While the plants in the Desert Garden are roughly separated by location (Old World, New World) and some beds are dedicated to regional flora (Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert; California desert; Madagascar; etc.), there is some overlap. According to The Botanical Gardens at the Huntington (see below) the overarching principle is to plant specimens where they will grow best. So you will see ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata) from Central America underplanted with aeoniums from the Canary Islands and, in one spot, agaves next to aloes.
If you’re interested in finding about more about the Desert Garden, and the many other gardens at the Huntington, I can highly recommend The Botanical Gardens at the Huntington written by the Huntington Botanical Staff (2nd ed. San Marino: Huntington Library, 2006). For a historical perspective, check out The Huntington Botanical Gardens, 1905-1949: Personal Recollections of William Hertrich (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1988).
Speaking of ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata), there are lots of them in the Desert Garden, and their size is impressive. They don’t tolerate much frost, but here in Pasadena they don’t have to.
Now we're in one of the most impressive parts of the lower Desert Garden. The masses of golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) is truly astounding. I've never seen anything like this before.
Agave aff. marmorata ("aff." stands for "affinis" and means that this agave closely resembles Agave marmorata but that it cannot be 100% identified)
I really appreciated the many benches throughout the garden. They allowed me to sit for a minute to check my photos.
Agave mapisaga var. lisa, considered to be one of the largest agaves in extistence. This one is just a juvenile.
|A tale of two ponytail palms: the relatively uncommon Beaucarnea gracilis...|
|...and the common Beaucarnea recurvata|
Ponytail palms and golden barrels on one of the main paths through the lower portion of the Desert Garden (Old World). As you can see, there were quite a few people.
Hechtia huamelulaensis, a stunning terrestrial bromeliad from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, first described in 2014 and hard to find in the trade
Finally one of most impressive trees from South America: the white silk floss tree (Ceiba insignis). Check out that bottle-shaped trunk covered with spiky prickles! Its closely related to the pink silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa), one of which grows on the UC Davis campus 10 minutes from my house.
And before I knew it, I was back at the entrance to the Desert Garden with its flowering Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue' and towering Aloidendron barberae.
The Huntington Desert Garden is a true treasure, and I still can't believe it took me so long to visit. I hope to go back this winter and also check out other places of interest nearby, such as the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden less than 5 miles away.
December 2014 Desert Trip index