California Flowers & Gardens


Huntington Library & Gardens, San Marino, CA

1151 Oxford Rd

By Connie Young

San Marino in Los Angeles County is a small city of mostly luxury residential properties, with one that stands out among them and is open to the public. Exit nearby freeways such as the 210 or 710 and wind your way a few miles along the streets of Arcadia, Pasadena and South Pasadena to  Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

The property is one of Southern California's top museum attractions which combines an art museum, significant displays and archives of valuable, historical documents, and grounds that contain an estate house plus three gardens spanning acres of beautiful flowers and plants.

Over 100 years ago in 1878, Don Benito Wilson owned this prime parcel of land and ran a 600 acre ranch which his son-in-law, James de Barth Shorb called "San Marino" in honor of his birthplace in Maryland. San Marino is home to the fabulous Huntington Library and Gardens, a popular tourist attraction beloved by Southern Californians and those who come from around the globe to see the magnificence of lush grounds, gardens, architecture and archives.

De Barth Shorb received the ranch and sold it in 1903 to a successful business man whose name was known throughout the West. Henry E. Huntington built an electric rail transportation system in Southern California, sat on the boards of 60 corporations and developed commercial properties in one of the nation's fastest growing regions. A coastal town 40 miles south of San Marino even renamed their Pacific City to Huntington Beach, in honor of the man and his deeds. Though San Marino did not change its name when Huntington bought the property, his legacy lives on at the Huntington where his love of collecting rare books and art is shared with millions of people.

Huntington lived in semi-retirement for a few years at the San Marino estate where he operated the ranch established by his predecessors. When he sold off more than half of the land, it was soon parceled into residential and commercial properties. Immaculate estates and fine homes surrounded the Huntington estate as growth continued and the region prospered. Henry kept the remaining acreage for himself and wife, Arabella. The couple both shared an interest and worked side by side to build a mansion, increase their collections of manuscripts and art and create one of the finest estates any where.

In 1919, the couple signed an indenture which transferred their San Marino estate with its collections of art and books, to a non-profit educational trust. Pictured above is the library which was built in 1920 to house the rare manuscripts Henry collected. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1928, a year after Mr. Huntington's death.

The private, nonprofit institution is supported by gifts from individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies, and by a private endowment that provides about 50% of the institution's annual budget.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is an educational and cultural center set amidst 150 acres of breathtaking gardens. Three art galleries and a library showcase collections of rare books and manuscripts, 18th and 19th century British and French art, and American art from the 18th to the early 20th century.

Highlights include Gainsborough's The Blue Boy, Lawrence's Pinkie, the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales -circa 1410, the Gutenberg Bible -circa 1455, original letters of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Lincoln, and a collection of early editions of Shakespeare.

 Collections, and Botanical Gardens is an educational and cultural center with constantly changing exhibits set amidst 150 acres of gardens, including a 12-acre desert garden, beautiful Japanese garden, the camellia gardens and 15 specialized gardens. English tea in the Rose Garden Tea Room is a popular highlight to a day spent enjoying the cultural treasures of The Huntington. Public Events include monthly lectures on gardening. Some topics presented include: Propagating Cacti and Succulents, a presentation from a commercial grower who helps the audience plan a small scale nursery at home. Gardening in a Mediterranean Climate, a presentation discussing California's unique weather it shares with only four other regions of the world.

National Cactus Show featuring over 1,000 award winning plants for view and for sale.
Garden Color July: Agapanthus, Australian Bottlebrushes, Bidwill's Coral Tree, Cap Chestnut, Cacti, Crepe Myrtles, Daylilies, Delavay Magnolia, Eucalyptus
August: Bidwill's Coral Tree, Cape Chestnut, Cassia prectabilis, Crepe Myrtles, Daylilies, Delavay Kong Orchid Tree, Hume's Coral Tree, Kangaroo Paws, Lacebark Bottle Trees, Lotus, Moreton Bay Chestnut Over 500,000 visitors from around the world enjoy The Huntington each year, and nearly 2,000 researchers conduct scholarly studies among the world-renowned collections. The Huntington is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday. An admission fee is charged. Huntington Library: 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA Nearby cities: Arcadia / Los Angeles / Pasadena

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.

For hours, directions and entry fees, visit their website at

Huntington Library: 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA. Visitors: 626-286-1022

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