Last year, we were in Southern California for a close friend’s wedding. We visited The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens on recommendation of the bride and groom.
Commonly known as The Huntington, it was founded by railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington in 1919 in San Marino, California.
Henry, an avid collector and bibliophile, began acquiring rare books, manuscripts, and art in the late 19th century. His passion for collecting led him to establish The Huntington as a way to share his treasures with the public. The institution opened its doors to the public in 1928, and since then, it has grown in both size and stature.
The Huntington Library houses an extensive collection spanning a wide range of subjects, including British and American history, literature, art, and science.
Beyond its library, The Huntington features an art museum and botanical gardens. The gardens cover 120 acres of meticulously landscaped grounds, featuring diverse plant collections, including a renowned Japanese garden, a Chinese garden, and a desert garden.
My wife and I spent a day in the gardens. I brought my Leica CL with the Leica 23mm f/2.0 and the Sigma 56mm f/1.4. The combination let me capture the wide landscapes and play with shallow depth of field.
You’ll never find me photographing flowers with sophisticated macro gear. I know little about the plant world.
However, with the excellent Sigma 56mm in tow, I couldn’t help but capture the beauty of The Huntington’s flowers. Though it can’t approach macro magnification, the focal length and aperture combo makes it adept at flower photography.
Japanese Gardens are happy places for me. I’ve been to several both inside and outside Japan. Every time I visit, life slows down as I take in the perfectly manicured landscape.
The Huntington’s Japanese garden was vast and detailed, at about the level of Portland’s Japanese Garden. There’s a house and teahouse that were both made in Japan and shipped to the garden.
The undulating landscape and koi pond were a sight to behold.
Within the Japanese Garden lies a zen court that plays host to the Golden State Bonsai Federation’s extensive bonsai collection. The collection numbers in the hundreds and is maintained by volunteers, several of whom were working there when we visited.
The Huntington’s Chinese Garden was created in a style mimicking the Ming dynasty gardens in Suzhou.
In high school, I spent a summer in Suzhou and fell in love with the gardens, canals, and other historic sights.
As I stood on the bridge overlooking the water, I felt transported back to Suzhou when I used to buy a bag of longan or lychee that I would eat beside a canal.
I never had much interest in desert gardens. That was until we visited Palm Springs a few months before our trip to the Huntington. Both the Moorten Botanical Garden and The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens changed my opinion about desert flora.
The desert landscape assembled at the Huntington is large and mature. Many of the cacti and succulents have been growing there for decades.
Among the fantastical desert plant landscape, I noticed a few local residents. Perched majestically on rocks as if posing for the camera, the lizards acted as if they owned the place.
Though I didn’t photograph them, we also spent time in the Australian Gardens, the Conservatory, and others.
If you are ever in the area, the Huntington is well worth a visit.
Thanks to Q for reading drafts of this.