Huntington Botanical Gardens: much more than succulents

Last weekend was the 2019 Show & Sale of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America (CSSA), the national umbrella organization of local clubs like the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society (SCSS). As is tradition, it was held at the Huntington in San Marino, California, and members of local C&S societies received free admission. Considering that it's $25 per adult to get into the Huntington, that's a tangible benefit, especially if you're there for several days.

This year, the stars were aligned just right. Not only was I able to go, my wife agreed to come along. As a result, I had reason to look at more than “just” the gardens. Plant nerds sometimes forget that the Huntington has significant art collections and a library housing a wide variety of rare books. (Among other things, we saw a Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum, one of only 12 known to exist.)

Ultimately, though, I was drawn to the gardens more than anything else. I showed my wife the Desert Garden—my favorite spot at the Huntington—and then we walked through the Jungle Garden where it was wonderfully cool.

But you don't have be in one of the themed gardens (of which there are 16 spread across 120 acres) to see cool plants. The general landscaping is beautiful, even in the parking lots—definitely no boring shrubbery from big-box garden centers! Plant labeling is incomplete but decent enough, all things considered. Areas that serve a more educational purpose have better labeling; this includes the entrance garden and, surprisingly, the parking areas.

Aeoniums and Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue'. Even more impressive in a mass planting!

Usually, I start off with a succulent-themed post. This time, I'm mixing things up and do a non-succulent post first. 

But that doesn't mean I can't show you a few succulents to get things going!

Octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) in a field of sedge near the entrance

One of many large containers in the California Garden mixing aloes and other succulents with leafy plants like phormiums

Dudleya pulverulenta with six flowers

Celebration Garden, with the Desert Garden beyond on the left

Agave americana and Encephalartos longifolius

The kind of plant tapestry I love

Agave salmiana and Eucalyptus megacarpa

Kangaroo paws, tower of jewels, and all kinds of agaves, cycads and aloes in the area between the Celebration Garden and the Desert Garden proper

White-flowering floss-silk tree (Ceiba insignis) in the New World section of the Desert Garden

The heart of the Jungle Garden

Bamboo-lined path

Awesome alien-looking staghorn fern (Platycerium sp.)

I find it beautiful but also scary. I know, I watch too many horror movies.

Roxburgh fig (Ficus auriculata). Odd how the clusters of figs grow right on the trunk.

Ficus auriculata

Beechey bamboo (Bambusa beecheyana)

Bambusa beecheyana

Dragon bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper)

This canna lily seems to be saying, hey, I'm the real star here!

Encephalartos fronds unfurling

Not sure which cycad species, but what a majestic specimen!

Cycad that lost its leaves

Impressive mass planting of Verbena bonariensis in the strip separating the sidewalk from the road

This is the time of year when red buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens), one of my favorite California natives, takes center stage

Eriogonum grande var. rubescens

Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'

Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata var. aztecorum)

Tapestry of kangaroo paws, acacias, restios, and perennials

Chaste tree (Vitus agnus-castus, not sure which cultivar)

LEFT: unlabeled gum tree   RIGHT: Blue bush (Acacia covenyi)

And finally a magnolia flower. Its beauty is hard to top.

If you were a bit disappointed that this post was so light on succulents, don't worry. My next post will make up for it.

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  1. The Huntington Gardens always look good, no matter the season, the weather, or the time of day. I'm glad you had an opportunity to enjoy them.

  2. NO disappointment here. From the many posts you and other bloggers have posted the Huntington is very high on my list of gardens to someday see. It's nice to see all types of gardens especially those not possible in your own climate. A real treat and rounds you out. The staghorn fern is quite something.

  3. Otherworldly beauty. As your photos zipped from one continent to another, it dawned on me that the post featured almost entirely plants I've never seen in person. Just as I was starting to get a little wistful about the unlikelihood of ever getting to experience Ceibas and cycads and even red buckwheat, the final shot brought me down to earth and made me laugh out loud. The big magnolia here, just outside the window, is having one of its best years ever, wafting scent and reminding me how good I have it in the great scheme of things.

    Thanks for the vicarious visit! This was just about the right proportion of succulents for me, but I know I'll enjoy the next installment, too

  4. I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since I’ve been to the Huntington, I must get back! Thanks for this, and all the photos that follow.


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