Monday, April 3, 2017

California Gardens

Our end of March visit to California was spectacular. I was overwhelmed with plants and gardens -- first in the neighborhood where my son's current apartment is. It's a quiet residential spot (smack in the middle of L.A., if you can believe it) where the orange blossoms perfumed the air so thickly that it was intoxicating.

Then at the Getty, where the highly structured garden spills down a steep hill, with sprawling L.A. in the blue haze below.

Everything about the Getty garden is sculptural, complementing the beautiful museum buildings that tower over it and the stone terraces and balconies that surround it.

Plants are sheared into shapes, and colors are used like paints and forms are controlled.

It's all artificial and artistic and eye popping.

Then at the Huntington Library, where we never even got into the museum buildings to see the Gainesborough or Mary Cassatt or Edwin Church or Edward Hopper -- we only walked around the gardens, and at 120 acres, that pooped us out.

The desert garden was all oddities and weirdities and we felt like we were in an undersea world unknown to explorers but discovered by us.

Then we drove out to see the newlywed's home. They just closed a few days ago, and the house is empty yet, waiting for them to move their few pieces of apartment furniture in.

We spent a lovely afternoon in the new, empty place, watching the light change as it moved across the yard, and having snacks and champagne on the new patio.

I did some forensic garden analysis.

It appears that the terraced gardens had been let go. The years of drought, and the fact that the prior homeowner had gardened the space herself with no professional help, left evidence of neglect, weeds, and bare spots.

Prior to selling the house she added many brand new baby plants, and they still had the tags on them. They were zone 8 plants I need to learn about: loropetalum, pittosporum, dodonacea, and others. Some I recognized -- a lovely blooming swath of creeping phlox, all purple and flowering, and beautiful mounds of blue flowered ceanothus, California lilac.

There were four mature manzanita trees. A big eucalyptus hung over the fence. And there were so many others I did not know, and had no idea what to do with.

A family of crows lives in this garden, and came by to get acquainted, although they mostly complained about our presence.

Domingo stopped by. He was the former owner's gardener. He had stories to tell about the development of this garden, most of which we could not understand in his thick accent, but his knowledge seemed impressive and his dedication to this spot of garden seemed genuine, and I suspect my son and his wife are going to hire him -- no one in California does their own garden maintenance.

My son happily loped around the yard all afternoon and got the hose out and watered things, and asked me what the plants were and how to manage them and he fiddled with the automatic sprinkler system until Jim noticed he had it set for 6 hour watering schedules, and we drank champagne and sat at the top of the terraces and befriended the crows and debated whether Domingo said there had been problems with the foundation or with the fountain.

A lovely California day.


  1. Replies
    1. For sure! The best part was when Z showed me which bedroom would be the nursery! (no, not expecting yet).