Califonia Bountiful

Pat's Garden Travels: Unmissable gardens of historic mansions

November/December 2019 California Bountiful magazine

California offers a wealth of public gardens to discover. Join California Bountiful gardening expert Pat Rubin as she travels the state, bringing you the best of her travels to inspire yours.

This issue, Pat shares two gardens of historic mansions in California that you shouldn't miss.  

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino

Prepare to be awed as soon as you step through the gates into the gardens. The size (120 acres) and the diversity of plant life as well as the stunning plant combinations and designs will leave you speechless. But keep walking down any path. They're all beautiful and you won't be disappointed.

The gardens are comprised of about a dozen principle garden areas, including a Japanese garden, a desert garden, a camellia garden with more than 1,000 cultivars, an Australian section and a Chinese teahouse and gardens with stone bridges.

Then there's a great gift shop to visit at the end. All in all, it's a wonderful way to spend a day at the Huntington. Plan to come back to tour the library and art galleries.

Bourn Cottage gardens at Empire Mine
10791 E. Empire St., Grass Valley

The garden at the Empire Mine provides a glimpse into the past. It's a peek into another century, a look at another lifestyle. More than 100 years old, the 13-acre garden surrounds a 4,600-square-foot cottage built in 1897 by William Bourn Jr. The family spent holidays and summers at the mine cottage. The garden, one of the earliest estate gardens in Northern California, is actually a series of gardens, some formally designed, others more relaxed.

The garden and cottage were built alongside a working and very profitable gold mine. In fact, it was the richest gold mine in California, producing 5.8 million ounces of gold over 106 years. The mine owed a good part of its success to the hard-rock Welsh miners who were skilled at extracting tin and copper in their native land. So just outside the garden gate, so to speak, were the miners and their mules, while inside the garden life was gentler, and certainly more comfortable and affluent. In the early 1900s, the Bourns would build the estate called Filoli 25 miles south of San Francisco.

There are plenty of trails for hiking around the grounds.

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