Mediterranean plants from all over the world
Showcased in the garden are a broad range of drought-tolerant plants that can thrive in Southern California—from native plants you might see hiking in the nearby San Gabriel mountains to unusual specimens from far-off areas that share a Mediterranean climate, such as parts of Australia, South Africa, Chile, and southern Europe.
Visitors arrive from the parking lot under soft, dappled shade provided by more than a dozen large California pepper trees (Schinus molle) and then enter a courtyard seating area sheltered by four stately podocarpus (Podocarpus gracilior), mature trees relocated from elsewhere on the property). A long allée of fruitless olives (Olea europaea'Wilsonii') marks to the Education and Visitor Center's formal entrance.
On either side of the allée are "hedge rooms" that enclose benches and tables, delineated by dwarf myrtle (Myrtus communis 'Compacta') that will grow to be about three feet tall, lending the hedge rooms a sense of intimacy. Over time, oak trees like the locally native Engelmann oak (Quercus engelmannii) and Cork oak (Quercus suber, a European native) will reach their full, majestic size and help temper even the most extreme summer heat. (Engelmann oaks grow to 30 feet or more and cork oaks grow twice as tall.)
Understory plants add a burst of year-round color—as well as wacky shapes. It's hard to be more dramatic than the showy Australian native Grevillea 'Moonlight', with its bright white blooms. Native plants from the American southwest also add vibrant hues to the garden's palette, such as Hesperaloe parviflora, a desert plant with intense, red flowers that hummingbirds find irresistible.
The Rose Hills Foundation Garden Court, a glass-domed area, is one spot where a little water goes a long way. A fretted rooftop and huge fans drop the temperature a few degrees, creating a microclimate that supports lush, exotic plants. Here you'll find palms shading tropical cycads and anthuriums and, climbing the court's columns, the flowering Cup of Gold Vine (Solandra maxima) and Easter Lily Vine (Beaumontia grandiflora).
At the end of the olive-lined allée, the garden transitions to the historic core of The Huntington property. A Celebration Garden greets visitors with a gentle slope lined with terraced flowered beds and a shallow stream of recirculated water that empties into a rectangular pool. Throughout the Celebration Garden, flowers bloom in a riot of colors. You'll find the intense blues of Canary Island lavender (Lavandula canariensis) and Otto Quast Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas 'Otto Quast'), as well as a rainbow of yarrow, penstemon, kangaroo paw, aeonium, and California poppy. Meanwhile, cheerful, elegant Lemon Queen lavender cotton (Santolina neapolitana'Lemon Queen') demonstrates how at home a Mediterranean native plant can be in California.