“All art is but imitation of nature.”
This famous quote from Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger illustrates the close connection between nature and art that began with the first cave drawings. Artists represent what they find in the world, from a simple attempt to replicate the color of a rose to a more abstract sculpture that represents human emotions.
The intertwined relationship between the natural and artistic worlds has led many gardens to incorporate art installations and many art museums to cultivate gardens. Gardens famous for both their blooms and their man-made works of art make great sites for group visits. Discussions on artistic inspiration and garden design as an artform can help visitors see beyond the simple beauty of a flower. Many of these gardens offer art workshops, specialized art tours and art festivals that go far beyond simple garden sculpture.
For a heightened garden tour experience, groups should consider one of these art-themed gardens for their next stroll through nature.
Huntington Library Art Collections & Botanical Garden
San Marino, California
Henry Edwards Huntington’s interests in rare books, art and gardens led to the creation of an impressive complex now known as the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. There, groups can wander through over 120 acres of botanical gardens and see plants from around the world. More than a dozen themes separate the plants into categories such as the Australia Garden, the Camellia Collection, the Desert Garden and the Shakespeare Garden.
Visitors will see numerous statuaries dating from the 17th to the 19th century, among them the popular “Love, the Captive of Youth” in the Rose Garden. At the North Vista Garden, a group of 28 mythological figures line a walkway of long grass for a little added whimsy.
Among the most popular spots is the 100-year-old Japanese Garden that visitors can tour to learn more about its whispering bamboo, bonsai and karesansui rock garden. Groups can also opt for the Chinese Garden Tour to learn how architecture, nature and literature meet in the design of the garden.
The connection to art doesn’t end in the garden, since groups can also explore Huntington’s San Marino ranch, now considered a cultural landmark. The home features some works from Huntington’s original collection, which consists largely of 18th- and 19th-century British and French paintings. Among the most famous are “The Blue Boy” by Thomas Gainsborough, “Pinkie” by Thomas Lawrence and “Madonna and Child” by Rogier van der Weyden.