Monday, April 30, 2018

THE GARDEN OF FLOWERING FRAGRANCE: Chinese Garden at the Huntington, San Marino, CA

Zigzag Bridge in the Chinese Garden, The Huntington, San Marino, CA
In the Chinese Garden at The Huntington, in San Marino, California, the exotic plants, beautiful small lake, complex of pavilions, teahouse and tea shop, stone bridges, and waterfalls, make one feel transported to another time and place. Built in the style of traditional scholar gardens in Suzhou, China, it is the perfect harmony of nature and architecture.
Tea House
On a recent warm afternoon, Art and I went there with a friend, beginning our visit with a delicious lunch from the garden restaurant of pot stickers, wontons, and a rice bowl, which we ate outdoors on the patio at the edge of the lake. (There were also tables inside the tea house.) We watched a pair of geese swim while colorful koi glided through the shallow water below. A heron flew overhead.(The Huntington gardens are are great place for bird watching.)
Flowering tree
Around us, trees were beginning to blossom, and along the paths plants were covered with bright flowers. The Chinese name of the garden, Liu Fang Yuan, means Garden of Flowing Fragrance and the look and smell of spring was everywhere.
Stone bridge is framed by a wooden window
After our lunch we circled the lake, stopping to admire the view from the various bridges and pavilions. In typical Chinese style, windows of the structures were designed to frame the view and were works of art in themselves.
Pavilion of The Three Friends is seen through the waterfall
At each turn there were views to admire. On one side of the garden a waterfall tumbled over a ledge and had a walkway underneath. On the other side of the lake, water cascaded down the hill creating a small stream.
This natural stone sculpture is titled Patching Up the Sky
Throughout the garden groups of rocks have been artfully arranged to create miniature landscapes. And everything is named--from the buildings, to the sculptures, to the groves of trees. (The Pavilion of The Three Friends seemed like the perfect spot for a picture of the three of us.) Throughout the garden benches were strategically place for resting and enjoying the view. And although there were quite a few other people strolling the paths, the garden felt tranquil and evoked a sense of peace.
Water lilies grow on the 1.5 acre lake
The Huntington, originally the estate of railroad magnate Henry Huntington, is famous for its library of rare manuscripts and its art collection, as well as its many gardens. I have been to the Huntington numerous times, but it is so big  there is never enough time to see everything in one visit. The Chinese garden is a relatively recent addition.  (It opened to the public in 2008.)  I had not had a chance to visit it before so this was an ideal opportunity.
Lattice window looks out of the garden
Afterward, we visited the Japanese garden, with its raked stone zen garden and amazing collection of bonsai, strolled through the rose garden, just bursting into flower, stopped to take a look at the exhibits in the Dibner Hall of the History of Science (with its display of 250 copies of Darwin’s Origin of Species in its many editions and translations), and ended our day with a walk through the Desert Garden, where the cacti and succulents were in glorious bloom. I’m glad I finally had a chance to visit the Chinese garden. It was the perfect beginning to a spring afternoon at the Huntington.

For information about visiting the Huntington, click HERE.
Walkways in the Chinese Garden are created with a mosaic of dark and light stones

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