Week Two: El Niño Report from the Huntington Botanical Gardens

Another week of “rain watch” at the Huntington Botanical Gardens. It’s raining tonight in the Bay Area, so I’ll take delight in that.  I’d probably be disappointed in the poor Southern California showing, but walking the beautiful gardens and enjoying the warmth and sunshine wasn’t too hard to take!

The colors were calling me!

I have so many areas in my home garden just begging for some serious attention.  My goal in times of extreme water shortage has been focused on keeping things alive. Goals beyond that have been limited.

As I walk the Huntington grounds I take notes on what catches my eye and think about what might translate well to give my personal garden a fresh face.


This “orange in January” beauty really impressed me. Leonotis menthifolia, sometimes called Mint Lion’s Ear, is drought tolerant and a perennial in our climate. While I studied the flowers I got a nice surprise.

Discovering this showy plant is also a pollinator definitely inspires me to learn more.

In the summer months I first noticed this Chondropetalum elephantinum.


This is a rush like plant from South Africa with papery bracts at each joint. In the summertime they took on a spectacular copper color. It’s also drought tolerant and I was pleased to see that it is still quite pretty in January. It grows 4-6 feet upright and would be a tremendous backdrop to some of my other plants.

I found one more succulent I will need to add to my growing collection.


I have many Echeveria, but I do not have this striking red-edged Echeveria subrigida. It’s common name is “Fire and Ice” and whether staged as a single rosette in a pot or massed together for a larger spread of color, the result would be dramatic and appealing.

Enough dreaming about making garden changes. It’s still only January, and I am going to need to do a lot of garden bed preparation before I bring any new plants home.

Time to walk over to one of my very favorite areas– the Chinese Garden. There is so much I could tell you about this beautiful spot, but today I will just share a little of the view.


It’s such a peaceful and contemplative spot. Do you see the massive clump of lotus pods in the bottom corner of the photo? These will be beautiful in the spring, but like them in their pod state.



These photos represent a fraction of the space dedicated to the Chinese garden, but since it’s one of my favorite places to just sit and drink a cup of tea, I know I’ll share more throughout this year.

I think this winter garden is one where the seasonal changes are more evident. Today I noticed the numerous deciduous trees and even the shrubs looked a little bare. The water features and beautiful architectural detail were the focal point and it was truly tranquil.

I’ll be back to the Huntington Botanical Garden next week…rain or shine! I’ll have to think about what area to share next.


Walking in a garden is one way I shake off stress. Do you have a favorite public or private garden where you can always access a sense of calm? Maybe your own garden is where you recharge your batteries.

If it’s too cold in your area to consider walking in a garden, magazines and seed catalogs can be relaxing while you plan for spring. Whatever your preference, do find some time to exhale and breathe lighter–isn’t that the purpose of a weekend?

I would enjoy hearing about your plans to “de-stressify,” so do share!

45 thoughts on “Week Two: El Niño Report from the Huntington Botanical Gardens

  1. Just beautiful! Your pictures make me realize how much I miss the Huntington and the general beauty of Southern California in January. I’m also a little biased to the Huntington as that was our first date ;). We’re going to have to wait for a couple months to see any color anywhere here in Kansas City…right now it’s a sea of naked branches everywhere you go. It’s beautiful in its own way. And if that’s a part of experiencing the beauty of four seasons, I’ll take it! 🙂 Tell the Huntington “hello” for me!

    • That’s right! The Huntington will always be your special place, Stacey! I am so glad to hear you say that you see the beauty in winter. I really believe that every place has something quite special. I know that snow and freezing weather is hard to get used to when it’s not a part of your experience, but the stark landscape is beautiful to experience in its own way. I think we really can learn a lot by appreciating the natural beauty wherever we are. ox

      • That’s so true! This week we had two days with falling snow during daytime hours (it usually snows over the night here) and it was just beautiful…something very magical about it 🙂

  2. I love the hummingbird shot! They are so cute and so fun to watch. Bonus that they are attracted to such beautiful flowers! That’s one of my favorite things about California, it’s colorful year-round. 🙂

    • How nice to hear from you, Kristy. I am delighted, given your current schedule and whereabouts, you’ve surprised me! 🙂 I am always so delighted when I see a hummingbird, and I’m really hoping to plant some new varieties of plants that will bring even more into my home garden!

    • It is therapeutic, Charlie. The Huntington residence is on the grounds of the library and I like to pretend I live there! LOL! Even though just outside the grounds is a very active city, while there it is peaceful and very quiet. I do seek out the tranquility from time to time! 🙂

  3. Fabulous capture of the Hummingbird! 🙂 I walked peacefully alongside you, very content to linger in the sunshine, Debbie. De-stress? It’s often writing blog posts 🙂 Happy weekend!

    • I was really pleasantly surprised by the hummingbird, Jo. I was focusing on the bees when I actually heard him before I saw him! I can see how going over all your beautiful photographs while you’re putting a blog post together would indeed be relaxing, Jo. Thank you for coming along with me on my walk this week. 🙂

    • Of course! Your biking must be an incredible way to de-stress, Colleen! I suppose that winter makes that a little more challenging, but I’ll bet you look for opportunities!

      • Oh we just had a wonderful three days. Went to W.Virginia. For no reason other than to get away. Sadly our biking has decreased as demands increase. But we do what we can. It was grey and cold (but I like that kind of weather!) and it was perfect. Post, of course, tomorrow. 🙂

  4. Jo brought me here to look at your Huntington posts as I have a flower/garden blog and I am running a ‘challenge’ on it this year. January is the month for winter gardens, so your post would fit perfectly if you feel like linking to mine. https://smallbluegreenflowers.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/garden-photography-january/

    As for the Huntington, I first heard of this garden from a blogger I met when I first started my own blog, back in 2013 when she recorded the flowers in the garden for a whole year. She usually posted photos of the flower(s) not the view, so it is really nice to come here and see the garden as a whole. And, like you, I find a garden the best place to destress and I have so many I love, it is hard to name a favourite. Love your humming-bird, that was a lucky shot!
    Jude xx

    • Jo had mentioned linking to your new challenge, Jude, and I just wasn’t sure that I fit in or had the flexibility. I’ve never followed a challenge and haven’t done much linking, but I really appreciate your encouragement and I’d like to do so. Thank you. I have wanted to share more from the Huntington and just recently decided that I’d go once a week, using the El Niño conditions as a bit of excuse. It will be fun to share and to be introduced to some other gardens as well. Thank you so much for giving me a little nudge in a positive direction! Debra 🙂

      • It’s not a challenge in the sense that you have to post regularly, more about sharing posts. The theme changes monthly so there may be months when you don’t have anything to share, but if you do I’d love to see your post and it is a good way for others to see them too 🙂
        Jude xx

  5. I’m confident you would enjoy the winter gardens of our area … well, as long as you were wearing long-underwear, a warm coat & hat, plus warm gloves. Nonetheless, of your pics, Echeveria caught my attention.

    • Trees do shed their leaves, Kate, but I think the “bare season” just isn’t very long! Usually by the time the Sycamore tree next door loses all her leaves, it’s a very short time before I begin to notice a little green! It’s been much colder already this year, though, and I suspect that may change the seasonal pattern a little. It might be nice for a change!

  6. I almost went to the Morton Arboretum today. I was at a meeting, about halfway there, and have been needing to recharge my internal batteries. 🙂 It is so very damp, though not all that cold, today, so, I wandered on home instead. Even the shortest walk in nature works for me, but, not today. I’m sipping a cup of tea and about to put on a BBC podcast of Mrs. Miniver.

    What a wondrous surprise that was to see a hummingbird at the Leonotis menthifolia. Wow! Don’t you just love these little gifts of nature that come our way?

    What a lovely post this was for me to read this afternoon, Debra. I can’t wait to see what else you find at the Huntington.

    • I had been watching the bees, Penny, when all of a sudden the little hummingbird appeared! I was so surprised. This time of year I don’t see quite as many as other seasons, so he really pleased me! The podcast of Mrs. Miniver sounds like a treat! I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I hadn’t really scoured the BBC to see what I may be missing. Thank you for that! As for the Morton, you’ve surprised me before with some of your visits when the weather looked pretty cold, so I’m quite sure you’ll be making your way there again before long. 🙂

      • I wonder if the hummingbirds have started migrating. You really have a great shot here. I love Mrs. Miniver; the movie and all the stories that became the movie. It is on the BBC site, which another blogger led me to, but, now can’t find it. I hope to get to the Morton when this cold spell breaks. Brrrr 2 degrees this am – and that’s not with the windchill factor (as if it wasn’t cold enough). Enjoy the rest of the week end (what’s a week end, says Lady Violet).

  7. Despite the bare trees it does indeed look very green there. I like the look of the Chinese garden and the idea of sitting and sipping tea there! Your hummingbird photo is great – beautiful creatures. We have a little snow on the ground here, but I will be gardening in my head as I plan to catch up on some gardening magazines this weekend!

    • I love the idea of gardening in your head! That’s what it is at times, isn’t it? I am glad you commented on the hummingbird, Cathy. I am really hoping to attract more hummingbirds to my garden, and that’s going to be the primary emphasis of the changes I’m hoping to make. I’m very inspired at the moment, and just need to keep my momentum going. I do thin that gardening in my head is easier than the real work ahead of me! 🙂

  8. Very nice – felt like I was walking along with you! Loved the yellow-orange-red-green plants! I especially appreciated you catching the bee & hummingbird!! Isn’t the Huntington an amazing gift to all of us? Especially nice to see how many people & other bloggers enjoyed your post & photos!

    Thank you for your friendship & sharing time with me! And for understanding my trial with the LA Animal Control and getting my furry kids back! To prove how Beau is the naughty boy – arriving home I look down the driveway seeing tall shadows under the gate. Hmmm- yup it was Beau! He had pushed the iron and chain link gate open and squeezed himself through the lower latch ! Not the whole gate mind you just a small triangle at the concrete pad! Yikes! I may have to rename him Houdini !!

    And let’s go again so you can update me on your place life in our Mother Earth. Much love, Beth

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Oh no, Beth! What are you going to do with Mr. Beau? I think renaming him Houdini might be VERY fitting! Isn’t it nice we live so close to the Huntington and can pop in easily? That would be a very nice place for us to rendez-vous! 🙂

  9. I’ve always enjoyed strolls through gardens, Debra, and yours would be one that I’m sure that I’d enjoy. Now that we’re in the middle of winter, my walks are confined to a couple conservatories but I will walk the grounds if we ever get above freezing again. Coincidentally, they’ve just opened a park not but 2 blocks from here. I’ve yet to go there but intend to. I want to see if dogs on leash are allowed. It would be a great place for Max to stretch his legs and I certainly could use the exercise.

    • I do hope that the new park is welcoming to Max! I know there are some beautiful conservatories in the Chicago area. One of my blogging friends mentions The Morton quite frequently and shares photos. It’s fun for me to see other gardens, even if only in blog photos, so I have enjoyed sharing the Huntington. It’s always interesting to me to see what our differing zones can support. You reference your freezing temperatures, but at least it doesn’t sound like you’re having the extremes of the last two years. I’m not sure I could be coaxed out of the house at all! 🙂

    • We even had a little rain today and I enjoy every drop! My personal garden is a little neglected these days, but I’m so glad I can enjoy the more spacious and beautifully tended private gardens nearby! I’m also very pleased to share them with you, Perpetua! 🙂

  10. I enjoyed the flowers and garden designs in both your recent Huntington posts – reminds me that I need to go to Kew – possibly during half-term! My garden is overgrown – I like to say that it’s good for wild life but I think I really must put in some effort to tidy it up this spring 😉

    • I have the same talk with myself sometimes, Martin. I will realize that my garden is needing a lot of work and I’ll tell myself that it’s just very healthy and a lush environment. I’d love to visit Kew sometime in my life! By al means–GO!

  11. Yes, I agree getting lost (in thoughts of course) in the garden or having anything to drink in a garden especially the Huntington Gardens is on my list of being present and releasing any tension. I wonder if anyone ever was left behind in the gardens after closing…it wouldn’t be to difficult since the grounds our vast.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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