I heard about the Huntington numerous times. For some reasons or even without any reasons, I was postponing my visit for quite a long time. Finally, I made a decision to go there. So what is the Huntington? The Huntington is not you typical library or garden. Located in San Marino, California, this astounding place includes one of the largest research libraries in the United States, art collections of European and American art from the 15th to the mid 20th century and 12 incredibly beautiful botanical gardens.

Covering over 120 acres, the Huntington‘s botanical gardens are divided into 12 schemes, aka 12 gardens, and home to more than 15,000 varieties of plants from around the world, including impressive collections of some rare and exotic vegetation.  The place started its existence in 1903 with acquisition of a working San Marino Ranch by Henry Huntington. At that time the estate had only citrus groves, nut and fruit orchards, a small herd of cows and poultry. Working hard with his superintendent William Hertrich, Huntington was able to turn the ranch into the art and nature center as we know it today.

Planning our visit to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Garden, I turned to their official website for assistance with hours of operation and admission. According to the website, you need approximately 3 hours to explore the place. Based on my after-visit experience, I would suggest you to save at least half of the day to explore and enjoy all 12 botanical gardens.  The ticket prices for adults range from $25 on weekdays to $29 on weekends. There are discounts for students, children and seniors. However, every first Thursday of the month the Huntington has “free days” with the advance tickets.

Now that we nailed down all the important but not that exciting details, please allow me to present to you the 12 botanical gardens of the Huntington.

Desert Garden

The Huntington Desert Garden is nearly 100 years old and considered to be one of the oldest and largest collections of cacti and other succulents in the world. The idea of creating the desert garden was initiated by William Hertrich who brought in the plants from nearby locations and his collection trips to Southwest and Mexican deserts. Today the garden is home to more than 2,000 species of succulents and other desert plants and has the largest collection of Aloes (Aloaceae) outside Africa.

Australian Garden

Five-acre stretch of meadow and groves is especially amazing in early spring when such Australian beauty such as acacias, kangaroo paws, bottle brushes, wax flowers and blue hibiscus begin to bloom. By 1960s numerous Washington Navel orange and eucalyptus resided this area. Slowly, however, they started becoming an overgrown fire hazard, and the trees had to be thinned. Today the garden has more than 100 eucalyptuses, one of the most popular types of Australian plants.

Subtropical Garden

The Subtropical Garden is a four-acre hillside garden on the steep slope of the Raymond Hill earthquake fault and is a house to the plants that tolerate occasional mild frost. In October and November the garden “dresses up” in orange thanks to blooming gladiolus dalenii. Some of the other plants worth mentioning are pink cape chestnuts, mauve orchid tree, lavender-blue jacarandas and 50 species of salvia with their different color flowers.

Jungle Garden

The Jungle Garden looks exactly like you picture it: high forest canopy, coppice forest with plenty of short trees and shrubs, climbing vines, orchids, palm trees, gingers, bamboos… You might feel like you entered the jungle from the movie “The Jungle Book”.

Palm Garden

With more than 200 species of different kind, the Palm Garden is considered one of the biggest collections of palms on public display in California. Fond of these tall and graceful trees, Henry Huntington was personally involved in creation of the Palm Garden. Today the big collection of the palm trees is saturated mainly in the Palm and Jungle gardens.

Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden is arguably one of the most popular gardens of the Huntington that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The place features moon bridge, ponds filled with koi, historic Japanese house, ceremonial teahouse, bonsai collection and zen court. This is one of the best places to get inspired and learn about Japan’s landscape traditions, rituals, history and craftsmanship.

Chinese Garden

The Chinese Garden or the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, Liu Fang Yuan, belongs to the group of the largest Chinese gardens outside China. The garden encompasses not only typical Asian plants, but also incredible Chinese architecture. California gardeners worked in conjunction with prominent Chinese architects and artisan to create the garden that would represent the Chinese traditions and culture as closely as possible to the original on the other side of the world.

Rose Garden

The Rose Garden was created in 1908 as one of the favorite gardens of Arabella Huntington, the second wife of Henry Huntington. The tree-acre garden is home to more than 3,000 individual plants and more than 1,200 cultivated varieties and intends to teach his visitors about versatility of roses and many ways of their use in the landscape.

Herb Garden

Where does this pleasant smell of fresh mint come from? Without any doubts, you will recognize the Herb Garden right away. Built in the 1970s, the garden has plenty of different kinds of herbs such as lavender, mignonette, basil, thyme, lemongrass, oregano and many others. The herbs are organized according to their use. There are the herbs for medicines, teas, wines, cooking, cosmetics and sachets.

Shakespeare Garden

Devoted to the renowned poet and playwright William Shakespeare, the Shakespeare Garden pleases its visitors with frequently changing year-round floral display. The garden is home to the plants cultivated in England during Shakespeare’s time or mentioned in his works.

Frances and Sidney Brody California Garden

Nearly 50,000 dry-climate plants find their residence in Frances and Sidney Brody California Garden. The garden features native and drought-tolerate plants from Australia, South Africa and southern Europe. This is the first garden the visitors see when they arrive at the Huntington. The most recognizable part of the garden is a long allee of fruitless olives with benches and tables on both sides. The trees such as Pasadena oaks and Cork oaks help beat the famous California heat. The blanket of blooming understory plants add color to the garden and rejoice the visitors.

Children’s Garden

Ten year old garden with interactive sculptural elements representing fire, earth, water and air is a favorite place of all kids visiting the Huntington. The children get a chance to become curious and play with water, enjoy the glowing colors of the rainbows, receive magic power by manipulating the sand with the magnet and enjoy the aroma of rosemary, lavender and citrus while the adults watch them from the shaded benches in the center of the garden.

The Huntington’s botanical gardens belong to the group of the most remarkable places to visit. People with different interests and preferences will find plenty of things to do and see here and leave the place without any trace of disappointment or regret.

What are your favorite botanical gardens? Please share in the comments below. We would like to hear from you.