California Flowers & Gardens

Huntington Library & Gardens, 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, CA.

Huntington Library Desert Garden

By Connie Young

Take a short stroll on the library grounds in a southerly direction from the rich, green landscape surrounding the mansion and exhibit halls to the arid, exotic landscape of Huntington Library's Desert Garden.

More than 100 years ago, the flora and fauna of the desert were lovingly planted in an area that has grown to more than 10 acres of lush desert scenery. Plants from all over the world make up the largest collection on the planet.

The gardens were created by William Hertrich who gathered species from nurseries, local gardens, public parks and private residences. He also made trips to the Southwest and Mexican deserts.

Sixty landscaped beds hold more than 5,000 species of succulents and desert plants. Divided into plants that thrive in close proximity, Yucca dominates the lower portion of the garden. Some grow as tall as 60 meet. The largest cactus tree, the Cereus xanthocarpus, weighs 30 tons and was mature when planted in 1905. Aloe dots the beds in the upper garden. The Huntington Desert Garden has captured more than 200 of the 300 known species, some as old as 120 years.

A beautiful Desert Garden Conservatory holds plants less than 15 years old and cuttings being coaxed for planting outside, as well as a few old timers needing protection from climate extremes. Walk among the manicured beds and witness nature in progress as the small and not so small desert wonders reach their potential.

The best time to visit is in spring when the cactus flowers are in bloom. The breathtaking array of colors will delight you from the barely noticeable, tiniest bloom to the large, showy displays. You'll emerge full of surprise. Your visit will leave you wishing to visit more desert locations in pursuit of these remarkable extreme climate survivors.

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