Saturday, February 6, 2010


There are not many public gardens in North America that dazzle in the week between Christmas and New Years. Of course, "The Huntington" (which to almost anyone with taste and judgment in America refers to the Huntington Botanical Garden) dazzles any and every day of the year. Ironically, the botanic garden there plays third fiddle to the library (numero uno) and the art gallery (numero dos) which I find very funny. You see: I am a bibliophile who has many thousands of books and prides myself on my bookishness. I love art (and own over a hundred original artworks) and yet after a dozen visits to San Marino, I have never stepped foot in either their hallowed Library, nor their august Art Gallery: why visit simulacra when you've got the Real Thing in the garden? They have a dozen or more of the finest gardens in the America as well. But everyone knows their Desert Garden stands head and shoulders over not just their stunning collections but every other garden in North America. This is almost painful for me to admit, having spent 30 years trying to polish the jewel of Denver (which may give Huntington a run for their money in the long run). Really, if you can quietly discount Arboreta (which are the strong suit in American public horticulture) the only botanic garden that has captivated me as much is Berkeley's Strawberry Canyon: but that's another complicated story...

This last visit gave me a greater appreciation of their extensive Japanese Garden and Bonsai collection: extremely dramatic setting and superlative maintenance.

The new Chinese Garden at Huntingon is raw still and vast. It will take years for the plants to catch up with the elaborate hardscape. It is a stunning tour de force...
I could regale you with hundreds of pictures that I have taken in every season: the Rose Garden in June, the new Conservatory before construction and in its fabulous fulfillment, the Subtropical Garden with all those weird and wonderful trees, the Desert Conservatory (John Trager's masterpiece where even the pots dazzle), the exquisite new Children's Garden which is as fun for adults as kids, the wonderful borders everywhere, and on and on and on. Of course, 95% of my Huntington pix are of the Desert Garden...People may say whatever they wish about Los Angeles: if the Huntington did not exist, it would still have the finest public gardens in America. With the crown jewel of the Huntington, L.A. is the unquestioned treasure trove of American Horticulture in my book and Jim Folsom is the King!

P.S. Thanks to Susan Eubank and Paul Martin for hosting us that marvellous Saturday after Christmas at Huntington and their wonderful home nearby. And Elizabeth (with her accordion): can we have an encore in the Sierra in a few weeks?

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