The Subtropical Garden

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Facts and Figures

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The Subtropical Garden

Facts and Figures

The hill on which this garden is located is the scarp of the Raymond Hill Fault, which stretches from South Pasadena to Arcadia.? During the Shorb era, a peach orchard extended across the hill below the Rose Garden.? Later, the hot south-facing slope was replanted as a vineyard.? An olive-lined road extended southwest down the slope, connecting the Huntington property with that of Benjamin D. Wilson, and later George S. Patton.? Later, this area was planted with the progeny of several Huntington plant collecting expeditions beginning in the mid-1960's to Mexico, and opened to the public shortly afterward.

In winter, the south-facing slope receives the sun's rays perpendicularly, allowing heat build-up during the day, which is radiated to the surrounding air at night.? Cold air drains away to the lower gardens, making this area one of the warmest on the grounds.? This allows the cultivation of plants marginally hardy here and that would likely fail elsewhere on the property.? "Subtopical" is a loose but convenient term applied to plants that tolerate occasional light frosts but suffer or perish when the temperature drops more than a few degrees below freezing.? There are subtropical plants in other areas of the grounds but this garden is devoted exclusively to them.

Plantings are informal and constantly changing--a site to trial ornamental plants for suitablility of cultivation, ranging from flowering trees and shrubs to herbaceous plants and geophytes (bulbs).? Many plants brand new to cultivation are tried, some of which are later introduced to the public through our plant sales.

Plants in this garden are from subtopical and warm termperate regions and are arranged loosely according to geographical locations.? Walking east to west from the Jungle Garden, the areas transition from subtropical southeast Asia and South America plants, to Mesoamerica plants (Mexico and Central America) in the central beds, Chile in the upper central bed, southern Africa in the western bed extending along the road and in beds continuing uphill to the lawn, to the Mediterranean region in the upper two west beds.

COLLECTIONS

Wigandia urens (Hydrophayllaceae) -- A small tree in an otherwise herbaceous family, with showy clusters of blue-violet flowers in spring.? Large leaves can grow up to two feet long and across, and are covered with irritating hairs.

Trumpet trees (Bignoniaceae) -- Several specias of Tabebuia are grown here, including T. chrysotricha (Golden Trumpet Tree) and T. impetignosa (Ipe, Pink Trumpet Tree).? These members of the Bignoniaceae flower in late winter/early spring before their leaves appear.

Mimosa polycarpa var. spegazzinii (Fabaceae) -- One of the "sensitive" plants whose leaves fold up when touched, a movement made possible by specialized cells at the base of leafstalks.? The reason for this response has yet to be determined, but it is thought that the folded and drooping leaves are unattractive to herbivores.

Sausage Tree, Kigelia africana (Bignoniaceae) -- Tree from tropical southeast Africa with nectar-filled maroon flowers visited by bats, baboons, and sunbirds.? Young fruits on the tree are eaten by giraffes, and by other animals after falling to the ground.? Not edible by humans, and supposedly poisonous.

Forest Fever Tree, Anthocleista grandiflora (Loganiaceae) -- Tree from tropical southeast Africa with impressively large leaves. A tea made from the bitter leaves or bark is said to be effective against malaria.

Salvia (Lamiaceae) -- A large genus (900 species) particularly well-represented in Mexico and Central and South America, from which most of our plants come.? Mostly shrubs or perennials, many kinds are excellent and popular garden plants, inlcuding S. leucantha, S. regla, S. greggii, and the Huntington introductions S. 'Indigo Spires'', S. 'Purple Majesty', and S. gesneraelfora 'Mole Pablano'.

Tree Cotton, Gossypium barbadense (Malvaceae) -- Also known as "sea island cotton", it produces the longest and highest quality fibers of any cotton, and is the source of the greatly-prized long-staple Gallini cotton grown in Egypt and used for fine fabrics, yarn and hosiery.

RECENT PROJECTS

Regrouping and division of plants, new labeling of plants.? Numerous plantings in the newly cleared areas.

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