Exploring The Huntington’s Gardens

With granddaughter #3 visiting from Florida for an early start to Christmas, Kongo’s tribe set out for The Huntington in Pasadena. The Huntington is a world class research library, collection of art, and a vast array of fantastic gardens. Kongo had not been here before. With so much to see the monkey had to prioritize his explorations and decided to check out the Chinese and Japanese gardens and then see what else there was time for.

An Entrance to the Chinese Walled Chinese Garden

Chinese gardens are very different from most Japanese gardens. Although the Japanese started out copying the Chinese, eventually they evolved their own garden philosophy.  Chinese gardens are secret places, walled off from outside eyes and are designed to keep views inside. Chinese gardens tend to be fairly large, have natural water features like lakes and ponds, and display plants that have symbolic meanings. Garden architecture has swooping, hipped roofs and viewing areas to appreciate the beauty of the landscape.



Everywhere you look are lakes, fantastically eroded rocks, and bridges that enable you to be drawn into the ambiance of the place. Kongo particularly liked the many “moon gates” that provide unique framing to see into the garden. Chinese gardens must have four essential elements: plants, rocks, water, and architecture which includes pavilions and courtyards.





Walls with undulating tiles and irregular windows seal off the Chinese Garden from the rest of the landscape. Visitors can catch glimpses of the beauty beyond the walls through the individually unique windows — no two are alike.


After a few days of heavy rains the pond is muddy but still casts reflections from the surrounding shrines and trees.


An eating pavilion provides framed views of the lake and gardens.


Chinese don’t do bonsai. Instead they do penjing where the goal is to highlight a miniature landscape instead of a single plant.


Everywhere you walk there are convenient frames that provide the perfect view of a garden, bridge, shrine, or rock.




The Japanese garden Covers a small valley.




Nothing in a Japanese garden is left to chance. Where a Chinese garden spawns and imitates nature, a Japanese garden highlights the aesthetic beauty of individual elements. Trees and shrubs are trimmed to present a simple, pleasing look. Water reflects garden elements. The structures are simpler with more straight lines than the swoopy hip roofs in a Chinese garden.


Granddaughter surveys the garden.


The falling leaves of these trees created a golden carpet in a Japanese courtyard.


Walking back from the gardens let you through the Rose Garden and this statue of the Goddess of Love, Venus, and her sidekick cupid. Roses were flowers to express the emotion of love.



Scattered across the grounds are various buildings that house the library, art galleries, and areas where research is ongoing.


In the Orbit Pavilion (below) interpretive sounds from satellites passing overhead are generated that permeate through the metal structure in a eerie yet soothing way.


Naturally granddaughter needed ice-cream after her trek through the gardens.

And you know what happens when you eat your ice cream too fast, right?  She said it best: “Uh oh, I got a brain freeze…”

Brain Frozen

The Huntington is a great way to spend the day. Check its website for daily shows. Free garden tours are available along with plenty of options to eat.


Travel safe.  Have fun!


9 thoughts on “Exploring The Huntington’s Gardens

  1. It’s been a really long time since we paid a visit…last time was a quick visit to have tea at the Tea Room for Mother’s Day. Will definitely need to check it out again and see this beautiful place in person. Great photos and essay!