While driving around Pasadena early the other morning, I had a few hours to spare before the Huntington Gardens opened.
Imagine my surprise when, while looking for a coffee shop, I accidentally stumbled upon this treasure! Tucked away in the middle of a residential neighborhood is one of the most exciting public gardens I think I’ve ever seen.
This 3-acre garden (open every day of the year) is a collaboration between the McKenney family, the City of Pasadena and Pasadena Water & Power. Designed by Mayita Dinos, it’s inspired by Jan Smithen’s book Sun Drenched Gardens: The Mediterranean Style with the overall mission to “… develop a water-wise garden that is in harmony with our mediterranean climate”.
And harmonious it is! I’m most impressed with how sustainable this garden is, and the thought that went into every aspect of it. Not only is the garden very water-wise, using many California natives, but the overall design is as well.
For example, throughout the length of the garden is a swale with several berms, designed to capture and retain thousands of gallons of rainwater each year. The hardscaping, walls and paths are all made from over 20 tons of reclaimed concrete. And the annual wildflower display is grown entirely from seeds of the previous year’s flowers.
Yet unlike many sustainable, native gardens (which can sometimes look a little messy this time of year), the combination of native and Mediterranean plants along with thoughtfully placed pathways, fountains and sculptures means this garden looks fantastic every day of the year. Designed as a series of rooms, here are a few of my favorites:
The Mediterranean Allee
Upon entering the garden is the formally designed Mediterranean alee, with two rows of olive trees in the center and pomegranate trees on each corner.
Between the olives are beds of fragrant Spanish Lavender, mingling with the nearby scents of Rosemary, Myrtle and Sages.
I love how a combination of evergreen (and tough) Dwarf Myrtle and Boxwood are used the line the perimeters of this room. Both are excellent choices, with Myrtle being my favorite as it’s not only drought tolerant, but it also has the added bonus of delicious smelling white flowers.
The Wish Tree Terrace
The Tuscan-inspired steps in the center of this room lead to the Wish Trees Terrace. Lining the steps are Italian cypress, Meyer lemons and Crape Myrtles donated by Yoko Ono herself after her Wish Tree exhibit at One Colorado in 2008.
The Crape Myrtles are one of my favorite trees as they bloom in the middle of summer, when our gardens tend to look a little tired. And with the little pieces of paper (with wishes written on them) tucked among their branches, it couldn’t be more charming.
My two favorite things about this part of the garden are 1) the use of succulents and blue-gray rocks emulating water in the fountain, and 2) the sculptural effect of the echium wildpretii’s spent flowers. One more reason not to be in a hurry to dead-head!
The Labyrinth Garden
Toward the end of the garden is a labyrinth created by kids from the Mayfield Senior School.
With a labyrinth, the goal is more about the journey than the destination (unlike a maze where the goal is finding the center). For more about labyrinths, my friend and garden designer Jenny Peterson has written a great article about them.
Surrounding the labyrinth are some of the most beautiful cactus and succulents I’ve seen.
This garden is such a beautiful, sustainable and peaceful place for all who have the chance to visit. The city of Pasadena is to be commended for recognizing the importance of supporting a garden such as this, and I’m thrilled to have experienced it for myself. I’ve just touched the surface of all this garden has to offer – for more information, please check out the official site here.
I’ll leave you with a few more of my favorite photos. Thanks for stopping by!