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I recently blogged about the Gardens but there was so much more to tell you and I hope this will entice you to visit if you have not recently had the experience.  This is the perfect time of year, everything lush and coming into bloom & blossom.  The air is heavy laden with fragrance and everywhere you cast your eyes there is a wonder to behold.

Danielle Rudeen, Administrative Assistant to Jim Folsom the Director of the Gardens and my angel throughout the years, was so kind and thoughtful to allow me to park behind the Ikebana House (where our Brush painting classes used to be held before all the renovations).  I met Ann Richardson there and as I mentioned before, Ann is the retired Horticultural Superintendent of the Public Gardens.  I can see how greatly Ann is missed by the warm greetings she continually received throughout the day.  Ann came down from California City to show me the exquisite, newly restored Japanese Garden area and I could not have had a better tour guide.


There are new walkways to the back entrance of the Ikebana House  and here’s Ann on one of them.  Special heartfelt thanks to Ann not only for this great day but for helping me identify all that I’m about to show you.


Another walkway…..015

More work to be done….017

Around the corner we met Ann Horton, a member of the Ikebana class that makes floral arrangements each week for the Japanese House.  There was a special exhibition that everyone was preparing for.

076 Prunus persica, flowering ornamental peach cuttings are taken from this exquisite tree by the members of the San Marino League’s women who belong to the Ikebono Flower Arranging School.  They make Ikebana flower arrangements for the Japanese House in the Japanese Garden area at the Huntington.


A stop for a warm greeting with gardener Ramiro Pinedo.  Ramiro has been with the Huntington for many years and worked with Ann on numerous projects over the years. Ann says he has “excellent skills in pruning!”


This is the path leading from the Ikebana House to the Japanese House.  Looking down in the distance you can see the  center of the Japanese Garden where the pond and moon bridge are located.


Every plant, shrub & tree is identified at the Huntington Botanical Gardens along with an accession number. This is typical signage: botanical name genus and species shown in italics, the common name, country of origin or the area of origin and the plant family and number.


Here’s a close-up of higo, ‘Shira-Ogi’ (the cultivar name, in this case – a Japanese name).


The ‘Shira-Ogi’ flowers on the plant.


‘Yamato Nishiki’ is a favorite higo flower. Higo Camellias are noted for their single petals, often with stripes and large show of stamens, often reaching a high count of 100 or more.  (Great fun for Brush painters to indicate.)  These flowers are greatly loved by the Japanese and are used as bonsai.


The buds of higo flowers are round and fat.  Buds of other camellia flowers are elongated, not round.


The sign for ‘Yamato Nishiki’ a favorite higo flower.


‘Yamato Nishiki’ flowers.


‘CAMELLIAS, A Curator’s Introduction to the Camelia Collection in the Huntington Botanical Gardens’ written by Ann is a treasured book in my library.


We were delighted to see Judi Danner, Overseer at the Huntington Art Collections, Library and Botanical Gardens.  Judi began as a garden docent and then photographed plants in the public gardens to present as “What’s in Bloom’” for the monthly meetings of garden docents.  Judi is a great supporter and is devoted to the progress of the Botanical Gardens.  Happily Judi was able to join us in our grand adventure!


Dolls are taken out once a year for ‘Girls Day’ and this is the signage for it.

036 Here is the platform display of dolls, carriages and other ornaments.  The dolls represent the emperor and is wife, and there are other figures including a horse drawn carriage.

037 One of the three rooms in the Japanese house.


This is a view into another room in the traditional Japanese House that has sliding doors.  These houses had no central heating.  The doors opened directly onto views of the garden.  The side of the house toward the street had solid walls.  No kitchen or bathroom was attached to the house.  The floors were covered with tatami mats, woven or reeds which necessitated the removal of shoes.  (So that’s why!)  On the left is a tokanoma or recessed alcove where 3 things were on display: a scroll, a flower arrangement, and a small art form or sculpted figure.

042 Roof line of the house with wooden roof shingles.

041 When you stand in front of the Japanese House you get this magnificent view of the garden.


Japanese wisteria in bloom near the Japanese House. (We’ll be painting Wisteria all month!)


Leaving the Japanese House you see  towards the zigzag bridge.  In Japanese lore, evil spirits only go in straight lines and cannot follow a zigzag path or bridge.  The steps lead to the entrance to the Karesansui garden, or dry raked garden.


As we circled around the zigzag path this charming ‘waterfall’ greeted us and I wanted you to hear it’s charming sound.

Looking towards the steps and the garden, the scree slope (granite rocks on the hillside).  Pruned Japanese black pine trees are behind us.


One of the several black pines on the slope that represent ‘dancing girls’.

047 This sign explains that this Huntington ‘karesansui’ was inspired by a famous garden called Daitokoji.  (Ann recommends we look it up on the web.)


Here’s Ann viewing the raked gravel that represents water.  The rocks possible represent mountains.  Water, rocks and plants are the 3 main components of a Japanese garden.  Here, in the Karesansui, these components are in the simplest form.  A raked garden is viewed from a traditional building in a Buddhist compound, such as an abbot’s living quarters.  The garden is viewed by sitting on the edge of a veranda from the building looking at the garden.  A garden of this sort cannot be seen in its entirety and you have to move your head to the right or the left to take in the whole scene. Perfect for contemplation.


Entering the bonsai area we see a ‘spirit screen’ that prevents evil spirits from entering the bonsai court.  The bonsai on the left is a California juniper.  Note the white trunk.  That part of the trunk is dead and only a narrow strip of live tissue (a brown ribbon on the right side of the trunk) feeds the top of the tree.  Amazing!  The bonsai on the right is a cork oak.  Cork oaks are from the Mediterranean and the bark from these trees is used for corks on wine bottles!


Judi and Ann are fascinated by this bonsai camellia with two colors of flowers, white and pink.


This gingko tree has unusual bark and is used in bonsai.


There is a running stream cutting across the middle on a diagonal in the bonsai extension court. Bonsai displays are on either side of this stream.


Here’s a bonsai juniper with that narrow strip of live bark that feeds the ends of the bonsai.  This is a cascade form, one of many forms or styles of bonsai here for viewing.


This bonsai forest of 11 trees is amazing as they all fit in this shallow pot! (suiban = container.) This was a favorite as I thought of our Landscape paintings.


Now it was on to the newly restored (in Japan) Japanese tea house.  This is the dedication stone for ‘The Arbor of Pure Breeze’.  This tea house was a gift to the Huntington as it was originally used as a  Buddhist temple in Pasadena.


Ann is walking on the path leading to the gate for the tea house garden (made of cypress wood).  Andrew is ready to greet her.  Once you pass this gate, the path consists of smaller rocks that are called ‘broken rice cakes’.


Robert Hori, a tea master of the Urasenki Tea Ceremony Organization provided a brilliant and thorough tour of the new tea house and garden.  His charming & courtly manner is entrancing.  Here Robert is explaining the material on the back side of the ‘rest stop’ or waiting stop for guests who then proceed to the tea ceremony at the tea house.  The back side is made of bark from the sugi, or Japanese Cryptomeria, a tree with many uses – from posts, furniture, to chopsticks.  Later, when Judi, Ann & I sat down at this stop Robert told us about the paper specially treated and used for the back wall.  This ‘smooth’ area would protect our delicate Kimono’s from being snagged on a rough surface.


Robert is describing in detail so many charming aspects of the approach to the tea house.


Andrew Mitchell has been a contractor with the Botanical Gardens for many years.  Andrew built the fence at the entrance to the Japanese Garden, renovated the moon bridge and old bonsai court, built the new extension bonsai court, and Japanese wooden signs to list just a few of his many accomplishments.  Andrew had joined us as the entrance to the tea house garden and was adding his expertise to that of Roberts.


Robert explained that before guests enter the tea house for the ceremony, they stop at this stone basin to ceremoniously wash their hands and rinse their mouth with water.

063 A view inside the tea house with 4 1/2 tatami mats (reed mats on the floor) and mulberry paper screens.


The tokanoma (alcove) with a scroll’s Japanese characters interpreted as ‘giving thanks for tea’. Also a simple flower arrangement with a red camellia.


A view from the other side.


This is the preparation room in the tea house.  It has no sink or running water.  Water is heated away from any wooden structure because in ancient Japan, there was a great fear (and possibility) that wooden structures – houses and temples- would burn down.  Water was brought inside in the urn and dishes were rinsed and the water fell through slabs (probably bamboo) into the ground below.


To the side of the tea house is a Japanese stone lantern and raked gravel.  (The lantern was donated to the Huntington and is originally from a World’s Fair…(possibly 1893).

This lantern and raked gravel are to remind visitors that the beaches on the Pacific coast are nearby.


Leaving the tea house.

071 On our way back, Andy is in the bamboo grove.  The bamboo is Phyllostachys aurea or fishing pole golden bamboo.  It’s a very invasive ‘running’ bamboo.

074 Judi, Andy, & Ann is that same bamboo grove.


Lunch with Judi & Ann in the Chinese Garden.

Thank you Judi for the delightful treat and the great pleasure of your company.


The most delicious shrimp rolls.  So fresh and the shrimp are in quite large pieces.


What a wonderful surprise….here’s Jessica Tang, my lovely Brush painting student and member of The San Marino League….. fantastic supporters of the Huntington.


A special note:  Ann, you have been such a precious friend through the years, we’ve shared so much but this was the topper.  Heartfelt thanks for your enormous help on the text for this blog.  I’m forever grateful.

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