Yesterday’s post concerning Pluto, Greco-Roman lord of the underworld contained a photograph of a beautiful two-thousand year old statue as well as one of the greatest and most harrowing of classical myths–but I am afraid it incorrectly tinted my recent trip to California with somber shades. So today I have decided to describe the roses from the Huntington Botanical Garden in San Marino (just outside Pasadena). This garden was once the home of a railroad baron who grabbed control of the steel rails which tied California together. He was a rare book collector (which I will get back to on Monday) and a lover of gardens.
All of the gardens at the Huntington were unreasonably lovely. The grounds contained both a large Japanese garden and a magnificent Chinese garden. I didn’t even get to see the world famous desert garden and I am still regretting it. However the real highlight for me was the rose garden. Pasadena styles itself as the city of roses. The city hosts a rose parade and some sort of huge rose bowl for college sportsmen. There is a reason for all of the fanfare—the roses everywhere in Pasadena and the towns nearby were beautiful. But the roses at the Huntington Botanical Garden were ineffably transcendentally gorgeous. It was the most splendid rose garden I have ever seen.
Here is the description of the garden as lifted wholesale from the Huntington website:
The three and a half acre rose garden was designed by Myron Hunt and first planted by William Hertrich as a display garden in 1908. In the 1970s, the garden was reorganized as a “collection garden” with more than 1,200 cultivars (approx 4,000 individual plants) arranged historically to trace the development of roses from ancient to modern times beginning with the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.
The entrance pathway leads to an 18th-century French stone tempietto and statue, “Love, the Captive of Youth,” encircled by “French Lace” roses. The beds north of the arbor next to the Shakespeare Garden have a paved walk, and feature Tea and China roses and their descendants, first introduced into Europe from China around 1900.
On the south side of the rose arbor are nineteenth-century shrub roses, descended from old European varieties. Climbing and rambling roses—from all periods and groups—grow on the arbors, arches, and pergolas.
The central part of the garden contains Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Polyanthas, and miniatures, with separate beds for classic pre-1920 hybrid teas and for roses from the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. Other beds feature roses introduced since the 1950s and introductions from abroad, including recent plantings of roses from India.
This somewhat dry text indeed explains the basics of the garden, but, alas, there is a terrible frustration in trying to convey the true nature of such a place. The roses were all perfect. Each blossom was the size of a dinner plate and every rose was blooming. By some magical circumstance we visited the garden at peak season. The heady scent of roses wafted on the warm breeze and time seemed to dilate. Yesterday I wrote about the mythical gardens of the underworld. Today I am writing about the gardens of paradise—which, somewhat surprisingly, are real and are located just to the southwest of Pasadena.