In The Presence Of Trees


Gardens AND read a book maybe? I might be onto something.

Gardens AND read a book maybe? I might be onto something.

My folks happened to be in town yesterday, so we decided to spend the day together and have a picnic at the Huntington Gardens. Up until yesterday I’d never heard of the Huntington Gardens: they are the gardens and grounds of the Huntington estate in Pasadena. Part botanical gardens and part art museum the estate is a bit like an exhibition park from a turn-of-the-century Exposition.

We decided to take a walk around the perimeter of the gardens to begin: a sort of overview of the different options available to us: cactus/desert, lily pond, Japanese gardens, Australian gardens, etc. We began with the cactus garden- easily one of the best curated cactus gardens I’d ever seen. It was beautifully designed and interesting to look at: it looked like a garden of alien life forms.

After our stroll through the desert it seemed like a good idea to stroll through the lily ponds for the sake of contrast. There weren’t many lilies (perhaps the wrong time of year) but there was a spectacular collection of Koi in a shallow pond. The Koi were clearly used to being fed by the visitors as they hovered anxiously near the surface of the pond, often breaking the surface of the water with the hump of their backs as they approached the shallower areas to eyeball generous looking onlookers. If they thought it would win them a snack I felt certain that they would’ve crawled right out of the pond and asked for one in so many words.

Around another bend we wandered through the labyrinth of a Japanese garden in many iterations: raked gravel, bonsai plantings, deep stands of bamboo, etc. There was a traditional style Japanese house that I could’ve spent an hour examining. This would have been a wonderful garden to visit early in the morning or on a weekday to just sit quietly and think for a while. A Sunday afternoon, though, just made for a lot of families.

We took a shortcut through the rose garden (at this time of year, the Garden Of Dead, Thorny Sticks) and finished with a tour around one of the Huntington residences which had been converted into an art gallery. The headlining piece? Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy”, of course.

The perennial problem with museums of any kind, and gardens as well, is the fact that there is only so much information that a person can take in at one time. By the time we made our way back to the car we were all wrung out from so much fresh air, sunlight, and artwork. I would love to have the excuse to go back and just do one exhibit and spend all day on it. Just spend a day watching the Koi in the lily pond. Just spend an hour in the presence of trees. Just spend a morning in the Japanese garden or an afternoon in the art gallery.

At least now I have the excuse to go back.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on February 2, 2015.

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