Huntington Desert Garden: New World eye candy

I just got back from yet another whirlwind trip to the Huntington. On Saturday, I attended the 36th Succulent Symposium, an annual tradition since 1983. The day was packed with presentations on a wide variety of topics, including terrestrial bromeliads (Andy Siekkinen), cacti from the West Indies (Alberto Areces-Mallea) and Peru (Paul Hoxey), as well as the mutually beneficial cooperation between private collectors and botanical gardens (Ron Kaufmann). Karen Zimmerman, the Huntington's succulent propagator, gave us a virtual tour of the treasures in the off-limits collection greenhouses. In addition, there was a silent auction and, at the end of the day, the opportunity to shop in the Huntington's succulent nursery. And let's not forget breakfast and lunch—food not only keeps people's stomachs from growling, it also makes them more attentive and more generous.

If you're interested, the 2020 Succulent Symposium is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, September 5 (Labor Day weekend).

I gave myself an extra day because I wanted to spend some time at the Huntington and the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden nearby. Unfortunately, it was so hot in the afternoon that I retreated to my motel room earlier than I'd expected. I wish that in the summer months both the Huntington and the LA Arboretum let visitors in early—I would have loved walking around in the cool of the early morning. As it is, the Huntington doesn't open until 10:00, the LA Arboretum at 9:00.

Heat or not, the Desert Garden at the Huntington is a truly spectacular place. Even though words and images can't replace the immersive experience of a personal visit, I'm hoping that the magic of the Desert Garden has rubbed off a little on the photos in this post.

Usually I start in the Old World section (=Africa) because it comes first when you approach the Desert Garden from the main entrance. This time I decided to mix things up and begin in the New World section (=Americas).

This post from 2015 outlines the history of the Desert Garden, which was started in 1907, so I'm not going to repeat myself. If you want to dive a little deeper, check out Desert Plants: A Curator's Introduction to the Huntington Desert Garden published in 2007 and written by Gary Lyons, at the time the curator of the Desert Garden.

I could wax poetic about the beauty of the Desert Gardens, but I know that sometimes it's better to shut up and move over. Or, in this case, let the photos speak for themselves.

The tree with the prickle-covered bottle-shaped trunk is a white-flowering silk floss tree (Ceiba insignis) from western South America

The silver-green miniature "trees" are actually Echium wildpretii from the Canary Islands

Agave americana 'Ray of Light' and NOID echeverias growing in a grove of ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata)

Golden barrel wonderland (Echinocactus grusonii)

The flowering shrub in the back is a red bird of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

Golden barrels (Echinocactus grusonii) and Agave parryi var. truncata

Agave parryi var. truncata

Puya gilmartiniae

Puya gilmartiniae

Agave salmiana and Puya coerulea var. violacea

Puya coerulea var. violacea

Dyckia maritima (left) and Puya coerulea (right)

Agave franzosinii behind Dyckia maritima

Puya chilensis

Puya chilensis

Beaucarnea recurvata and Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue'

Off with its head: Agave mapisaga var. lisa

Agave salmiana

Hechtia aff. glomerata

As fond as I am of hechtias, I will be the first to admit that their flowers are nothing to write home about

Agave avellanidens from central Baja California

Agave aurea var. capensis from the Cape of Baja California Sur

Opuntia gomei

Agave potatorum

Agave potatorum

Agave potatorum, a clone with particularly twisted spines

Agave potatorum

Agave potatorum

Agave potatorum

Agave horrida

Agave americana var. marginata

Agave franzosinii

Puya coerulea var. violaceae

Mammillaria compressa

Cleistocactus strausii, Mammillaria geminispina, Agave ovatifolia

Borzicactus samaipatatnus

Borzicactus samaipatatnus

Galápagos prickly pear (Opuntia galapageia)

Hechtia lanata

Hechtia huamelulaensis

Hechtia glauca

Bromelia balansae 'Variegata'

Agave titanota

Agave victoria-reginae 'White Rhino'
Agave victoria-reginae 'White Rhino'

Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue' and Aloe barberae

Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue' and Aloe barberae

Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue' 

Agave angustifolia 'Woodrowi'

Agave attenuata 'Emery Stripy'

Agave attenuata 'Emery Stripy'

Agave salmiana

On a different note, the Huntington as a "collections-based research and educational institution for the public’s benefit" is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, with the Centennial festivities kicking off on September 5. A special website will go live on September 5 as well. 


© Gerhard Bock, 2019. All rights reserved. No part of the materials available through may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent of Gerhard Bock. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States and international copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Gerhard Bock. 

If you are reading this post on a website other than, please be advised that that site is using my content without my permission. Please report such unlawful use to me at gerhard[AT]succulentsandmore[DOT]com. Thank you!


  1. Such a spectacular garden despite the heat which it obviously thrives in. Your photos give many of the silvery plants a ghostly look which is quite attractive. Did you bring home any plants from their sale?

    1. I'm a sucker for silver foliage myself :-).

      Plant haul: coming up in a separate post.

  2. Sweet! That was definitely a lovely collection of images. Is it safe to say the Agave mapisaga var. lisa had bloomed? At first I thought agave weevil damage and that would be horrible! So what did you buy?

    1. Agave mapisaga: Agave weevil was my first thought as well. I still don't know what happened.

  3. Hot it may have been but you got some great photos. I love the Agave ovatifolia with Aeonium 'Jack Catlin'.

    1. So many unexpected combinations, especially where the New World and the Old World run into each other.

  4. Hot hot hot. Sounds like it was mostly fun, though. Autumn Aloe flowers, won't be long now!

    1. The Desert Garden is always beautiful but winter is still my favorite season there.


Post a Comment