The Chinese Garden

Craggy Limestone Rock from Lake Tai

Craggy Limestone Rock from Lake Tai in China

Today Martine and I visited the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. As usual, we started in the Chinese Garden, with its strangely impressive rocks such as the free-standing one in the above photograph. With Martine’s persistent tendonitis (or whatever it is), she seems to do better with light exercise, especially on a sunny day. We also put in about two or three miles of walking on the extensive grounds of the gardens.

The most spectacular gardens are the Chinese and adjoining Japanese gardens, together with the cactus garden and the lily ponds. The rose garden was still very much in bloom, though the herb garden—a particular favorite with Martine—is undergoing extensive replanting with the change of the seasons.

We are members of the Huntington, allowing us to go there any time for free.



With Martine at Huntington

My First REAL Weekend After Tax Season

My First REAL Weekend After Tax Season

After the beginning of February, Martine and I really didn’t go places. We pretty much stayed at home, me to psychologically prep myself for those horrible Monday mornings in tax season, after having worked both Saturday and Sunday, Martine to endure. Then, no sooner did tax season end than I found myself in the emergency room at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital with an Addisonian Crisis. This weekend, we finally went somewhere, to the Huntington Gardens and Museum, of which we are members.

It’s a good thing I wore my hiking shoes, because we put in several miles walking through the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, not to mention the herb and cactus garden. And in between, we saw the rose garden and relaxed by the lily ponds, looking at ducks and turtles.

Afterwards, I took Martine to her favorite restaurant in Southern California, Sevan Chicken in Glendale at the corner of Glenoaks and Kensington. It’s not particularly famous, but it has the best Armenian rotisserie chicken around, beating even Zankou Chicken for the honors.

Tomorrow, Martine travels to Sacramento for a few days to see her dentist and visit the grave of her mother and brother. I wanted to make sure she had her favorite dark meat rotisserie chicken before setting out.



Snowballs from Hell

Mammillaria geminispina

Mammillaria geminispina

There they were, looking like snowballs Martine and I could pick up and toss at each other. But they were not snowballs, but a kind of cactus from Mexico called Mammillaria geminispina, which is native to the states of Veracruz and Hidalgo. The little red flowers make them look even more innocent and pick-up-able. They join the Cholla family of cacti, especially the notorious “Teddy Bear” Cholla with its fuzzy look and barbed spines.

The Mammillaria at Huntington Gardens in San Marino, California, are just one of thousands of reasons why the cactus garden there is one of the best in the world. Just when you think you know what a cactus should look like, you see specimens from Bolivia or Namibia that take you back to Square One.

According to a sign near the Mammillaria, “It forms large mounds, a strategy which retains moisture beneath the plant and discourages grazing. Its dense white spines reflect heat.” And, if anyone wants to pick them up, they are welcome to do so. The First Aid Station is only a third of a mile away.


The Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden at Huntington Library and Gardens

The Japanese Garden at Huntington Library and Gardens

Closed for over a year for a $6.8 million overhaul, the Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, California, has recently marked its centenary. It had reopened in April looking as stunning as ever, with its koi ponds, ornamental trees, its moon bridge, traditional Japanese house, and scattered strategically-placed temple-like structures.

Now with the addition of the equally spectacular Chinese Garden, the Huntington remains one of the primo tourist attractions in Southern California. Sometimes, I wonder why people visiting here make the needless trek to Hollywood with its crumbling Walk of Fame and decaying footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. My vote for the best tourist attractions in the Southland are, along with the Huntington, Descanso Gardens in La Cañada-Flintridge and the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia.

Sometimes I think that people from out of town who dislike Southern California do so mainly because they have been badly informed.


By the Lily Ponds

Watchful Heron

Watchful Heron

While we were spending some four hours at the Huntington Gardens on Saturday, we spent an inordinate amount of time at the two large lily ponds. Not only did we see a heron (above), but also Canada geese with two ungainly, very adolescent-looking goslings, and a mother duck with seven little ducklings. Then, too, there was a supersized turtle and a whole lot of koi.

Below are the goslings, both of which have their heads tucked away in “You can’t see us” mode:

Two Goslings

Two Goslings

For the better part of an hour, the goslings sat at our feet while we occupied front-row seats at a strategically located bench. Sure, Martine tired herself out; but we both had a good time.

If you’re interested in seeing all the pictures I uploaded to Yahoo! Flickr, click here and scroll about 80% of the way down to photo DSCN3853, where Saturday’s pictures begin. As yet, there are no captions.

The Luminescent World of Cacti

The Cactus Garden at the Huntington Library and Gardens

The Cactus Garden at the Huntington Library and Gardens

Although she is still struggling to get a good night’s sleep, Martine wanted us to go yesterday to the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. So off we went. We usually take the same route through the gardens, ending up in the large and rather spectacular cactus garden on the eastern edge of the park. It is Martine’s favorite, and for me shares top billing with the lily ponds (about which more in a future posting).

There is something otherworldly about cacti. They catch the light in a certain way and play with it. The result, as with the cholla cacti above, is eerily luminescent. One feels a desire to hug the thorny plants as if they were overstuffed teddy bears. Ah, but the thorns of the cholla are barbed like tiny fishhooks and are difficult to remove. Beautiful, but deadly.

Part of the fascination that Martine and I feel wth the cactus garden is that in the slanting light of late afternoon—and it is always the last stop of our round tour of the gardens—the cacti have an almost supernatural look to them. One result is that my photos of the cacti are usually the best pictures of the lot.