Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, May 22, 2010


Homes & Property

 Mountain Views News Saturday, May 22, 2010

One Of A Kind: Featuring unique homes & gardens and the people who create them Story and Photos By Chris Bertrand

Huntington’s Chinese Garden: 

Amazing Maturity Just Two Years After Opening

Just twenty four months ago, my first 
visit to the Huntington’s Chinese 
Garden provided me a glimpse of what 
would eventually become a treasured 
jewel in the crown of this San Marino 
public garden. Though it was still very 
new and raw on that Mother’s Day 2008, 
the building blocks were there.

San Marino mayor and Huntington docent, Dennis Kneier, invited 
me to join him on a tutorial for docents, guided by guest speaker, 
Daxin Liu of Fragrant Hill Design in the Bay Area. It’s amazing what 
two years of plant growth has done for this 3.5 acre, first phase of the 
Liu Fan Yuan, Garden of Flowing Fragrance, California’s first public 
Chinese Garden. If you haven’t visited since the opening, now is the 

Kneier commented, “The plants and architecture fit together 
perfectly, and the garden gets better and more interesting with each 
passing season. It’s simply amazing how the garden has matured and 
blossomed in just two years time. The quietness and serenity of the 
garden takes one to another world. I love it.”

Born in Beijing, our guide and guest speaker, Daxin Liu, came to 
Stanford in Palo Alto in 1990 for a Ph.D. in Applied Physics, working 
afterward in high tech. Drawn in a completely different direction 
some years later; Liu decided to study Horticulture and became a 
landscape designer in 2005.

He commented, “I think my love of plants and gardening started 
when I was grudgingly helping my grandfather tend his small rose 
garden in his traditional Beijing courtyard as a young teenager. 
All the pain from thorns and messy dealings with organic 
fertilizers were worthwhile when the first wave of fragrant roses 
began in May. Now as a designer, I have been rediscovering 
the wisdom and charm of Classical Chinese Gardens with its 
emphasis on outdoor living, highly stylized imitation of nature, 
and ever-present incorporation of art and literature. All these 
are still useful and relevant for our gardens today and I try to 
incorporate them in my designs.”

In our walk through the first phase of a planned twelve acre 
Chinese Garden, Liu called attention to design elements and 
specific plants incorporated into the lake, pavilions, bridges, 
tea shop and teahouse set into the wooded backdrop of the 207 
acres that encompass the Huntington site. Water, symbolizing 
change, and rock, symbolizing the permanent or eternal 
elements, are critical to the classical Chinese Garden.

Originally the estate of business magnate Henry E. Huntington, 
this private nonprofit institution includes a library of rare book 
and manuscript collections with exhibition space, permanent 
and changing art collections in three buildings including 
the 1911 Huntington Beaux-Arts mansion plus 120 acres of 
botanical gardens. Open to the public since 1928, the addition 
of the Chinese Garden, with hundreds of native Chinese plants, 
expands what was already one of the most celebrated botanical 
plant collections in the country, especially since so many of our 
most beloved landscape plants originated in China.

After a worldwide fundraising effort beginning in 2001, two 
Chinese firms were commissioned by the Huntington, The Suzhou 
Institute of Landscape Architectural Design and Suzhou Garden 
Development Company, Ltd. Delightfully, my guest at the tour, 
Joan Milazzo, was headed to Suzhou a 
couple of days after our visit, and will 
bring back memories and photos of the 
gardens there to share with our readers 
next month. 

The authentic Chinese structures were 
designed and constructed in China to 
comply with California seismic codes 
and disabled access, a challenge in 
itself. Almost all of the materials were 
shipped from China, with the major 
exception of the hidden, structural steel 
that stabilizes the traditional structures 
and the concrete. 

In 2006, when the time came for 
installation, eleven stone artisans 
traveled from Suzhou to install the 
hand-carved bridges and to carefully 
place the stones and boulders around 
the waters’ edge, a revered art within 
Asian garden design in itself. The 
next year, fifty artisans arrived for six 
months of meticulous work in wood 
carving, installing Chinese style roofs 
plus courtyard and walkway pavers.

Several “scholar rocks” traditionally 
incorporated into traditional Chinese gardens were also shipped to 
the Huntington. Sculpted by nature, the large limestone boulders 
have holes, wrinkles furrows and shapes “carved” into them, creating 
prized focal points for reflection in a traditional garden. 

Classical Chinese gardens are highly linked to artistic, literary 
and academic pursuits and figurative or literal symbolism is often 
incorporated, beautifully paralleling the garden’s presence at 
the Huntington institution. Chinese garden purposely melds its 
architecture and design with scholarly pursuit and the surrounding 
landscape, and flowery poetic names are usually given to gardens. 

This poetically named “Garden of Flowing Fragrance” particularly 
invokes the olfactory senses, with one of my favorites, osmanthus 
fragrans, a highly fragrant shrub or small tree in the Plantain Court, 
and also the city flower of Suzhou. If you crave a wonderful aroma in 
your garden, add this shrub for months of heady perfume. I’ve had 
more than one burly contractor at work in my yard knock on my 
door asking for slips to plant at home.

June Li, the garden’s curator, also attended the tour, and has 
commented in the garden’s documentation that the scholarly 
association, “in particular, finds perfect expression in the context 
of The Huntington, where our mission is to advance research and 

A ninety minute walking tour is available for groups by reservation. 
For more information about the Chinese Garden at the Huntington, 
visit Daxin Liu of Fragrant Hill Design can 
be contacted at (650) 868-3449 or through

Know of an interesting home, garden or person who helps 
create them? Send the contact information to C.Bertrand@

Chris Bertrand

San Marino mayor and Huntington docent, Dennis Kneier and 
Suzhou China-bound Arcadian, Joan Milazzo toured the Chinese 
Garden in April.

Applying for a home loan today sure isn't 
what it used to be. Buyers who would have 
qualified just a year or two ago are now facing 
rejection, but all hope is not yet lost. If you 
find a home you love offered by motivated 
sellers, your real estate representative may 
be able to negotiate a lease-to-own option. 

Usually, a portion of the monthly rent paid 
goes into escrow, where it accumulates for 
the eventual downpayment. It's a fairly 
painless way to save up money so you can 
get the home you want now, even if you can't 
put enough down to qualify for financing. 
Within an agreed amount of time, usually 
three to five years, you will have then saved 
enough to secure a loan and complete your 

Simply paying rent is like throwing your 
money away, but a rent-to-own option 
actually helps you build equity while 
you’re making your monthly payments 
(like a mortgage!). Many sellers find this 
arrangement attractive too, because it 
generates regular income for them in a still 
recovering housing market. 

You might be wondering why a real estate 
agent would even bother to offer a lease-
to-own option instead of an outright 
purchase, but in these cases, the agent is 
often paid a rental commission, and then a 
sales commission once the transaction has 
completely closed with a purchase.

Luther Tsinoglou has just been named the top producing 
sales agent in Dickson Podley Realtor's Sierra Madre 
office for 2009, making the top 10% at the company 
overall. Luther has been licensed and practicing real 
estate since 1992. He specializes in residential and 
income property in Southern California. Luther can be 
reached at his direct line (626) 695-8650 or at luther@ 

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MVNews this week:  Page 13