During a recent trip to Los Angeles a friend introduced me to The Huntington library, art collections, and botanical gardens. Built by railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington starting in 1902, the 207-acre estate is now a private non-profit organization, open to the public.
If you can tear yourself away from the rare book collection, which includes the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a Gutenberg Bible on vellum, the double-elephant folio edition of Audubon's Bird's of America, and early editions of Shakespeare's work; and then Gainsborough's Blue Boy and Edward Hopper's The Long Leg in the Art Gallery, you'll eventually want to see the Botanical Gardens that cover an astonishing 107 acres.
During my visit in mid-March there were not a lot of blooms, yet there was still much to admire, especially the Japanese Garden with drum bridge and furnished house, and the Chinese Garden of Flowing Fragrance, with lake, tea house, and pavilions, which incorporate few flowers anyway. They seem almost austere compared to Western traditions, yet there is much to draw the eye, like the bonsai trees, rocks, and other carefully placed features.
Other gardens include the Subtropical, Herb, Jungle, and Palm gardens, where you'll find few plants able to grow in the Rocky Mountain region.
On this day, my favorite was the spectacular Desert Garden with dozens and dozens of mature cacti and other succulents.
The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, California 9108. Telephone 626-405-2100. On the Web at www.huntington.org.