Roadtrip: Sidetracked as Always

Even on a fast trip where time is everything, I try to seek out some inspiration in nature or a garden space.

Some young Agave americana were planted in a squarish bed of Nasella tenuissima, as I awaited a homemade donut from a brand new restaurant next door to this Marfa planting.

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When visiting that town only every several months like I do, there’s often a new restaurant open but a couple more closed.

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Tucked into a corner on my Friday walk to stops on “Made in Marfa” and a couple more rare Judd installation viewings…

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The Chihuahuan Desert doesn’t lack in Opuntia species any more than it lacks in yuccas and ocotillos. This is a form of Opuntia macrocentra, with pad tops in red-purple and shorter, gray spines.

It’s clearly Opuntia macrocentra. Many people in El Paso and Las Cruces cannot tell O. macrocentra apart from many other cacti such as O. camanchica or O. phaecantha. Just like many panic, because they cannot discern bullsnakes from rattlesnakes!

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Annuals like Cosmos are seeded into some challenging planters, but really cheer up cloudy days. Other places with equally narrow planting areas use grasses like this regional native Muhlenbergia emersleyi.

Why not xeric, native grasses on the Chihuahuan desert grassland, instead of habitual, mesic eastern or European grasses?

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Spring and Fall blooming Yucca recurvifolia, planted in…a squarish area of Nasella tenuissima. Certain folks would say this is “well curated”. Not I.

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And finally one of this small group of trees, which are about the tallest Sapindus drumondii specimens I’ve ever seen.

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Back to 2013: The Getty by Details

My only visit to the Getty Center was on an afternoon in April 2013.

4 hours away on business for a Las Vegas project, between selling my Albuquerque house and my next move, Los Angeles (LA) was a great weekend escape from familiarity and desert dust.

Starting in Calabasas and visiting a friend from the distant past, I can appreciate upscale and Mediterranean climate bliss.

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The place’s built landscapes and preserved open spaces almost look perfect: proof of talent, embrace of place, and a gentle but thoughtful touch.

Surfboards! Malibu is a short, winding drive down the canyon.

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Looking back at my photos of that trip, the visit after lunch in Malibu to the Getty Center was the highlight.

I’m planning a near-term weekend trip back to see other parts of the Getty missed. Also, there are now other aspects about my photos of the Getty which I did visit, but I didn’t grab onto back in 2013.

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White: many of you know I go to Marfa every few months, 4 hours from where I now live. Some of you can tell what I like there.

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The Getty has some striking similarities of how it’s sited, treated, and feels in huge LA, compared to other architecture and site-specific art in remote, tiny Marfa. Even with major differences in scale and well-contrived formality. Robert Irwin’s hand is in the design of parts of the Getty and even Marfa.

There is good-contrived, but there is terrible-contrived; both require only a bit of thinking to tell apart!

I can almost smell the cool, moist marine layer seen as haze in my photos. Not to mention the white Wisteria sinensis.

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Yes, plenty of white!

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Minimalism: clean lines without clutter are a part of so many contemporary art venues or design. Some of it looks trendy or too contrived, similar to a copy. But some of it looks deeper and from the mind and heart, similar to purposed.

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The Getty is purposed.

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Plantsmanship: the Getty has everyone’s favorite grand feature of what large cacti / succulents can be on southern California’s coastal slopes, Sunset Zone 23. It was great to see that overlook in person, after reading others’ blog posts on it.

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But there’s much more there. Though it doesn’t hurt to start at the cactus overlook, then work your way back to everything else. The gardens start the moment you walk from your parked car to wait for the tram ride to the main part of the Getty.

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Plantsmanship and horticultural skill rule, including layering, texture, contrast, and even some formal pleaching. The plants make the hardscape and vice-versa.

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The angled stone paver band at the trees compared to the same stone pavers at the building perimeter really works, as does the Parthenocissus tricuspidata on the wall.

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Low stone sitting might also work for shorter people, or at least those without hiking and skiing-damaged knees, unlike me.

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Such Mediterranean plant imagery, with muted greens and fuzzy grays, all mounded and brought closer to eye level via containers.

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Next time, I’ll look at the garden areas other than the cactus overlook and along the main walkway, plus spend more time enjoying the art exhibits inside.

With the nearing of the Getty’s daily closing, I could only look down into this area and hope to return. This is their “Central Garden”.

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In almost no traffic back to Calabasas, it was a light dinner at Le Pain Quotidien. Including a decent croissant.

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The next day after a quick return to you-know-where for breakfast, it was back to the desert dust as the unknown unfurled. An unknown that I now know, seen from 5 years in the future.

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Driving over the mountain, it was soon a straight highway as strong winds buffeted me for 4 hours to Victorville and Las Vegas. I made the occasional stop to see some primo Yucca brevifolia.

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At the pass before dropping into southern Nevada, I remember the wind grew even colder. With biting sleet and snow flurries instead of dust, their joshua trees were just then blooming. Yucca schidigera and Coleogyne ramosissima joined in.

That area, Mountain Pass, is 4,730 feet elevation. It was still early April in the highest part of the high Mojave Desert.

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I mostly survived the coming unknown, and it’s now 2018!

A Neighbor’s Garden

Charles lives across from our large community mailbox cluster. With his friendliness, he probably knows many in our neighborhood from seeing us get our mail, daily.

Like many properties here, his is an attractive home and landscape with many native and adapted plants, plus some interesting accents.

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Near his driveway, a trio of Texas Sage with Ocotillo, gold Lantana, and a growing number of volunteer Damianita march up his sidewalk edge.

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An El Paso native, but a Las Cruces transplant over 3 years, must have a tribute to the state bird: the roadrunner. The real thing or something manmade representing our unique bird can be found everywhere.

This one made of metal, wears a bandana normally reserved for coyote art!

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I forgot to take overall photos of his landscape; odd for me. The Rudbeckia are in full bloom by his front door. And a jackrabbit; this area has more of the real thing than even roadrunners.

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Both of his dogs followed us around!

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Geraniums in various colors are in pots – medium pots, small pots, in front, and in back.

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Of course, he has quite the view to soak it all in on his back patio, over a glass of wine. No wine for me this time.

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I also didn’t get photos of his side area, though it’s what I see the most getting my mail. That planting includes strictly natives from our area including Soaptree, Ocotillo, Lechuguilla, and many Hedgehog and Claret Cup cacti. Next time.

But inside, on the way to his back patio, are some masses of plants like white and pink Gaura, or individuals of others like Desert Olive and Flame Acanthus.

I did tell Charles that I’ll help him with pruning his desert olives into the dwarf trees they want to become!