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This Chinese garden was too much like home

September 23, 2008 |  7:00 am

Garden_2According to the website of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, its 7-month-old Chinese garden "combines the scenic beauty of nature with the expressiveness of literature to give deeper meaning to the landscape." Sounds delightful. On my first encounter with it Saturday afternoon, however, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance was all too much like suburbia. Visually, it was spectacular, another magnificent addition to the luxurious San Marino grounds of the former estate of the late Henry E. Huntington.

But it was anything but serene.

As I approached the garden, I could hear the sound of a motor -- jarring at the Huntington. The closer I got, the louder it became: It turned out to be a pump, sucking water out of the lake, through a hose and down a sewer drain. The sound pervaded the whole scene, incessantly –- like when you’re in your yard or on the patio, trying to relax, but a neighbor is running a power saw or some other electrical tool that suddenly feels like it’s hard-wired to your psyche.

A spokesman for the Huntington explained today, "The Chinese Garden lake is being partially drained so that maintenance may be performed on the filtration system. The lake will be refilled immediately after the maintenance is complete."

Guess I'll just have to go back again to experience it properly. This was one walk that did not, as the website promises, "enrich the mind and spirit alike."

-- Lee Margulies

Photo caption: Here's what the garden and lake looked like back in February, on the day that it was dedicated. Photo credit: Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times