The third day of our road trip began in Santa Barbara – a place that we are both very familiar with.  However, our goal for this day was to do a combination of things; some which we had done before while also taking part in some new experiences.

Santa Barbara Mission

The first outing on our itinerary was to visit the Santa Barbara Mission, which is also known as the “Queen of the California Missions.”

As you can see, it is quite large and very beautiful.  But, before entering the mission, the rose garden that lay across the street was in full bloom and was calling to me.  For those who have been reading this blog for a while, you have undoubtedly seen me writing about the rose garden.

Santa Barbara Mission

The rose beds were encircled by large expanses of grass, where you can see dogs chasing after the balls, frisbees being thrown and picnic blankets set out.

roses

In April, all the roses were at the peak bloom, and the air was perfumed with their fragrance.

roses
different roses

This bed was created with three different roses with different heights.  

I’m sorry that I can’t tell you what each type of roses these are, because they weren’t labeled.

Santa Barbara Mission
multi-colored roses

My mother liked the multi-colored roses best, like the Mardi Gras, pictured above.

Santa Barbara Mission

After getting our fill with lovely roses, we walked up toward the mission.

Santa Barbara Mission
Santa Barbara Mission

The sounds of water from the Moorish Fountain along with the scents of the roses and the beauty of the mission building itself is the reason that I make a stop here every time I am in Santa Barbara.

California Missions

The mission was built in 1786, and it is still a working church.  All of the 21 California Missions were built to help convert the native Americans to Christianity.  The history of these missions is well know to every child in California as it is an integral part of the state’s history.

For our visit today, we decided to take the self-guided tour.

Santa Barbara

This is the ‘lavanderia’, which was built in 1808 by the Chumash Indians of the Santa Barbara mission village.  It is the wash basin where the Indian women did the laundry.  The clothes were washed in the basin and then scrubbed and laid out to dry along the sloped sides.

Santa Barbara

At the end of the lavanderia is the head of a mountain lion that was carved by a Chumash Indian.  It is thought to the be the oldest, public stone sculpture in California.

A flowering Dasylirion quadrangulatum

A flowering Dasylirion quadrangulatum.

interior courtyard

The interior courtyard was filled with areas of grass, majestic palm trees, flowering perennials and a smattering of succulents.

Santa Barbara Mission
Santa Barbara Mission
Santa Barbara Mission
Santa Barbara Mission

Walking through the courtyard garden, you experience a feeling of serenity and the stresses of the day just melted away – so what if I had to submit a lengthy magazine article in less than 24 hours to my editor?

Santa Barbara Mission

The cemetery was filled with old graves from the late 1700’s all the way to the early 1900’s.  The Indian girl from the book, “Island of the Blue Dolphins”, who was found on the islands just off the coast of California, is buried on the mission grounds in an unmarked grave.

Santa Barbara Mission

This shaded pathway ran along the side of the cemetery.

 Moreton Bay fig tree

In the center of the grassy area, was a huge Moreton Bay fig tree from Australia, that was planted in 1890.

After leaving the outdoor areas, we walked through the church just as a wedding was almost ready to start. 

Santa Barbara Mission

As we walked out, I was reminded about why I love to visit this special place.

California Mission

Have you ever visited a California Mission?  There are 21 located along the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco.  I’ve seen several, and will visit a few others on this trip, which I’ll share with you.

Now for the second part of our day…

Casa del Herrero

Casa del Herrero is an historic mansion located in Montecito, which is a small town located next to Santa Barbara.

This Spanish Colonial style home was built in 1925 and is still largely the same, indoors and outdoors making it a wonderful example of the style of the 1920’s period.

A purple trumpet vine crawls up the side of the front entry.

A purple trumpet vine crawls up the side of the front entry.

This was the home of the Steedman family who came from St. Louis.  They made the decision to build their second home in Santa Barbara (Montecito).  Mr. Steedman was a engineering graduate of Harvard and owned a munitions plant that was instrumental during WW I.

After retiring, he began silversmithing and working with other metals, earning him the name “the blacksmith”.  His workshop is filled with countless tools, meticulously arranged.  There areseveral of his inventions still in the workshop that he had patented.

Bright red geraniums hang from the window, peeking through the rejas (decorative iron work covering the window).

Bright red geraniums hang from the window, peeking through the rejas (decorative iron work covering the window).

Tours of the estate are by reservation only and small groups are led by docents at a pre-arranged time.  The tour begins in the home where no photography is allowed.  Then it moves to the garden and finally the workshop.  As you can probably guess, I was mostly interested in seeing the garden.

 creative metal work
 creative metal work

Numerous examples of creative metal work could be seen both inside and outside the house.

Spanish Colonial Revival style

The tour begins in the house.  Photographs were allowed outside but not indoors.  I did really like the windows, which were covered with decorative metal iron, which is characteristic of the Spanish Colonial Revival style.  Another feature of this style is that window aren’t symmetrical – they are asymmetrical and occur wherever a window is needed for light or to open up a view.

The style of Santa Barbara (and Montecito) is the Spanish Colonial Revival style and I was very excited to see some great architectural examples as well as in the landscape design.

brightly-colored Spanish tiles

This view from the downstairs of the house shows a brightly-colored Spanish tiles.  The refreshing sound of water made me yearn to go outside.

At this point, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the inside tour.

'foot fountain'

When it was time to go outdoors, I tried to stay toward the front, without being obnoxious so that I could get pictures of the garden without people turning up in them – I think that I mostly succeeded 😉

This slightly raised area is backed by a ‘foot fountain’ where you can cool off your feet in the  shallow basin – I’d love something like that in my garden, wouldn’t you?

Santa Barbara

In this area of the garden, plants with white blooms were added at the request of the owners.  They liked to take a strolls at night and without outdoor lights, could still see where they were walking due to the way white blooms appear to ‘glow’ at night.

White bearded iris

White bearded iris

Calla (Arum) lilies

Calla (Arum) lilies

sharply pruned boxwood shrubs

Here is the rose garden, which was filled with tree roses enclosed in sharply pruned boxwood shrubs. Not really my style, but they were nice.

This other section of the garden starts with a unique water feature.

Spanish Colonial Revival design

As with all Spanish Colonial Revival design, there are Moorish influences as is shown with this eight-pointed star-shaped fountain.

Spanish Colonial Revival design

From an upper window, you can see how the star fits into the larger landscape.  I loved this part of the garden as your eye looks beyond the star toward what lies beyond.

Spanish Colonial Revival design

A grassy space lined with star jasmine, trained as shrubs lead toward another water fountain and a gate at the very end.

Spanish Colonial Revival design

It is so fun discovering what lies beyond as you walk closer.

Spanish Colonial Revival design

I don’t know about you, but I really want to know what lies beyond the little gate.

Spanish Colonial Revival design

Standing at the gate, you see an area that has been allowed to remain natural except for the Spanish tiled structure.  Evidently, the grandchildren of the originally owners would have campouts in this area and the servants would haul out cots, sheets and blankets for the kids.  I know that my kids would love to have done something like this.

huge dragon tree (Dracaena draco)

Adding to the intrigue of this more natural area is a huge dragon tree (Dracaena draco), which adds intrigue and interest to this area.

huge dragon tree (Dracaena draco)

Semi-circular steps lead you back up toward to the back of the house.

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara

A shady seating area is covered with lovely tiles.  I think that this would be a really great option for a decorative patio.

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara

Continuing toward the house, a narrow water feature runs down a few steps before draining into a basin covered in blue and yellow tiles.

Casa del Herrero

Like most estates of the time, Casa del Herrero had a kitchen garden as well as an orchard.

runnel
runnel

Near the workshop, was a ‘runnel’, which ran along the wall.  This is another feature found in Spanish Colonial style.  They are often made from clay tiles and help channel rain water from the roof to a basin where it can be stored until needed – it’s like a Spanish version of a rain barrel.

Santa Barbara

We ended the garden part of the tour at the colorful potting bench of Mrs. Steedman.  It was covered in Spanish tiles and the bottom wooden portion was actually a ‘lazy Susan’ as it could be turned, revealing a shelf containing gardening implements.

Santa Barbara

The tour lasted exactly 90 minutes and was very educational and interesting.  I was inspired by many different elements in the gardens as well.

If you would like a chance to visit this special place, you can find out more information here.

After a busy day, we headed back up to my aunt’s house in Santa Barbara and had a lovely dinner with my aunt, uncle and cousin, who stopped by to see us.

All in all, a great day!

After spending a fun-filled morning in Ojai, exploring the secret Taft Gardens, we traveled north toward the small town of Los Olivos, which is located approximately 35 miles north of Santa Barbara.

Los Olivos

On our way out Ojai, we sat at an intersection where the traffic light was visible between the branches of an old, oak tree.

I love that the value of the tree was taken into consideration, and it was allowed to stay. 

avocado trees

After leaving Ojai, our journey took us through picturesque, winding roads through the mountains, many of which, were dotted with avocado trees.

avocado groves

Some of the avocado groves were planted on very steep mountainsides.  I wouldn’t want to be the one to pick them – I’d probably fall down the mountain.

Los Olivos

Los Olivos is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, near the Danish town of Solvang.  It is home to a large number of wineries along with famous celebrities who like the peace and privacy while being within a few hours drive of Hollywood.

Upon entering Los Olivos, we drove by the entrance to a very famous (or infamous) property.  

Neverland

This is the entrance to ‘Neverland’, which is Michael Jackson’s former estate.  The last I heard, it was listed for sale for a mere $100 million dollars.  

We decided to pass on buying this property and drove onto the main street in Los Olivos.

wine tasting rooms, stores offering olive oil tasting
wine tasting rooms, stores offering olive oil tasting

Small restaurants, wine tasting rooms, stores offering olive oil tasting and a smattering of gift shops dot the main road.

wine tasting rooms, stores offering olive oil tasting
wine tasting rooms, stores offering olive oil tasting

While I was enjoying the wares for sale in the stores, my attention was drawn to the plants that decorated the main street.

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) with Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima)

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) with Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima)

A large Lady Banks rose rests on a dead tree trunk.

A large Lady Banks rose rests on a dead tree trunk.

Spanish lavender and white Iceberg roses

Spanish lavender and white Iceberg roses

White Iceberg roses are frequently used throughout many areas in Southern California.  I’ve seen it in parking lots, along roadways, and by storefronts.  It’s easy to grow and resistant to pests and disease.

j.woeste
j.woeste

Before leaving Los Olivos, we had to stop by a nursery that my mother had visited numerous times.

 variety of succulents

The majority of the nursery was filled with a large variety of succulents, many of which, were combined with garden art elements including fairy gardens.

A variety of Echeveria adds a whimsical touch to this fairy house

A variety of Echeveria adds a whimsical touch to this fairy house.

A combination of moss and succulents help create this fairy farm

A combination of moss and succulents help create this fairy farm.

The fairy gardens were created by one person who was truly talented.  Most of the gardens were quite large and out of my price range, typically costing between $200 – 600.  But, at least I could appreciate them and take pictures 🙂

Spider Web Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum arachnoideum)

Spider Web Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum arachnoideum)

A plant rack made from metal pipes

A plant rack made from metal pipes.

There was such a large selection of garden art that I was sorely tempted to buy something, but there were too many choices so I contented myself with taking pictures of those that I liked.  What’s even better, is that taking photos is free!

vibrant shades of blue
vibrant shades of blue

Blue is one of my favorite colors to add to the garden, and I often recommend to my clients to add pieces of garden art in vibrant shades of blue.  The reason for this is, is that blue creates dramatic color contrast, and there aren’t many plants that produce blue flowers.

California Road Trip: Day 2.5 - Avocado Trees, Fairy Gardens, Wineries and Family Dinner
California Road Trip: Day 2.5 - Avocado Trees, Fairy Gardens, Wineries and Family Dinner

This was my favorite fairy garden.  The whitewashed building reminded me of the homes on the Aran Islands, my husband I saw in Ireland.  I also enjoyed the geese hiding among the succulent plants.  It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the container that holds this miniature garden is at least two ft. wide.

After spending the afternoon in Los Olivos, it was time to travel south to Santa Barbara, which has been described as “America’s Riviera”.

Santa Barbara holds a special place in my life.  As a child, my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all lived in Santa Barbara, so I spent a lot of my childhood there.

It is also the place where I went to college and met my husband.  

We drove by the house that my grandparents used to live in.  Memories of this home include Christmases past and summer dinners in the backyard.

The late 1970's

The late 1970’s

Today

Today

I was happy that I was able to recognize the house right away, even after almost 40 years.

California Road Trip: Day 2.5 - Avocado Trees, Fairy Gardens, Wineries and Family Dinner

The end of our day was nearing, and we drove to my aunt’s house on the other side of Santa Barbara.  My uncle, who is an architect, built this house in 1976, and I have memories of visiting the work site and later spending weekends there with my cousin, who was the same age.

California Road Trip: Day 2.5 - Avocado Trees, Fairy Gardens, Wineries and Family Dinner

The house is perched on the side of the hill; that overlooks the ocean and the Channel Islands.

California Road Trip: Day 2.5 - Avocado Trees, Fairy Gardens, Wineries and Family Dinner

It was so nice to be able to step into a welcoming home with family and a home-cooked dinner instead of staying in a hotel that night.

Then it was time to sleep and prepare for our next day’s adventure, which would involve exploring Santa Barbara further, including a historic mansion and its gardens in nearby Montecito.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to come alongside us as we journey up the coast of California 🙂

Did you ever read the book, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett?  It was one of my favorite books as a child, and I always imagined myself exploring a hidden garden.

very secret garden , Taft Garden

Well, on the second day of our road trip, I was able to explore a very secret garden that very few people have seen.

To be honest, this hidden garden wasn’t on our original itinerary.  We were to travel by boat to the Channel Islands and explore Santa Cruz Island for the day.  But it was canceled at the last minute due to the high winds.  So, we had to find something else to fill our do for the day.  What better than to find a garden to visit?

We did some searching for gardens near the town of Ojai, which was near our hotel and found a reference to the Taft Garden, which is a 265-acre garden that couldn’t be found on a map and wouldn’t come up on a GPS search.

very secret garden , Taft Garden

We were given a map with landmarks provided such as a cluster of mailboxes, creek crossings, forks in the road and a big white barn.  With my reliance on GPS, it was somewhat surreal to navigate the way most people used to a long time ago.

very secret garden , Taft Garden

The bottom of the map had large, bold print that advised us against sharing the location of the garden with anyone else, so I won’t spill the beans.

Our route meandered through the foothills of the mountains outside of Ojai, and we passed large homes that sat on large acreage.

very secret garden , Taft Garden
very secret garden , Taft Garden

Three peacocks were perched on a corner watching us drive by.

The road was so little traveled that we only saw one car on our way to the garden.

very secret garden , Taft Garden

Groves of oak trees stood in natural areas along our route, which took us across two creeks, pass a large barn and finally to our destination.

very secret garden , Taft Garden

The entry to the garden is unassuming so as not bring attention to the fact that it is there.

very secret garden , Taft Garden

Our rental car was the only vehicle in the parking lot as we were the only visitors.

very secret garden , Taft Garden

Walking toward the visitor center, I was filled with anticipation for what discoveries awaited us along the meandering paths of the garden.  I also like to learn about new plants and how I may be able to incorporate them in my garden as well as in those of my clients.

very secret garden , Taft Garden
very secret garden , Taft Garden

Stepping inside the small visitor center, you are asked to give a donation of $5.

very secret garden , Taft Garden

Then you sign the guestbook.  

Believe it or not, we hadn’t seen anyone else in the garden at this point.

very secret garden , Taft Garden

Near the visitor’s center, a lovely bed of colorful plants was on display.  The plants in this garden are primarily from Australia and Africa, and I was familiar with many of them, although a fair few were somewhat foreign to me.

very secret garden , Taft Garden

The main path ran along one side of the garden with smaller, winding pathways branching off, encouraging exploration.

Aloe arborescens

Aloe arborescens

This aloe was enjoying the dappled sunlight.

 nice collection of agave and prickly pear cacti

On the right side of the path was a nice collection of agave and prickly pear cacti.  The other side was filled with shrubs native to Australia and many different species of aloe, which are mostly native to South Africa.

Yellow Protea flower

Yellow Protea flower

Elk Horn (Cotyledon orbiculata)

Elk Horn (Cotyledon orbiculata)

One of the things that strike you right away about this garden is that this isn’t you typical botanical garden filled with beds of flowering annuals and perennials.  While there was plenty of plants flowering, many were somewhat unusual, although most could be grown in California as well as many other arid climates.

Taft Garden

Scattered throughout the garden were bright red benches, which guests to stop and rest, to enjoy the beauty around them.

Agave angustifolia and Agave parryi 'truncata'.
Agave angustifolia and Agave parryi 'truncata'.

Agave is my favorite type of succulent, and they had several varieties including Agave angustifolia and Agave parryi ‘truncata’.  

majestic oak trees
majestic oak trees

Toward the center of the garden, is a large group of majestic oak trees that stand amidst an expanse of St. Augustine grass.  Interspersed throughout the lawn were small islands of I believe, clivia plants.

Australian grass tree (Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata)
Australian grass tree (Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata)

As I mentioned earlier, this Australian grass tree (Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata) is not your everyday plants – but very interesting – I’d say almost like a plant out of a Dr. Seuss novel, don’t you think?

Taft Garden

There were so many lovely vistas as well as unusual plants and combinations; I was very busy taking a lot of photos.  However, my legs were quite sore the next day from bending and squatting down for the perfect photo shot – at least I don’t have to feel guilty for not being able to visit the gym on our trip 🙂

Mexican Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii)

Mexican Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii)

Taft Garden

Toward the back of the garden stood a large guest house.

A floss silk tree is surrounded with a variety of succulents.

A floss silk tree is surrounded with a variety of succulents.

Bright orange aloe blooms around the house

Bright orange aloe blooms around the house.

The house was planted with a large variety of succulents, which were in full flower on this lovely spring morning.

Bougainvillea, yellow iris and a container filled with succulents

Bougainvillea, yellow iris and a container filled with succulents add welcome color toward the entry.

Artichoke agave (Agave parryi 'truncata') and 'Blue Glow' agave
Artichoke agave (Agave parryi 'truncata') and 'Blue Glow' agave

Artichoke agave (Agave parryi ‘truncata’) and ‘Blue Glow’ agave

Across the lawn from the house, a desert area filled with several agave species, columnar cacti, golden barrels and yucca create a lovely contrast to the darker green plants surrounding them.

dark pink flowers of rock purslane (Calandrinia spectabilis)

The dark pink flowers of rock purslane (Calandrinia spectabilis) grab your attention along with the bright orange flowers of soap aloe (Aloe maculata).

 Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) with Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima)

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) with Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima)

This was by far my favorite combination of plants.  The contrast of textures with the grasses waving in the breeze and the upright purple flowers of the salvia was just breath-taking.

I took a video of how it looks with the wind blowing, which it was quite a lot that day.

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)

In a nearby field, the bright orange flowers of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) were in full bloom creating a carpet of color that could be viewed from the house.

Japanese garden.

Up the hill from the house stood a Japanese garden.  The raised terrace was built around a large oak tree, which I appreciated the shade it offered since I didn’t wear my hat 😉

Japanese statues and a Zen area

Japanese statues and a Zen area completed this section of the garden.  

Taft Garden

In the back of the raised terrace, was a vine-covered walkway with arches that looked out into an enclosed outdoor area.

Majestic oak trees

Between the two arching oak trees was a circular stage.  Majestic oak trees were used to great effect throughout the entire garden.

Taft Garden

As I walked back toward the house, I could see one of the gardeners hard at work, pulling weeds from around the succulents.

Taft Garden

As we walked back toward the entrance, we took another route along a gravel path lined with tall tree aloes, pink flowering ice plant along with daisies of all colors blooming.

Taft Garden

Despite the high winds, it I had a fabulous time in this very secret garden.  It is without a doubt one of my top 5 gardens of all time with its use of beautiful, drought tolerant plants from around the world.

If I had to pick my favorite vista of the garden, it would be the one pictured in this photo…

Taft Garden

This is how I envision what heaven will be like.  I hope that God has a nice little garden cottage prepared for me next to a lovely garden like this one.

If you would like to learn more about this secret garden, here is a link to an article written about a few years ago with more photos.

Visits to the garden are by invitation only, and you can contact the garden through their Facebook page here.

California Road Trip: Day 2.5 – Avocado Trees, Fairy Gardens, Wineries and Family Dinner

Well, it’s that time of year again – time for our annual road trip.  Each year, my mother and I dust off our suitcases and embark on a trip where we enjoy the culture, food, history and of course, the gardens of a different region of the U.S.  

Each road trip takes 8 – 10 days to complete and we have a lot of fun planning the trip and the places we will see.  I also blog daily during our road trip sharing our adventures.

California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane

In the past, we have traveled throughout many regions of the country, starting out in one state and ending up several states away at the end.  We typically spend one day in each area before going on to the other.  So, we pick out one of two things that we want to do in each place we visit.

state of California

This year we decided to visit our native state of California.  Now, you may be wondering why we decided on going on a road trip through a state that we are intimately familiar with.  Our thought was to visit some of our favorite places that we had not seen in years while also seeing new places.

Our first day began early – my alarm woke me up at 3:30.  My dear husband got up to take my mother and me to the airport to catch an early flight to Los Angeles.

At this point, I must admit that it was very nice only to spend an hour on an airplane instead of 3, 4 or even 5.  The first destination of our trip was to The Getty Center, which consists of a world-famous art museum and beautiful gardens.  

As sculpture of a boy holding a frog greets visitors to The Getty Center, Los Angeles

As sculpture of a boy holding a frog greets visitors to The Getty Center, Los Angeles

Once you arrive, you park and wait to get on a 5-minute tram ride that takes you to the top of the hill where the large museum sits.

London plane trees

Once we made it to the top, the large white buildings stood before us, filled with all priceless art.  Of course being a horticulturist, my attention was focused on the planting area filled with large London plane trees.  At this point, my mother knew the likelihood of me stepping indoors to view art was remote, so she said “goodbye” and headed indoors to look at the art exhibits while I headed out toward the gardens.

Trachelospermum jasminoides

The London plane trees that caught my attention were planted amidst star jasmine, also known as Confederate jasmine, (Trachelospermum jasminoides).  In this area, it is grown as a groundcover instead of a vine.

Variegated elephant's food (Portulacaria afra 'Variegata') takes center stage in this part of the Stream Garden, Los Angeles

Variegated elephant’s food (Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’) takes center stage in this part of the Stream Garden, Los Angeles

The first part of the garden is known as the Stream Garden and runs along the sides of a narrow water feature, which runs through the top of the garden.

California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane
California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane

Echeverias of all types showed off their assorted shapes, sizes, and colors that gave the space a distinctive, yet attractive look.

'Sticks on Fire'

In this area of the garden, a  ‘Sticks on Fire’ Euphorbia showed off its bright orange tips.

Central Garden

The water from the Stream Garden emerges out into the Central Garden, which consists of a shallow basin with a living mosaic design made out of neatly clipped shrubs.

Central Garden
Central Garden

Around the sides of this area of the garden are terraced beds that create the appearance of a ‘bowl’.

Red and yellow kangaroo paw were starting to bloom, Los Angeles

Red and yellow kangaroo paw were starting to bloom, Los Angeles

California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane
California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane

A lovely variety of shrubs and perennials grew within the terraced beds and pathways lead visitors through, allowing them to see the beauty up close.

California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane

Archways covered in a combination of potato and snail vine break up the pathways that line the terraced beds and frame vignettes of garden spaces left to be discovered.

California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane

Walking through the terraces, there were so many wonderful contrasts in both texture and color.

Purple leaf plum trees
Purple leaf plum trees

Purple leaf plum trees

Variegated nasturtium alongside the regular form of nasturtiums.

Variegated nasturtium alongside the regular form of nasturtiums.

As you walk toward the top of the Center Garden, there is a more formal planting arrangement.

Tulbaghia violacea 'Silver Lace

The top terrace is lined with trees underplanted with ‘Silver Lace’ society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea ‘Silver Lace’) whose purple flowers adds a nice cooling element to the garden.

bougainvillea

Iconic towers made of rebar where bougainvillea grow up toward the blue sky.

bougainvillea towers

Here is another view of the bougainvillea towers from up above.

California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane

Scattered throughout the wide expanse of the travertine tile-covered grounds stand groups of containers filled with creative combinations of drought tolerant plants. 

pink gaura and echeveria

My favorite was this one filled with pink gaura and echeveria.

succulents

Many of the container plantings had succulents planted underneath the larger plants.

panoramic views of the city of Westwood and UCLA

Located on a promontory, is a garden that inaccessible to visitors, but visitors can view it from above.  Behind the garden, panoramic views of the city of Westwood and UCLA can be seen. 

At this point, you may be wondering if I ever ventured indoors to view any art on display.  While I do love gardens, I also enjoy looking at art.  As a child, my parents would take us to art museums and I made sure that I had time to see some famous works of art at The Getty Center.

Now before you say that I shouldn’t have taken pictures of these two paintings, shown below, I want to say that it was okay to take pictures as long as you didn’t use flash photography.

Here were my two favorites – you will probably recognize them:

'La Promenade' by Renoir

‘La Promenade’ by Renoir

'Irises' by Vincent van Gogh

‘Irises’ by Vincent van Gogh

After a wonderful time at The Getty Center, we continued on our journey through Los Angeles.  On the way, we stopped off to look at the house where I spent the first ten years of my childhood.

California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane

The house looks much the same as when we lived there.  The white picket fence is a newer addition, but the birch tree and large ash tree are still there.

California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane

There were roses growing in the garden, which made me remember those that my dad had always planted in that very same garden.

After leaving Los Angeles, we drove north to Ventura, which is about an hour away.  Before heading to our hotel, we drove by a place where a momentous event occurred.

California Road Trip: Day 1 - A Hilltop Garden, Art and a Trip Down Memory Lane

This is the church where my husband and I were married almost 30 years ago.  My mother was a pastor there at the time and married us.

As you may have guessed, California is a very special place to me.  

I can’t wait to share our upcoming adventures with you tomorrow, which includes a visit to a VERY secret garden.

**I invite you to revisit some of our previous road trip adventures from the Midwest, Northeast, South and Northwest.

There are many flowering perennials that I can think of that only flower once a year and many people think that the lovely blooms of penstemon count among them.

penstemon

Photo: Parry’s Penstemon

But, did you know that if you prune the flowers just as they begin to fade that you can stimulate another flush of colorful blooms?

Gopher Plant (Euphorbia rigida), Parry's Penstemon (Penstemon parryi) and Parry's Agave (Agave parryi)

Photo: Gopher Plant (Euphorbia rigida), Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi) and Parry’s Agave (Agave parryi)

I’ve grown penstemon for years and recently planted a Parry’s penstemon in my front yard. I enjoyed seeing its pink blossoms waving in the breeze and the hummingbirds who stopped by for a drink of nectar.

Parry's penstemon

The individual flowers began to fall, leaving only a few behind, which is the best time to prune the flowering stalks back.

Timely Pruning Produces Second Round of Flowers

If you wait too long, the chances are that you will lose your window of stimulating your penstemon to produce more flowers. It’s best to do this when there are a couple of blossoms left on the plant.

young penstemon

young penstemon

This is what my young penstemon looks like right now, but within a couple of weeks, new flowering spikes will begin growing.

The reason that pruning off the first set of flowers stimulates a second bloom period is that the penstemon’s goal is to produce seeds. To do that, they produce flowers to attract pollinators and once pollinated, the flowers drop and the seed develops. However, when by pruning off the flowering spikes when there are a few flowers left, we disrupt the cycle and the plant will produce another set of flowers for the purpose of producing seeds.

second bloom for several penstemon species

Photo: Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)

Doing so will promote a second bloom for several penstemon species including firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) and Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi).

Pruning and Blooms in the Spring Garden

Agave are my favorite succulent of mine in my own garden and also finds itself a prominent addition to many of my landscape designs.

There is so much to love about agave, from the unique, rosette pattern of their succulent leaves to the dramatic flowering stalk that they send up toward the end of their lives.

whale tongue

whale’s tongue agave

While I have several species of agave, whale’s tongue is one of my favorites.

This agave first drew my attention when my friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, wrote about the one growing in her garden, where it takes center stage in her backyard.

Since then, I have seen several throughout the greater Phoenix landscape as well.  

whale tongue agave

There is so much to like about this agave including how its blue-green color adds great color contrast to the landscape.

whale tongue agave

I also happen to like the unique shape of its leaves, that really do resemble a whale’s tongue.

Do you think this lovely agave deserves a place in your landscape?

Learn more about how and where to plant this agave as well as what plants to pair it with for maximum impact in my latest Houzz plant profile.  

 

Have you ever seen this agave in the landscape?  What would you plant alongside it?

A Welcome Gift From an Agave and a Friend

I love flowers.  In fact, it was my love affair with flowers that inspired me to get my degree in horticulture.  I figured that life is too short to not do what you love, so working as a horticulturist allows me to be around blooming plants throughout much of the year.

As the weather begins to cool, blossoms begin to lessen, but one of the many benefits of living in the Southwest is that there are always some plants showing off their flowers.

Today, I’d like to share with you just a few of the flowering plants that I saw during the past couple of weeks, which are decorating the fall landscape.

Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) flowers in spring and fall, is extremely drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F. Still in bloom in November

Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) flowers in spring and fall, is extremely drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F.

Creeping Indigo Bush (Dalea greggii) is a groundcover, which flowers in spring and fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F. Still in bloom in November

Creeping Indigo Bush (Dalea greggii) is a groundcover, which flowers in spring and fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 10 degrees F.

The Cascalote tree (Caesalpinia cacalaco) flowers in fall and on into early winter, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 20 degrees F.  While thorny, there is a new variety with a smooth trunk, called 'Smoothie'.  Still in bloom in November

The Cascalote tree (Caesalpinia cacalaco) flowers in fall and on into early winter, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun and is hardy to 20 degrees F.  While thorny, there is a new variety with a smooth trunk, called ‘Smoothie’.

 Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is an ornamental grass that flowers in fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 0 degrees F. Still in bloom in November

Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is an ornamental grass that flowers in fall, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 0 degrees F.

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) flowers all year long, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 17 degrees F. Still in bloom in November

Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana) flowers all year long, is drought tolerant, thrives in full sun to filtered shade and is hardy to 17 degrees F. Still in bloom in November

These are but a few plants that are still in bloom in November in my zone 9 climate.

How about you?  What is blooming in your garden or neighborhood?

A Beautiful Centerpiece for November’s MGB

As summer begins to slowly fade and the heat begins to dissipate, the Southwestern garden comes alive.

"Second Spring" in the Southwest Garden

Plants perk up in the absence of 100+ degree temperatures and people begin to venture outdoors  (without their hats!) to enjoy their beautiful surroundings.

When people talk about their favorite season, many will tell you that spring is the time that they enjoy the most as their gardens come alive, spring forth with new green growth and colorful blooms.  

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)

While spring is a glorious time in the desert landscape with winter blooms overlapping with spring flowering plants along with cactus flowers – it isn’t the only ‘spring’ that the desert experiences.

"second spring" in the desert Southwest

Fall is often referred to as the “second spring” in the desert Southwest as plants take on a refreshed appearance due to the cooler temperatures with many still producing flowers.  Many birds, butterflies and other wildlife reappear during the daytime hours in autumn.

Desert residents often find themselves making excuses to spend more time outdoors whether it’s taking a longer walk or bringing their laptop outdoors where they can enjoy the comfortable temperatures and surrounding beauty of the landscape.

"second spring" in the desert Southwest

Fall is also a time where we take a look around our own garden setting and decide to make some changes whether it is taking out thirsty, old plants replacing them with attractive, drought tolerant plants or creating an outdoor room by expanding a patio or perhaps adding a pergola.

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii)

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) 

No matter where you live – the East Coast, Midwest, Northwest, etc., fall is the best time of year to add new plants to the landscape as it provides plants with 3 seasons in which to grow a good root system before the heat of the next summer arrives.

What do you enjoy most about fall?

**Thinking of making some changes to your landscape?  Click here for a list my favorite drought tolerant plants that provide fall blooms.  

The beginning of fall is only a few weeks away as the long summer winds down.  Fall is a wonderful time in the garden and is the best time of year for adding new plants, allowing them a chance to grow before the heat of next summer arrives.

Fall Blooms for the Southwest Garden

Turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia) in bloom

When deciding what plants to add to your garden, many people concentrate on incorporating plants that bloom in spring and summer, but there are a number of attractive plants that bloom in fall.

Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Fall Blooms, Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Using plants with overlapping bloom periods ensure year-round beauty for your landscape.

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

Many plants that flower in fall also flower at other times of year as well such as damianita(Chrysactinia mexicana), Mexican honeysuckle(Justicia spicigera) and autumn sage(Salvia greggii).

Early October is a great time to start adding new plants, so now is a great time to decide what type of fall-blooming plants to add.

I recently shared 10 of my favorite, drought tolerant fall bloomers in my latest article for Houzz.  I hope you’ll include some of these in your landscape where they will help to decorate your fall landscape.

 

Do you have a favorite fall-blooming plant?

What to Do In The Southwest Garden – September

Do you have a pot or two that you fill with flowering annuals each season?

Replace Thirsty Flowering Annuals with Succulents in Containers

I must confess that I did this for years – both in the landscapes I managed and at home.  In fall, I would plant combinations of alyssum, geraniums, lobelia, petunias and snapdragons.  In summer it was celosia, salvia and/or vinca that I turned to for color.   

But, with many areas of the country experiencing significant drought conditions, perhaps it’s time to think about replacing thirsty flowering annuals with drought tolerant succulents in our containers.

World's Safest Beach

On a recent visit to California, (which is suffering from extreme drought conditions), we walked through the small beach town of Carpinteria.    

This is a fun place to walk, especially through the downtown area with their plant nurseries and the beach is really a great one for swimming.  We used to camp near the beach as kids and spent swimming in the ocean.

Crush cakes and cafe

A visit Carpinteria for us is never complete without a visit to crushcakes for their delicious cupcakes.  

In front of their restaurant, I noticed a unique coffee pot container filled with aloes.

vanilla cupcake

After eating my favorite vanilla cupcake, we continued our walk down the main street.

attractive succulents

Other store fronts also had pots filled with attractive succulents.  

In fact, what was unusual was that there weren’t any pots filled with flowering annuals, as you would normally see along a picturesque downtown area.

That made me realize that while I love flowers, I didn’t miss them.  

Replace Thirsty Flowering Annuals with Succulents in Containers

The absence of flowering annuals, got me to thinking that if you live in an area where there is drought, or even if you don’t – maybe we should look at using succulents instead of flowering annuals?

Succulents in Containers

Like flowering annuals and perennials, there are countless types of succulents available with soft, colorful shades and unique shapes.

Succulents in Containers

Another reason to consider using succulents is that they are easy to grow – especially when compared to flowering annuals.  

All you need is a container with holes for drainage, potting mix formulated for succulents and the succulents themselves.

Succulents in Containers

You could plant a variety of succulents or even add some cacti into the mix…

Succulents in Containers

A container like this one above, needs water twice a month in summer and monthly in spring and fall.    

Succulents in Containers

I loved this succulent container that I saw at recent visit to a client’s home.    

I must confess that I stopped growing flowering annuals a few years ago because succulents are easier to take care of – especially with watering.

Succulents in Containers

Using succulents instead of flowering annuals doesn’t have to be fancy – in fact, a single agave looks great by itself.

Succulents in Containers

But, what if you aren’t a fan of succulents.  Is there a drought tolerant option instead of planting flowering annuals or perennials?

bougainvillea

Believe it or not, bougainvillea makes a great container plant and they don’t need much water.  Simply water them deeply once a week in summer and twice a month spring and fall.  In winter, water them every 3 weeks.  

**So what about you?  Could you ditch your containers filled with colorful flowers for a waterwise one filled with succulents?  

I’d love to hear your thoughts!