More Huntington

Perseus with the head of the Gorgon, aka Medusa.

Large gardens like museums, can’t be explored in depth in one day. Btw, I think next time I need to visit some of the art. Fountains and water are a relief from the heat. Lucky for me, the day wasn’t too hot.This time, a visit to the children’s garden, I hadn’t been here in a long time. It is quite expensive to bring kids here, but so worth it if you can. Crows as art, they are a very common bird after all.Then, a very fun encounter, years ago I heard an interview with Terry Eagan, since 2010 he has been restoring the FauxBois in the Japanese and Rose Gardens. He was so touched that someone actually heard that interview! He gave a long lecture about how it was the FauxBois that convinced Arabella Huntington to move to remote San Marino with her second husband Henry. (Her first husband was Henry’s uncle Collis, although she and Henry were the same age.)

FauxBois is a French invention, using reinforced concrete to create trees, or items like benches that look like they were made from trees. In Los Angeles there are also fences made from FauxBois in Ferndale canyon in Griffith Park.

Nowhere does it reach the level of artistry like it does here. I am so glad the Huntington has Terry on staff to repair these beauties, as well as make some new ones. Pantone color of the year, ultraviolet alongside ultra blue, as it is found in nature.A vibrant red Japanese Maple glittering in the sun. Really, no photo can do it justice.Color and texture in the desert garden. Here in SoCal, May is the time to visit the rose garden. Once again, photos don’t do it justice. This is a small portion of it, human for scale. Other parts of the country will have the height of their blooms later in the summer. By then, this garden will be tired and be screaming for water, not producing many blooms. Big Koi, or what we like to call, gefilte fish.


A very busy weekend

Spring has sprung, everywhere the flowers are showing off. Look at these bearded irises! After a few years, my irises have died, I think I need to get some more. I know, the blooms are short-lived, but they are so worth it.Don’t know what this is, but boy do I love the bright orange.California poppy is popping, especially at the Theodore Payne Foundation for native California plants. Every spring they have a sale, it’s been years, so I went. I bought this fellow there years ago and it’s a large bush now.They have garden tours, it was too busy today for that.This is a great place for any kind of information about native plants.$80 for this cactus, must be rare.I came home with a few penstemons, they will have beautiful blue-purple flowers and should bloom for a few months. That is unusual with natives, most have a burst of flowers and then that’s it. If all goes well, next year I’ll add more natives to the garden, since my garden is a little sad these days. The the next day, I grabbed a friend and we went on the Pasadena Historical society home and garden tour. No photos allowed except from the curb. I understand that. Sometimes it’s about the experience without the photos. So here is an amazing Mid Century, it’s hard to see, but there is a glass bridge that connects the two sides of the house. Oh and the wife does a lot of mosaics!A 1908 farm house. Today there is a small nursery in the back, all this on a rather busy street.The McNally Mansion in Altadena is up for sale! Built in 1887 it was a rea treat. They still have gas chandeliers!Although this view is from the curb and today is used as the front, this is actually the back of the house. The house just went on the market! It is a historical home, so it can’t be torn down, what a gem! Well worth the visit, which is why I love these tours.


Spring has sprung

Once again we are having one of those winters where it only rains in March, but it rains a lot. Maybe that is why my garden is full of blooms.I planted this Camelia years ago, now it’s full of blooms since I haven’t done much to my garden, I should probably get some more of these.This hibiscus blooms year round, in the summer it’s white with larger flowers, this time of year the flowers are smaller and tinged with more pink.A South African native, some sort of bottle brush.Not all succulents offer up beautiful flowers, if you get close, even these cluster are very pretty.The freesia bulbs come back every year. Should plant more.Another South African native, the Gerbera Daisy.A California native, I don’t remember its name. I did buy it at a Native plant sale. This is a tall bush, it has been hybridized down to a low ground cover with the same purple flowers.When the focus on the camera doesn’t work, I was aiming for the flower, got the Pepper tree in focus instead. Btw, this tree is also a South African Native, since both climates are called Mediterranean, it’s no surprise that imports from there thrive here.Second time a charm! After the photo shoot, I went around cutting flowers to bring indoors.My grandson loves ‘mingos’ so I’m noticing them more these days, especially ones that come in new colors.  I hope that whoever developed the mold for these plastic birds is making a mint!


The Huntington

I probably have at least on post a year showcasing the Huntington Gardens. It’s such a blessing to have this so close to home. It’s also great to have a friend with membership so we went together and just walked around, enjoying the beauty. Many of the cacti and succulents are blooming, often in orange. These wonderful South African flowers are blooming. These are Protea, they grow very well in Southern California, we have the same climate.The cactus garden here is amazing. 40 years ago, when I visited for the first time, it was one big mess. They got control of it again and it is stunning. Some of the aloe are really huge.It had rained in the morning, we still have these gorgeous clouds in the sky.  It was Valentines Day, couples were out enjoying the beautiful day. How cute is this? This comes from the anime world. Dressing up in cute dresses, looking like a baby doll. It would be fun to make a dress for someone like this.Some people were busy working, three people on one bonsai bush.Chinese lanterns for the Chinese New year are still hanging around the garden.Looking down on the Japanese garden, what a view!A lizard grabbing some rays.

Speaking of Ray, we had a cup of coffee and talked quilting. A young woman approached, she works for Hoffman Fabrics. She is the daughter of Helen from SewkindofWonderul. So we proudly showed off pictures of quilts we both have made from their patterns. Chatted about the textile industry (oy!). And told her and her husband to enjoy a wonderful day. Through Instagram I got in touch with Helen and we both had a laugh about the small world story.



Cacti and succulents

The best Cacti and succulent garden is in Orange County, at a private home.Yes, the owners were influenced by the big one at the Huntington, but small is more manageable.Turns out these guys need hand watering and a lot of cleaning up debris, which isn’t easy to do with all those thorns.I am grateful for their efforts. Sure flowers are fleeting and lovely.This one looks like a ruffled camelia, but it grows on a desert plant.Flowers turn into fruit. There is plenty of animal life around who have figured out how to live among the spines.The succulent world is full of oddities, this one starts new growth with green leaves and then turns thick, fleshy and wrinkled.This type of growth is a ‘sport’ even on this plant, but with regular attention, this is what the growers have managed to encourage and keep.There are the tall ones that reach for the sky.With interesting flowers….… but really, it’s the leaves growing in spirals along the trunk that are interesting. Beware, the leaves do hide very sharp thorns.I think it’s true, nature abhors a straight line.I know there is some kind of mathematical formula going on here. The twists and turns aren’t arbitrary.Not a saguaro cactus, but close.The barrels are always intriguing,  there are rare ones that one can never find at the local nursery.

I haven’t been gardening much, I pay my gardener to keep the place looking decent, but these days I don’t put in any effort. It really is wonderful to spend time in a garden where the owners really do put in the love and time.




Flowers in the mountains

I’m not doing the wildflowers any justice with these pictures. The mountains were carpeted with them, and I was busy taking close-ups. Lucky for me, Joel took some good wide angle photos.
These are quite small, yet quite bright and yellow.Here is the wild version of the Campanula, or the Bellflower. It comes in all shades of purple, I have spent good money to buy these in a nursery, so seeing them wild was fun.This Scabiosa looks no different than what I buy.I think this is a wild version of the Azalia.The Hollyhock was growing wild behind our Chalet, but I wouldn’t call it a wild flower. This is called paying attention to the little details.Didn’t see many of these, but those I saw were very impressive.Even some of the leaves are colorful, I hope this isn’t a sign of fall, summer had just started.The town is full of flowers, roses against a chalet with green shutters.One of the amazing things here is that when I aim to shoot a picture of flowers, I get the mountains in the background. They don’t even look real.This looks photoshopped, the backdrop just looks fake.These arrangements of petunias are all over the place. When you get steady rain, these flowers thrive, even in containers.Love the creativity here. It all just works.




Garden tour in Pasadena

It’s spring, it’s time for garden tours. Sort of like home tours, but only of the garden. Pasadena has some amazing homes and estates, luckily many of them have a real interest in gardens. I’ll be breaking this post up, not in any particular order. I’m starting with roses.A number of the gardens had very impressive roses, give them water and they grow extremely well in Southern California.I really had to edit down my rose pictures, don’t want to bore you to death.Also, in the case of these flowers, they also had a lovely scent. Something that has been bred out of so many rose hybrids.People around me knew all the names, there are serious gardening people on these tours.Me, I love gardens but I’m not a horticulturist.Sometimes a rose is a very simple thing.At the Wentworth house, concrete was reporposed back in 1995, long before it was popular to do so. Here, a traditional use as paving stones.Also used for a patio and pillars. The whole property used to be covered in concrete….  yeah, I don’t understand some people.I tried to capture other decorative elements from the hardscape.This reading fellow is part of the house.The tiles are embedded in the walkways.Love the lion.Many of these gardens have outdoor rooms, this must be the original chia pet.Metal sculpture as a planter…… as part of the fence…… or a lamp.

More to come tomorrow.




On a mission with Missions.

I’m on a mission to visit all 21 California missions. I have no idea how long it will take. I have no concrete plans. What I do know is that the last time I visited the Santa Barbara Mission, my kids were little. I never went there during the years my son was a student at UCSB.This is probably the most famous of the Missions. It certainly has the largest number of foreign visitors. Junipero Sera is standing out front greeting people to this mission as well. I heard some of the guides saying that this is a life-size sculpture, he was tiny. I believe he was tiny, I also believe that casting bronze sculptures isn’t cheap or easy, so he probably was larger than this.The sacred garden, inside the mission, the only reason it is sacred is because it is part of an ecclesiastical structure – there isn’t anything holy in the garden itself. Although what a wonderful quiet retreat from the world.Fountains are a big deal in arid California. The mission was built on the spot becasue they were able to redirect spring waters here. A fountain is a very necessary thing, not only a thing of beauty.Beauty doesn’t hurt.The garden is in full bloom, I just adore purple roses.… and was a little early for the cactus bloom.The Mission is a combination of adobe and stone. Adobe came first. On our tour we were the only people from California, others were from England or other parts of the US. They wanted to know what is adobe and why is it used. Adobe is unbaked clay bricks. It is used all over the world in arid climates and is often faced with stucco or lime in order to protect it from rain. One question no one asked was why? Why not bake the bricks. I didn’t want to step on our guides toes – but here’ the answer, an oven used to bake bricks needs to things – to be very large and to have plenty of wood to burn.  Wood is scarce in arid climates, so baking in the sun will have to do.The mission bells, I have no idea if this is an original or a replica. What I do like here is that the main structure is made of stone, once they rebuilt the bell towers (earthquakes happen), they faux finished the concrete to look like stone. We’ll see more faux finishing inside.Maybe this is one of the original bells?This is a small bell in the courtyard. We were there at noon, the bells in the towers were ringing and ringing loudly!Our guide was a secular Franciscan. Which means he went through the seminary but decided not to become a priest. He is affiliated with the Mission Church but he lives off campus with other seculars. Being called secular doesn’t mean he isn’t religious, he appeared to be quite religious. Most of the tour was more about the Catholic practices in this church, which I appreciated, seeing that I’m pretty familiar with the history.

He did talk about how this sanctuary is Old school Catholic, from before Vatican II. After that, the Catholic Church really cut back on the pageantry, the bright colors and the images of saints. I’m Jewish, but what can I say, I like the old school.For an adobe building to be tall, the walls have to be massive. Plenty of faux marbling inside the church. Although I think the artists would readily admit that they went way beyond faux – into fantastic. I have to include arrested decay, I find it so beautiful. This is out in the cemetery, all of these textures just make me happy.


Rockhaven – arrested decay.

The tour continues, with things I love, arrested decay. The decay is getting to be quite a problem, not clear if they will be able to save all the buildings. For now, I’m enjoying it.Untreated wood will rot, whether outside or in.Paint is a barrier, but even it peels and the wood is exposed to the elements.Creating a whole new beauty. Tile fairs much better, unless it’s in the ground and the water leaves stains and marks on it. In the bathrooms the tile is well protected. Tile details from the 1930’s is small yet wonderful. Notice how each little strip is different. The larger color tiles are cheap, it’s that fine detail that pulls it all together.

These days I love going through open houses, all the modern houses are  full of granite and marble. I miss the tile.The metal work, the curves! the detail. The brickwork, also curving. It just makes my soul sing. Hopefully, all of these details helped the women, gave them a sense of peace, regardless of their mental situation.A little griffin on top of an outdoor light fixture.A door handle that wasn’t replaced.Statuary used to abound.  The man who created this worked for Gladding McBean, so he knew clay!  A woman basking in the sun, I don’t think nude sun bathing was allowed, except in sculpture form. Here as part of a birdbath. Many more sculptures are now in storage, all of this was part of a relaxing southing atmosphere.Rocks abound and rocks are used. Another birdbath. A restful retreat all made out of Faux Bois, that Concrete made to look like wood. All the rage in the 1930s. A gardener worked here to make this location a real oasis, I wonder if there was water and a pond. I bet there was.

I sincerely hope that this gem is saved and finds an adaptive reuse. Not everything can, but this would be a loss. Meanwhile, if you have a chance, check the website and see if you can join a tour. They are now giving them once a month, as well as things like Mother’s Day tea and other such events.

I love it when locals band together to save what is unique in their communities.





The Mountain Mermaid

Every year the LA Conservancy thanks it’s volunteers with an event at an interesting location. This year, it wasn’t in the city, it was out in Topanga Canyon. That funny, quirky canyon that connects The Valley to Malibu.It is so green this year, the mustard and lupine have started blooming. Not sure there will be any CA poppies here.

The location is the Mountain Mermaid, a home and event center. Bill, speaking to us about the home has many stories to tell about this location and all he did to save it from ruin. Many mermaids are on display.Using them as lamps seems to be a theme.Or as fountains in the garden.Other nautical elements, portholes as windows. There were a few examples around the house.There were many examples of arrested decay being used both inside and out. Anything that can be used as a fountain, is. Water in the mountains is so soothing.These deadly spikes on the banister going down to the garden. The colors and texture here are what I love.Although I live in a pretty dry part of the country, with a little help, it can be green and lush.There is a whole story about rebuilding the pool. But how can you have a home named for a mermaid without a body of water?I wonder, did this old door belong to one of the original iterations of the building or did Bill find it and bring it here?Just a little longer and the figs will be ripe.It’s not only mermaids, this garden bench has dog heads. Or is it some other mythical creature?With my re-ignited interest in mosaic, I find myself drawn to glass.20 years ago, Staghorn ferns were all the rage. This one looks ancient because of the size of the rootball which is covered with the shield fronds. The garden is not only beautiful and serene, it highlights many local plants as well as attracts butterflies.  This is the time of year that many of our plants bloom. I can’t resist them, even if they are common around here.