3 Spectacular Botanical Gardens I Love at The Huntington Museum

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I grew up in New England, a fickle region for gardening. The summers are short and unpredictable; the winters involve a deep freeze and frost heaves; springtime—if we have one at all—is wet and fleeting. Despite these tricky conditions, I am an avid gardener. My visit to the spectacular Botanical Gardens at The Huntington Museum was a highlight of my trip to Greater Los Angeles. My daughter and I explored three of sixteen themed gardens: The Desert Garden, The Rose Garden, and The Japanese Garden. Each was spectacular in its own way.

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Get the Best Ticket Price for The Huntington

You can get admission tickets directly through The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens anytime online, but on the first Thursday of every month, admission is FREE from 10AM-5PM as long as you reserve tickets in advance.

Pro Travel Tip:  If you plan to visit a few attractions around L.A., it’s cost effective to get a Go Los Angeles Card. (Here is their List of Attractions.) We saved a lot of money since we covered 6 Hidden Gems in Greater Los Angeles in one day.

Encounter One of the Largest Cacti Collections Worldwide

You’ll find some of the best botanical gardens in California. I fell in love with the first of the three I visited at The Huntington: the Desert Garden.

My experience with cacti included a row of miniature succulents along my south-facing kitchen windowsill and the Christmas Cactus I inherited. This unfamiliarity was the root of my fascination with the surreal Desert Garden at The Huntington.

Alison and I meandered along the curving paths, taking in the variety of rich textures, prickly plants, and odd scale around us. Some plants even reminded us of something from Dr. Suess.

I marveled at the expert juxtaposition of color and form in the award-worthy landscape designs. The compositions saturated my senses. Each flower brighter, bolder, and more exotic than the last harmonized or contrasted with its neighbor. Like a child in a candy store, I could hardly focus.

Dessert Garden - The Huntington Botanical Gardens
Cactus in Bloom - The Huntington Botanical Gardens
Dessert Garden - The Huntington Botanical Gardens

As I assessed each plant, I wondered, is it difficult to care for? What pests and diseases affect succulents? How does one divide or prune cacti without getting pricked? (I surmised the answer to the last question to be, “Carefully.”)

Dessert Garden - The Huntington Botanical Gardens
Succulents in Bloom - The Huntington Botanical Garden
Variegated Succulent - The Huntington Desert Garden
Succulents in Bloom - The Huntington Desert Garden

I loved the expanse of the Desert Garden, which hosts over two thousand species of succulents and desert plants in sixty landscaped beds. Established almost 100 years ago, it’s one of the oldest and most comprehensive gardens of its kind in the world. A must see!

Get Heady in The Rose Garden

The soft petals and heady fragrance of a single rose are as close to perfection as it gets for me. I can’t help but sink my nose into the blossom and inhale the rich scent.

Apricot Rose - The Huntington Rose Garden

Now, imagine finding yourself surrounded by than 3,000 rose plants, each bearing dozens of gorgeous blooms. The Huntington’s Rose Garden is filled with stunning hybrids, tenacious climbers, dainty fairy roses, and fragrant old-fashioned varieties. There’s even a bed filled with only heavily perfumed varieties.

Spectacular Botanical Gardens - The Huntington Rose Garden
Roses in Bloom and Arbor - The Huntington Rose Garden

On three acres, the Rose Garden at The Huntington boasts more than 1,200 cultivars, each labeled with its name, class, and date of introduction. Eco-conscious visitors will be happy to learn the rose plants are not treated with fungicide or herbicide; Only the most resilient performers are included.

The collection was originally the private garden of Henry and Arabella Huntington. Records show the Rose Garden sourced almost 10,000 cut roses in a year for the former lady of the house. Today, hundreds of thousands of guests stroll through the Rose Garden. They find trellised roses and garden rows featuring just about every imaginable color from the softest blush to vibrant tangerine.

In addition, the Rose Garden includes an 18th-century French stone tempietto and a Tea Room.

For me, the experience was overwhelming in the most delightful way.

Pro Travel Tip: Reservations for the Tea Room are recommended.

The Tea Room at The Huntington Rose Garden
The Tea Room at The Huntington Rose Garden

Experience Tranquility in The Japanese Garden

The last garden tour we took was in The Japanese Garden at The Huntington. We enjoyed a tranquil walk among well-placed rhododendrons, roses, azalea, and other plants native to the Japanese landscape. Everything was designed in harmony with nature, including teak arbors and a pagoda. A Japanese Teahouse, “Arbor of Pure Breeze,” was built in Kyoto about 100 years ago. Guests can watch a demonstration of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

I particularly enjoyed the Bonsai Collection, cared for by the Golden State Bonsai Federation. Bonsai is a pruning technique that can be applied to any type of plant. It results in a miniature growth habit that, with imagination, allows the viewer to project himself into a tiny landscape and peaceful meditative state.

Man Relaxing Under Willow Tree - The Huntington
Koi under Lily Pads - The Huntington Botanical Gardens
Koi at The Huntington Water Lily Garden
Pagoda at The Huntington Japanese Botanical Garden
Rose-lined Arbor at The Japanese Botanical Garden - The Huntington

Visit Other Spectacular Botanical Gardens at The Huntington

In total, The Huntington is home to over 16 spectacular botanical gardens on 120 acres. If you have the time, I recommend checking out as many as you can.

16 Spectacular Botanical Gardens

  • Australian Garden
  • California Garden
  • Camellia Garden
  • Children’s Garden
  • Chinese Garden
  • Conservatory
  • Desert Garden
  • Herb Garden
  • Japanese Garden
  • Jungle Garden
  • Lily Ponds
  • Palm Garden
  • Ranch Garden
  • Rose Garden
  • Shakespeare Garden
  • Subtropical Garden
  • Garden Sculptures & Fountains
  • Mausoleum
The Conservatory at The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens
The Conservatory

[bctt tweet=”In total, The Huntington is home to over 16 spectacular botanical gardens on 120 acres. If you have the time, I recommend checking out as many as you can. #thehuntington @thehuntington” username=”enjoytravellif1″]

Explore Other Collections at The Huntington

In addition to the Botanical Gardens, The Huntington includes an extensive research Library and Art Collections. My favorite exhibit was The Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (13th Century).

The Dibner Hall of the History of Science - The Huntington
The Dibner Hall of the History of Science
The Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - The Huntington
The Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
RELATED:  Read about the Rare Books Annex at The Last Bookstore.

Orbit Pavillion

Another interesting exhibit at The Huntington is NASA’s Orbit Pavillion. It was a joint venture between visual strategists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, a music composer, and an architect. The installation’s “soundscape” represents unique sounds made by satellites as they pass overhead. One of several creative collaborations being formulated at The Huntington, the Orbit Pavillion is thought-provoking.

The Orbit Pavillion - The Huntington Botanical Gardens
The Orbit Pavillion

Consider Where to Eat at The Huntington

You can spend an entire day (and more) exploring The Huntington. Luckily, there are five dining options on-site that offer seasonal, locally grown, and made-from-scratch food and beverages.

  • The Rose Garden Tea Room
    Traditional tea service overlooking the Rose Garden serving savory and sweet treats, California style. Admission separate and required cost for Tea Room guests. Reservations suggested.
  • 1919 Cafe
    Brick-oven pizzas, Mexican cuisine, salads, soups, sandwiches, daily specials, small plates, beer, wine, craft cocktails. No admission fee.
  • Red Bar Coffee Shop
    Specialty coffees, teas, and other beverages, ice cream, baked goods, and to-go. No admission fee.
  • Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House
    Innovative Hunan, Tibetan, and other Asian-inspired fares. Admission to The Huntington required.
  • Patio Grill
    Casual, outdoor patio with Latin American-inspired cuisine. Admission to The Huntington required.
The Tea Room in The Huntington Rose Garden
The Tea Room in The Huntington Rose Garden

Get Directions, Ticket Price, and Admission Hours

Before you plan a trip to The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, be sure to review current the Admissions and Membership Information.

Expert Travel Tip: On the first Thursday of every month, admission is free with advance tickets from 10AM-5PM.


The Huntington
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Tel: 626-405-2100
Websit: The Huntington

Expert Travel Tip: The Huntington is under 30 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles and parking is free.

Which of the 16 spectacular botanical gardens at The Huntington would you be most interested in seeing? Let me know if the comments below.

A special thanks goes to Smart Destinations for their generosity. This article is part of a sponsored collaboration between Smart Destinations and Enjoy Travel Life. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. For more information, please see the following Disclosure

22 thoughts on “3 Spectacular Botanical Gardens I Love at The Huntington Museum”

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