Huntington

The magical new Chinese Garden at the Huntington is the getaway you need right now

Enchanting. Extraordinary. Entrancing.



a body of water surrounded by trees: The new Stargazing Tower, with its sweeping view to Mt. Wilson, commands the highest point in the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)


© Provided by The LA Times
The new Stargazing Tower, with its sweeping view to Mt. Wilson, commands the highest point in the Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Really, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe the $25-million completion of the magnificent Liu Fang Yuan — the Garden of Flowing Fragrance — at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. But that’s probably for the best, since a description with too many embellishments would go against the core aesthetic of the now 15-acre space commonly known as the Chinese Garden, which finally opens to the public on Friday.

The newly completed garden should have opened in May, with great fanfare and many public events, but the COVID-19 pandemic ended those plans and forced the closure of the institution for several months. In this respect, the pandemic has been a bit of a gift: It gave the landscapers more time to complete plantings, and now that the Huntington has reopened, with social distancing rules limiting daily attendance, visitors will be able to experience the Chinese Garden without the usual crowds.

That’s a lucky thing, because the garden is a meditative spot, with something to inspire or delight at every step — turtles posing in the Lake of Reflected Fragrance, near the weaving Bridge of the Joy of Fish; the intricate pebble mosaics on the walkways and courtyards; the huge contorted oaks sprawling over the new courtyard outside the Flowery Brush Library; the garden’s handmade charcoal-colored roof tiles and swooping roofs; the whimsical cutouts in the freestanding walls; the giant limestone rocks looming throughout, like sculptural deities.

The good news-bad news is that experiencing the Garden of Flowing Fragrance will take patience. Because of