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Gifts from Japan: A Horticultural Tale Told through Botanical Art

Selection of Botanical Illustrations from The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California, and Guest Botanical Artists from Japan

“British plant hunter, Robert Fortune (1812-1880) visited Japan in 1860 and described; ‘One marked feature of the people, both high and low, is a love for flowers. Almost every house which has any pretension to respectability has a flower garden in the rear, oftentimes indeed small, but neatly arranged; this adds greatly to the comfort and happiness of the family.’ The upper classes had large gardens, while the lower classes kept plants in containers in front of their houses. Regular flower markets were held in temples and shrines to sell container plants and they were popular among the commoners.”

– “Yedo and Perking: A Narrative of a Journey to the Capitals of Japan and China” (Cambridge Library Collection – Travel and Exploration in Asia 1863)

Gifts from Japan illuminates the unique origin stories of many flowers that are now widely presumed native to the United States. Featuring a collection of richly captured botanical illustrations from the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden (CA), these artworks present a window into the Japanese American experience as immigrant families cultivated gardens and helped naturalize such well-known flowers as orchids, camellias, and irises.

The exhibition invites visitors into an immersive journey of changing cultures and horticultural technologies through art at the turn of the century. 

Tour the Exhibition Online

Pavilion Gallery

Tanabe Gallery

Co-organized by The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens and Portland Japanese Garden. Special thanks to Robert Hori, Guest Curator of the Exhibition.

Portland Japanese Garden would like to thank the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership for their funding support of this exhibition.

Special thanks to Japanese American Museum of Oregon for the loan of objects from their permanent collections.

Thank you to Kendall Brown, Professor at California State University, Long Beach, for the loan of objects from his collection.

Thank you to Sokaen Library for the loan of objects from their collections.

Thank you to Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California (BAGSC) for their coordination allowing the work of member artists to be featured in this exhibition. Thank you also to the Oregon Botanical Artists and the Pacific Northwest Botanical Artists.



The Pavilion Gallery is used for exhibitions and special events. Architectural features include shoji (translucent paper panels) and verandas that connote the integration of house and garden. The overlook offers a spectacular view of Mt. Hood to the east.