Friday, January 25, 2013

The Huntington Library [Cactus Love]

* all photos in this post were taken with my camera phone, hence the slight fuzziness... No fancy camera on this trip!

There are a few things I've promised myself that I'd do in 2013 besides "get healthy" and "fit in my clothes again." Primary objective: find balance, learn to resist temptations (constant battle of being a human), and focus on what matters most.

For the first time since I left college almost five years ago, I am living within 30 minutes to an hour (with Los Angeles traffic, it's a crap shoot) from my sister and numerous friends. This gives me incentive to leave my one-square-mile of comfort, and explore, explore, explore.

I admit: I'm not the biggest Los Angeles fan. It's nothing personal; I'm just a NorCal girl, and there's a long-standing grudge that the areas have against one another. (If you're not from the area, just imagine two different states, or Manhattan and Brooklyn. Same region, perhaps, but there's a clear separation between us.)

Despite that, there are endless things to do down here, and so much I don't know about the area. I've resolved -- along with Jon, Kim, and our friend Shannon -- to see more of it, and really take advantage of all this county (and Orange County, too) has to offer.

We started last Saturday with the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Really, it isn't much of a library. I didn't know this until about two week ago, when Kim was talking to me about how amazing it would be to get married here... until we noticed a little problem in the form of a jaw-dropping price tag.

Hmph. No matter.

There are umpteen reasons to spend the day at the Huntington Library, but the main reason I wanted to go was to see the Desert Garden, most of which was planted around 1905 when the property was built, with some cactus being fully mature when it was transplanted on the grounds.

It was incredible.

We first stopped at a greenhouse perched above the garden, where a small, public, coffee-and-donuts reception was happening. It looked to be a showcase of cactus and succulents, many of which were for sale. I recognized a lot of them, but some were downright bizarre.

The left image is of an agave attenuata, a favorite of mine. I think Shannon was pretty smitten with it too; we're both on a prowl for one to come live on our balconies. The picture on the right is of one succulent planted in a hanging planter, while another "volunteer" grows from the bottom. Two totally separate plants. According to a worker there, it surprised everyone years ago when it randomly started to grow through the hole in the planter.

And then there's these ones, which look like Muppets.

Basically the coolest plants ever, amirite?

Then, we walked. We weaved all around the bunches of colorful succulents and giant cactus. We searched for the strangest, sharpest, prettiest ones. It was amazing thinking about how so many of these cacti had been alive for over 100 years.

Kim really likes pokey things.

There are over a dozen gardens, small and large, at the Huntington, but we spent the most time in the Desert Garden. It was also the start of our day there, so we were full of energy and excited to be outside enjoying such beautiful plants -- right in the middle of fancy Pasadena.

And the weather was perfect. Maybe 78ยบ F or so. The sky was clear, the sun was hot, and the air was crisp and cool.

This is January in California, folks.

Fun fact #1: the Huntington Desert Garden is home to the world's tallest Yucca filifera at around 60 feet tall.

The guide was pretty darn proud of it.

Fun fact #2: The asparagus-like stalk growing from this agave plant is the first sign that -- after it has bloomed -- the agave will die. From the blooms, thousands of baby plants will be born and begin to grow around the base of the dead agave trunk. This article talks about the agave blooming process, and it's kinda rad.

Unpreventable plant death. Cool, huh?

We spent the entire day walking around the Huntington property, which included multiple gardens and the main art gallery (the old Huntington residence), where I spent most of my time admiring old chairs and tables.

Oh, and George Romney (the British painter, not father to Bozo the Clown) is my new favorite old-timey portrait artist. This one, called "Emma Hart in a Straw Hat," was my favorite.

I'm looking forward to more adventures around Los Angeles, especially as the weather gets better.

Any recommendations for places to check out down in SoCal? Hiking/camping spots, museums, parks, restaurants/bars... we want to do, see, and eat everything. It's just how we roll.

* all images property of The Sleepy Peach


  1. So fun! Love all those cacti. The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena is really lovely. Also 21 Choices is there which is BOMB frozen yogurt.

    1. Thanks, Shannon! Those will be going on my list. :) Museum + frozen yogurt sounds like the perfect outing for spring!

      P.S. Your blogging has been sorely missed this last 1+ years. Are you ever coming back?