Valentine’s Day in the Gardens

Set the mood for romance with a stroll on the North Vista, with its 18th-century statuary and Italian Renaissance fountain. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Set the mood for romance with a stroll on the North Vista, with its 18th-century statuary and Italian Renaissance fountain. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Time and time again, on Top Ten lists and “best of” compilations, The Huntington is named one of the best places for a first date, a first kiss, or a marriage proposal on bended knee. True enough, it’s a pretty romantic spot. Do you want to win the heart of someone special on Valentine’s Day? Here’s an idea for a garden walking tour that you’ll both love.

First, head west from the entrance walkway to the North Vista, where 18th-century statuary and an Italian Renaissance fountain set the mood for romance. Gravel pathways lead off into the Camellia Garden, an enchanting area for strolling hand-in-hand with your sweetheart under lovely winter blooms that tower overhead. (Lovers of camellias might want to take a brief detour at this point to pop into the nearby Botanical Center, where the annual Camellia Show and Sale is on view Feb. 14–15.)

Shaded paths among the camellias provide an inviting spot to sit and enjoy the blooms. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Shaded paths among the camellias provide an inviting spot to sit and enjoy the blooms. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Next, wander over to the Shakespeare Garden and see if you can find references to Romeo and Juliet and other works by the Bard on small plaques set among the flora. The garden is inspired, in part, by the Library’s collections of early editions of Shakespeare’s works, and the plantings include several flowers, herbs, and shrubs mentioned in his plays and poems.

You won’t find roses in bloom in the garden yet, but make a note to come back in April or May. When spring is at its peak, the Rose Garden is the floral embodiment of romance, with nearly 4,000 individual rose plants (in 1,200 different varieties) providing an irresistible atmosphere that stimulates the senses. And who can resist flowers with names like ‘Secret Love’, ‘First Kiss’, ‘Passionate Kisses’, and ‘Sweet Surrender’?

The Rose Garden leads you to the Japanese Garden—a breathtaking spot that has witnessed countless “will you marry me?” moments in its 103-year history. On the far side of the canyon, the walled Zen Court invites lovers to pause for a moment and contemplate life’s journey.

Step through the gate into the Chinese Garden, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another place and time. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Step through the gate into the Chinese Garden, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another place and time. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Enter the Chinese Garden (poetically named the Garden of Flowing Fragrance), and experience the romance of the East. You’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to China during the Ming dynasty as you stroll among the tile-roofed pavilions, walk under a waterfall, and sip hot cups of jasmine tea in a teahouse overlooking the lake. (If you and your beloved prefer cold craft beer, you can sip a couple of those here, too.)

For some, a romantic afternoon at The Huntington is not complete without afternoon tea in the Rose Garden Tea Room. (Reservations recommended. Call 626-683-8131.) Freshly baked scones, finger sandwiches, miniature fruit tarts, and strawberries with cream are among the sumptuous offerings served in an intimate setting overlooking the garden. It’s the perfect finale to a day spent enjoying the romantic pleasures of The Huntington.

Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator for the office of communications and marketing at the Huntington.

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