I know, it’s been a long time since my last post! I’ve spent most of this past week settling into a new place. Unpacking mountains of boxes, setting up new accounts, re-editing our landscaping plans to be drought-friendly…it’s been exhausting and exciting at the same time.
Having finally come up with a landscaping plan, I can now fully appreciate the time and artistry that goes into the garden designs at The Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens in San Marino. I’ve been frequenting this LA landmark for ages, and love it that much more each time I visit. It’s a place where the lifestyle of tea merges with nature to come full circle. The Huntington Library is over 200 acres large, but I usually start each visit with a trip over to the English Rose Garden. The best times to visit are during the months of May and June, when the roses are in full bloom. I so appreciate the time and care that goes into labeling each and every variety, like the tag on this gorgeous Gemini variety of hybrid tea rose, so named because its fragrance is reminiscent of black tea.
There are many things I love about the Huntington Library, but ironically their Rose Garden Tea Room isn’t one of them. The venue serves a buffet-style tea service daily, but I find the presentation and decor to be bit lacking, especially when compared to gardens themselves.
If you’re in dire need of a tea break (who isn’t, right?), the tea and scones are pretty good. Try to pick a seat that overlooks the charming herb garden just outside. I’m hoping that the Tea Room gets renovated sometime soon…if and when they do, I’ll be the first to visit!
After the Rose Garden, walk a few steps west and you’ll find yourself at the entrance for the Japanese Gardens. You can’t miss it, because it’s flanked with lion dog statues, otherwise known as komainu, meant to ward off evil spirits.
A passageway of descending stairs brings you into the heart of the Japanese garden. There’s a moment of suspense when I walk down these steps, because I’m always taken back by the magical scenery at the end of the tunnel.
If this garden looks familiar, it’s because it’s been used in a countless number of films, including Memoirs of a Geisha. Beyond the Japanese House seen here is a Ceremonial Teahouse and tea garden, built during renovations in 2012 . There is also a collection of bonsai and a zen garden, otherwise known as a dry garden.
After the Japanese Garden, my next stop is usually the Chinese Garden. A northerly stroll along a thicket of bamboo trees (which some visitors have unceremoniously carved into!) and you’ll notice some white walls with window cut outs, indicating that you’ve arrived.
In the Chinese Garden you’ll find the architecture to be much more intricate than that found in the Japanese Garden. My favorite features are the lattice shaped doorways and stone floor patterns. If you passed up on the snacks back at the Tea Room in the Rose Garden, this is a great time to try something different!
The Chinese Garden Tea House is the ideal place to sit back with a cup of Floral Ti Kuan Yin, China Gold Tip, or Flowing Fragrance Oolong–a tea named after the garden itself. I can’t think of a better place to enjoy a light meal (spring rolls!) with cup of Chinese tea than in this Garden of Flowing Fragrance, or Liu Fang Yuan.
This Chinese Garden holds very special memories for me. Back in 2009, I actually took my engagement photos here. I love how the space makes rich, ancient traditions accessible to us here in the heart of a city as metro and modern as LA.
The lotus are in full bloom this sunny time of year. When I see them popping out of the water, I’m reminded of the book, No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist teacher and author.
Peace, happiness, and joy is possible during the time I drink my tea. -Thich Nhat Hanh
And speaking of books…any trip to the Huntington must be followed up by a visit to their newly renovated gift shop! I remember the days when the shop was small, interesting, and good but not awesome like it is now.
In the market for a whimsical blown glass teapot to wow your guests? They’ve got it!
Want a vintage chandelier made of teacups and spoons? Not a problem!
Need to find the perfect patch of grass for a summer picnic? You can find it here!
There are a large number of books about tea culture at the shop, including this one co-authored by tea expert (and my friend), Bruce Richardson. I regularly use The New Tea Companion as a reference for teas of all kinds, and love the comprehensive wet vs. dry tea leaf visuals found in this guide. Tea, book, and art lovers beware, because for those of you not in the area, they’ve now created a convenient online store. This place is right up there with my other favorite gift shop, Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, but I actually think it’s even better.
Thanks for following me along on my recent visit to The Huntington Library! I know this was a long post, but being born and raised in LA, this landmark holds a special place in my heart. If you’re a tea lover and visiting the area, you’ll definitely want to set aside at least a solid half-day to visit. Whatever your tea style is–modern, vintage, multicultural–I’m sure you’ll find something fascinating here.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, & Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA 91108
***Free Days are the 1st Thursday of the month, with advance tickets!