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Holidays at the Huntington

By Traude Gomez Rhine

Whether bringing out-of-town guests, or just yourself, heading to The Huntington over the holidays is a Southern California tradition. Here’s a roundup of the institution’s holiday happenings and a few highlights not to be missed.

Aloes in the Desert Garden

The Desert Garden offers a vibrant end-of-year contribution – a seasonal peak bloom of more than 200 different varieties of aloes, thousands in total, creating an unrivalled winter display of fiery red flower stalks. The genus Aloe includes about 500 species and more than half of those species are represented in the Desert Garden, as are many hybrids, making The Huntington’s Aloes one of the largest collections outside Africa.


Camellia season is also getting underway, with some of the early-blooming varieties, such as the aptly named ‘Yuletide,’ blooming now in the North Vista, Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden. The Huntington’s collection stands out not only for its size and completeness, but also the number of rare and historic cultivars that will continue to bloom throughout January and February. The most historic plant in the collection is C. japonica ‘California,’ which is believed to be the oldest camellia on record in Southern California. Its large rose-red flowers can be found on the east side of the road between the Library and the North Vista fountain.


Nothing says Happy Holidays quite like a Euphorbia pulcherrima, commonly known as poinsettias, there are some naturalized poinsettias, tall and dramatic, growing just below the south terrace of The Huntington Art Gallery.


A major exhibition highlight is “Y.C. Hong: Advocate for Chinese-American Inclusion” a Library exhibition that focuses on the Chinese-American experience in Los Angeles during the Chinese Exclusion Act. Perhaps the big holiday art story is Alex Israel’s “Intervention” taking place in the Huntington Art Gallery. Here you will find the Los Angeles artist’s contemporary art “in conversation” with the permanent collections. The works in “Alex Israel at The Huntington,” all dated between 2012 and 2015, are seeded throughout the Gallery’s two stories.

Continuing exhibitions in the Huntington Art Gallery during the holidays also include: “Friends and Family: British Artists Depict their Circle,” a small exhibition presenting a more personal side of British portraiture, and “A World of Strangers: Crowds in American Art.”

From Dec. 26 through Jan. 3, head to the Brody Botanical Center to see the California Aiseki Kai 26th annual show featuring more than 100 outstanding examples of suiseki and other viewing stones. Practiced in Asia for centuries and gaining popularity around the world, the art of viewing stones invites contemplation of the subtle, often fanciful forms that have been shaped by nature, the elements, and time. Included with admission.

On Wednesday, Dec. 23 (as well as Jan, 6, 13, 20) you can enjoy traditional Chinese music from 1 – 3 p.m. in the Garden of Flowing Fragrance. Chinese tea and light refreshments are always available during normal public hours in the Garden of Flowing Fragrance.

When it comes to eating and shopping, the institution offers a number of ways to replenish. An English-style afternoon tea is available by reservation in the Rose Garden Tea Room. (Reservations required. Call 683-8131). The Café, located in the entrance complex, is open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday, and serves pizzas, pasta, salads, soups, sandwiches and daily specials.

If you haven’t yet visited The Huntington’s new Huntington Store, be forewarned: it features a wide selection of gifts and books, apparel, toys, and home decor relating to The Huntington’s vast library, art and botanical collections. Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday.


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