging middle-school-age students and their families in inquiry-based learning about plants, ecosystems, and biodiversity using scientific tools and living plants.
 
Desert GardenThe Desert Garden comprises approximately 10 acres, featuring one of the largest and most distinguished outdoor collections of cacti and succulents in the world. More than 4,000 species can be seen here, including the Puya chilensis from Chile, with its towering chartreuse blooms; “Crown of Thorns” (Euphorbia milii var. splendens) from Madagascar; Epiphytic cacti from tropical regions of Latin America; Chorisia insignis (Floss silk tree) from Argentina; Black aeonium (Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’) from northern Africa; Sempervivum arachnoideum (“Cobweb plant”) from the mountains of Europe; and the boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris) from Mexico as well as crassulas, agaves, aloes, yuccas, and many other beautiful and fascinating dry-climate plants.
 
The Japanese Garden, established in 1912 and renovated in 2012, features koi ponds, a moon bridge, a Japanese house, a ceremonial teahouse, and bonsai courts. Plants include flowering peach, apricot, Formosan cherry, large specimens of Cycas revoluta (cycads), wisteria, willow, Japanese red pine, Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), camellias, azaleas, ginkgo trees (in the Zen Garden, added in 1968), and a large collection of bonsai trees.
 
Growing near the waterfall in the Jungle Garden are many varieties of gingers, ferns, calla lilies, and bromeliads. A shady canopy is provided by towering trees, such as the Ombú tree from Argentina, with its massive water-storing base, and the Ficus columnaris, with vine-like aerial roots extending down from upper branches to form new trunks.
 
The Lily Ponds were the first area of the gardens to be developed, in 1904. Bamboos, water lilies, Sacred Indian lotus, and other aquatic plants can be found here.
 
The North Vista frames a view of the San Gabriel Mountains and is flanked on each side by rows of 18th-century Italian sculptures with an Italian Renaissance stone fountain at the farthest end. Tall columns of “Fountain Palms” (Livistona australis) line each side of the North Vista. Beyond these lie several acres of camellias and azaleas.
 
The Palm Garden was begun in 1905. Almost all of the more than 200 species of palm that can be grown in Southern California’s dry climate are represented. They include Chamaerops humilis, the only palm native to Europe; Washingtonia filifera, the only native Californian palm; the endangered Chilean wine palm Jubaea chilensis (which has the thickest trunk of any palm); and the Canary Island palm Phoenix canariensis.
 
The Rose Garden was created in 1908 and comprises approximately three acres. More than 1,200 cultivars (approximately 4,000 individual plants) are featured, arranged historically to trace the development of roses from ancient to modern times. It includes forms dating to the pre-Christian era; early European roses from Medieval and Renaissance times; Tea and China roses introduced into Europe around 1800; classic hybrid teas, floribundas, polyanthas, and miniatures; and David Austin’s modern “English Roses.” The entrance pathway leads to an 18th-century French stone tempietto and statue, “Love, the Captive of Youth,” encircled by ‘French Lace’ roses.
 
The Shakespeare Garden pays tribute to The Huntington’s early editions of Shakespeare’s works and includes a number of plants and flowers mentioned in the Bard’s plays. Small plaques accompany various plants with quotes from relevant lines or verses: “It was the nightingale, and not the lark, That pierc'd the fearful hollow of thine ear; Nightly she sings on yond pomegranate-tree” (Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene V); “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance” (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene V). Some of the less obvious Shakespearean plants in the garden include wild thyme, garlic, woodbine, grape, crab-apple, myrtle, sweet violet, lemon balm, fern, and holly. Other colorful perennials suitable to California’s climate complete the landscape.
 
In the Subtropical Garden, plants from the Mediterranean region and other subtropical climes provide a colorful display almost year-round: flowering trees include cassias, cape chestnut, bauhinias, tabebuias, and jacarandas.

 

About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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