Saturday, July 30, 2011

Restore Your Senses In The Huntington Library Gardens


                I ran away recently.   Seriously, you know--that "fight or flight" response to stress. When life and relationships can be a bit too much?  Unexpectedly, I packed a small bag, got in my car and drove.  A little road trip, all by myself, from San Diego to one of my favorite gardens-- the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, just a few miles from Los Angeles.

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
                        --Marcus Tullius Cicero (Ancient Roman lawyer, statesman, 106 BC - 43 BC)

Last time I visited the Huntington, the immense collection of camellias were in bloom and the Japanese garden was stunning.  This time I was able to enjoy the rose and herb gardens.

Take a little stroll with me.

Surrounded by roses, I could feel my shoulders soften and drop down a notch away from my neck.


I arrived at the end of the day and although I only had about one hour to spend here it didn't take long before I began feeling calm and peaceful. Walking under the rose covered arbors, I could feel the angst I was experiencing from the previous days slip away. 

Just breathe.

"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses."
--Hanna Rion

Meet the "George Burns" rose.

This is "Apricot Candy."   Eye candy for sure, and the petals--so soft to the touch.

The herb garden certainly appeals to taste and smell.

The statuary here is abundant, temporarily transporting our imaginations to another time and place,

and an invitation to sit in a cool shady spot--a chance to hear the birds in the trees and perhaps meditate and clear the mind.

A wise person told me it was okay to run away sometimes.  The Huntington Gardens is a beautiful spot to retreat for a while.  Of course, I didn't solve any problems while I was there but I did feel restored.

 It was everything I needed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Calhoun Mansion Garden Is A Gem

           The garden at The Calhoun Mansion was a happy discovery for me on my recent trip to Charleston.  A gem. I felt like a kid stumbling into a secret garden I never expected to find that day in June.  For me, that's always the best kind of garden to visit.

 My photograph hardly does justice to this Victorian mansion, which was built between 1870 and 1876 and named after Vice President John Calhoun.  This is an artist's rendering:

          I was touring The Battery, as it is known in Charleston, and admiring all the Southern style mansions with fabulous piazzas (aka, balconies).  So, I was awestruck when I wandered into this gated property at 16 Meeting Street and to the right of the entrance I see this calling me over:

          Wow. What's this? Where am I? My heart started to beat faster and I felt a sudden bolt of energy despite the long walk in the neighborhood in heat of the day. I was instantly intrigued.

I'm a pushover for clipped boxwood, topiary and statuary. The green boxwoods and trees against the clean, white piazzas is striking. From here the garden beckons toward the piazzas on the side of the mansion, and into another garden room.

Here, the water features take over. First, the small water lily pond then a small pool, which does have a cooling effect on this warm Charleston day.

More clipped hedges, lots of trees including cypress and palms, a bench to sit down and to soak it all in and then, at the end of the yard, another room with a fountain surrounded by wisteria covered columns.

This is definitely the spot for photographs, with the columns and vine-covered arbors as perfect picture frames.

This garden is packed with plants, shrubs, trees, statuary, water features, brick pathways and somehow everything fits beautifully. The design is quite formal and it feels like a garden I might find at a European palace, perhaps in Italy or France.

Though not a royal palace this 35-room mansion was used as a luxury hotel after the first World War. Today it is a 'house museum' and I must confess, I actually didn't visit inside the mansion. This Southern gem of a garden, however, is a must see.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Southern Garden Of Love

I was recently in Charleston, South Carolina to shop wedding venues for my niece. It was a steamy afternoon in June and we wandered into this understated entry

of The Gardens at Middleton Place. We found a sprawling garden with large expanse of lawn, grand vistas and magnificent trees.  Just thinking about it and looking at the photographs of the Gardens now, about three weeks later, stirs up the same feeling of serenity that I experienced while I was there.

Just beyond this pond the garden opens up

and we watch as the party planners are arranging chairs for a wedding taking place here later in the day.  And what June bride wouldn't want wedding photos with this stunning backdrop? It turns out Charleston is a popular destination wedding site. Since we are already in the planning stages of my niece's wedding in 2012, we imagined beautiful photos the bride could pose for in this garden. But, however gorgeous this garden is--we also noted the temperature: upper 90's. We wondered what dress the bride might wear in this heat. Then we decided it would be a great party favor--and a necessity--to hand beautiful Spanish fans to wedding guests as they arrived.

But back to the quiet and open expanse of land here--all 65 acres. This is a National Historic Landmark and believed to be the oldest landscaped gardens in the United States.

The live oak trees here are remarkable and seem to be everywhere, along with the stately and large magnolia trees.  The massive branches of these magnificent trees spread out horizontally and drip with Spanish moss.   Again, we found ourselves dreaming of the photo opportunities for the bride and groom.

The garden does have some secluded areas with just a touch of statuary, minimal yet elegant touches nonetheless.

This small cove provides shady relief from the sun, and this lovely lady amidst the blue hydrangeas set off another flurry of camera shots from our little group. 

Our garden respite over, we climb into the steamy car, blast the AC, and pop in the special CD playlist designed to keep us in the mood because, after all,  we're "going to the chapel and we're gonna get married, going to the chapel of love."
I think I found my chapel of love in this grand Southern garden.