The Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden was created by Kinzuchi Fujii between 1935 – 1940 for Charles and Ellamae Storrier Stearns. Fujii (1875 – 1957) designed and built Japanese landscapes across Southern California in the first half of the 20th century. The Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden (located in Pasadena, California) is his only remaining garden. It is also the only intact example of a major Japanese-style garden created before World War II for a residence in Southern California.
This pond-style stroll garden features a fifteen-foot waterfall and a formal teahouse on approximately two acres of land. The garden is considered by many to be a masterwork and it demonstrates the adaptability of Japanese culture in modern America. Under the direction of Dr. Takeo Uesugi, landscape architect, professor emeritus at Cal Poly Pomona and a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, The Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden was faithfully restored from 2007 – 2013.
As a member of the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, I miss strolling through the acres of plants, trees and flowers during the closure. In the meantime I feel fortunate to live in a beautiful neighborhood where a lot of homeowners take their landscaping seriously. Last Saturday I took my 50mm fixed lens for a stroll along Braddock, looped around Carlson Park and back along Farragut… a little over 2 miles.
Here are the results:
When I first bought the 50mm (1.4) lens I thought I had made a mistake. I didn’t like being trapped in that focal length after being used to my go-to 18-135mm lens. But as usual, with the camera equipment I buy, I left it too long to return the lens. So I had to make the best of it. Now it’s my second favorite lens next to my zoom. It forces me to see everything from one perspective. I have to physically walk up to my subjects or back up to get the view I want. It’s a challenge I enjoy.
Within the next week or so I intend to retrace my footsteps with my 18-135mm lens and see what I can capture at the wide angle and telephoto ends. Of course when I walk the neighborhood I am safe. I am wrapped up from head to toe like a mummy. I am sure I look like the angel of death with a black hat, black face mask, scarf, wearing a high neck sweater and jacket, etc. I notice since I have been wearing my face mask people tend to distance themselves from me more often, which is fine with me!
During this strange time in our lives we need all the beauty we can get. I hope you can all step (safely) outside in your own neighborhoods to appreciate the gifts nature gives us.
A friend and I drove up to Santa Barbara last week partly to visit Lotusland, which has been on my bucket list for a while, and partly to enjoy the city. Lotusland is actually located in Montecito, an affluent unincorporated community in Santa Barbara County, California, east of the City of Santa Barbara.
I first heard of Lotusland while visiting Santa Barbara for the Summer Solstice Festival in June, 2017. That was quite a different scene with thousands of people thronging the streets. Click here to view my blog post of that event.
Lotusland sits on 37 acres and unless you are a member you must walk through it on a tour with a docent.
It is billed as one of the top ten most beautiful gardens in the entire world. Well, it is very nice and I enjoyed the visit but I’m not sure I would go that far. Maybe we are spoiled for lovely gardens in Southern California but other gardens in other parts of the world spring to mind. Top 100 might be more realistic although I haven’t traveled enough to back that up! But it was worth seeing, for sure.
I took 240 photos during the walk and it was very hard to decide which ones to display… I could easily have included 100 in this post… but I decided to spare you and cut it down to a mere 56 with as much variety as possible… which means some of my favorites hit the cutting room floor… that hurt!
This turquoise glass slag lines the pathways… a very effective and beautiful border.
Lotusland contains about 21 different garden areas with more than 3,000 different plants from around the world. Please click on an image below to begin the slide show.
I’ll be uploading a couple more posts of our trip to the Santa Barbara area so stay tuned!
Ten of us adventurous souls met in Ventura for another exciting day. Seven of us took Amtrak from Los Angeles Union Station. The other three met us in Ventura.
Father Junipero Serra
I was out of bed at 3:45 to meet my friend at the bus stop at 6:15. The Expo Line was down for upgrading so we were stuck with the Metro #733 bus.
Father Junipero Serra looking out on the city of Ventura
It takes me two hours to get out of the house these days. Cleaning out the cat litter boxes, making the cat’s breakfast, watering my crops of tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, parsley, etc, making coffee, cooking breakfast, getting dressed, wandering around in a fog… it all takes time.
Ventura Botanical Gardens
I was ready to walk to the bus top by 5:45. It was beautiful walking through Culver City at that hour of the morning with only a couple of people walking their dogs and barely any traffic. So peaceful.
We arrived at Union Station with time to spare. I always like to be early instead of running at the last minute. As I always say, I would rather be two hours early than two minutes too late!
The Amtrak train left at 7:50am and we arrived in Ventura about 9:30. I LOVE traveling by train and Amtrak is soooooooo comfortable. It’s lovely to see the scenery go by from the top deck.
Our first stop was the Ventura Botanical Gardens.
The area was totally burned out in the Thomas fire of December 2017. But the gardens are being replanted and coming back quickly. You can still see the extent of the burned out areas.
The gardens are built on a hill with the option of switchback trails or stairs. I opted for the switchback. Whichever you chose there are some lovely views.
Plants are resilient and manage to grow in any situation.
Click on the first image below for a slide show:
After the hike up the hill we walked back through town towards the pier and lunch, always my favorite activity!
We ate at Beach House Fish. I ordered the wild snapper with mashed potatoes. I am a potato junkie… the way it is…
I thought this image represented the beach at Ventura!
What a view as you eat your seafood lunch. Life is good.
After my delicious lunch I took a stroll along the pier. It’s a fishing pier.
Click on an image below for photos of the pier and views from the pier:
The last weekend of March a friend invited me to accompany her to Tomatomania at Descanso Gardens. She wanted to buy tomato plants for her garden. I told her I wouldn’t buy any as I wasn’t sure they would grow on my deck. But of course when we arrived and I saw all those beautiful tomato plants I couldn’t resist buying three. What the heck.
Freddie immediately took up the job of Guardian of the Tomato Plants without regard to his own welfare or safety. That’s the kind of cat he is.
With Freddie as Protector, the tomato plants went crazy in the following three months, taking over the deck.‘
This is a typical crop for one day. The toms come in three colors: black, copper and bright red. They have slightly different flavors accordingly.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, there aren’t any chicken or fish flavored tomatoes for the boys. But Freddie evidently appreciates the aesthetic qualities provided by a perfect, round, ripe tom!
While Frankie, on the other hand, is laughing his head off thinking all this fuss about tomatoes is a big joke…
It’s a law. Both cats are looking straight ahead into the camera. But as soon as the human clicks the shutter, one cat has to look away. Of course it would have to be Frankie The Monster.
I ordered a few things from Amazon this week. I placed all the boxes on the floor in a cat condo arrangement so they could take their pick. As you will note, there are two good size boxes available. Frankie has to cram himself into the least size-appropriate box. Nobody can accuse me of not providing him with adequately sized boxes.
Freddie curls up in one of the boxes but as soon as I run for the camera he decides to investigate my shoes while Frankie feigns indifference (as usual).
I rearrange the boxes and Frankie shows his versatility by choosing a larger box, even though there are two smaller boxes at hand (although out of the frame of the camera). It was probably because Freddie was in the box and Frankie decided to appropriate it… that is normal. Wherever Freddie is sitting or whatever he is doing, Frankie The Bully (aka The Monster) has to take over. And Gentle Giant Freddie lets him.
It was hot today in little old Culver City. 102° F (39° C). So the boys spent most of the day out on the front balcony catching whatever breezes they could.
I am quite the farmer these days, growing micro greens in pots on the balcony. My crops include kale, mustard, endive, basil, buckwheat. Also parsley and cilantro. The little plants grow to about an inch to two inches tall. Every day I harvest some for my salad.
I soak the seeds before planting in the soil. Here mustard and kale are soaking. I also make my own sprouted seeds (such as alfalfa, broccoli, radish) and a variety of beans. In the third jar are mung beans. Of course, sprouted seeds and beans don’t go into the soil, they are sprouted in their respective jars.
Both the micro greens and the sprouts are a lot of work… even more work than cats, believe it or not! But it’s fun watching everything grow. I’ve had some disasters and disappointments but I’ve learned from my mistakes and like everything else it’s a matter of getting a system down that works for you.
In researching the origin of the name “butterfly” I came up with two possibilities. 1. The Anglo-Saxons coined the word ‘butterfloege’ because the most common butterfly at the time was the yellow brimstone butterfly. 2. They were called flutterby (obviously because they fluttered by) in Victorian times and after a while the name was reversed to butterfly. Maybe a combination of both.
My friend M and I met up on Tuesday morning at the Stagecoach bus stop near my hotel on Marine Parade. The #9 bus dropped us at Northbrook Metropolitan College. It was a short walk along the A259 to the Highdown turnoff and a pleasant trek up the hill to the gardens.
Highdown Gardens are nestled on the South Downs situated between Ferring and Goring.
These stunningly beautiful chalk gardens on Downland countryside, overlooking the sea, are a tranquil haven for all to enjoy. The gardens are home to The National Plant Collection of the Plant Introductions of Sir Fredrick Stern – a unique collection of plants and trees, with many unusual plants to be discovered all year round.
Highdown Gardens is one of the hidden gems of the area and home to a unique collection of rare plants and trees. In fact the whole garden has been deemed a National Collection.
The Gardens looks their best in spring and early summer when there is a colorful succession of spring bulbs such as Crocus, Daffodils, Anemones and Snowdrops followed by Paeonies and Bearded Iris.
As we were there the second week in May this was an ideal time to see the gardens at their best.
The gardens, internationally important because they are home to hundreds of rare and exotic plants and trees uniquely grown on chalk soil, are visited by tens of thousands of people every year.
Worthing Borough Council owns and maintains the gardens which are free to visitors.
Sir Frederick Stern created his gardens during a period when many expeditions were going out to China and the Himalayan regions collecting rare and beautiful plants. Many of the original plants from their early collections can still be seen in the Gardens today.
Sir Frederick received his knighthood in 1956 for Services to Horticulture.
The 8.5 acres of Gardens were created out of an old chalk pit overlooking the South Downs, where there was little soil and very unfavorable conditions for plant growth.
I really lucked out and experienced Southern California weather all the time I was in Worthing, except for half a day when it rained. The weather on our visit to Highdown was sunny and warm. Very pleasant for walking around.
The tadpoles were enjoying a school outing on this beautiful day!
And this little red fellow came along to say hello.
Click on an image below to enjoy the slideshow!
After such a feast for the senses it was time to fill our tummies so we headed to the Tea Rooms.
I chose the Ploughmen’s Lunch and M ordered Welsh Rarebit.
Such a delightful afternoon. We walked back to the bus stop through the fields.
A friend very kindly gave me a membership to The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, approximately 20 miles (32km) northeast of Culver City and 13 miles (21km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. So as it was such a glorious day on Wednesday in the 70s (21+C) and sunny, I decided to make the trip.
My first stop to take a photo was at a fountain in the California Garden area. Two little girls were playing with the water. One was wearing a bright pink dress and the other was in blue. The reflection of these dresses in the water gave me the colors at the right hand side of the image. I’m sure the mother thought I was trying to capture pictures of her kids so I did my best to make it obvious I was only interested in the fountain. I took several shots but the one I liked the best was out of focus so I decided to play with it in Photoshop and make an abstract image out of it!
Now I have a membership I didn’t feel the need to rush around to every part of the gardens or visit the galleries as I can come back whenever I feel like it! So I just walked around looking for flowers and plants and scenes that struck my fancy.
I set my camera on Aperture Preferred (AV on my Canon) which is now my preferred setting! For a long time I set it to Program as the default and changed the aperture and shutter speed as necessary. But now I believe AV is better.
I know there are “purists” who scoff at anything other than strictly Manual. Good for them! I talked to one professional landscape/street photographer who told me his dirty secret that 95% of the time he stayed in Program and let the camera do the work. It’s like painting. Anybody can take a brush and make a mess on a canvas. But it takes an artist to make something beautiful.
Walking towards the Desert Garden
Whether you are using a paintbrush or a camera, you still have to have an “eye.” I have a friend who owns all kinds of camera equipment but has no sense of composition. that’s the most important element.
So it doesn’t matter if you are shooting in Manual or Program or Aperture Preferred or with a point & shoot camera or a smart phone. If you capture a good picture, that’s the only thing that matters.
For me, walking around with a camera forces me to see things I probably wouldn’t notice otherwise. Today I was on my own. But I also enjoy going out with a friend because they might spot something I missed and vice versa.
The other issue that comes up is post processing. I happen to enjoy working in Lightroom and Photoshop. You can’t start out with a crappy photo and make it into a masterpiece on the computer. Ain’t gonna happen. But you start out with a well-composed, in focus, reasonably well-lit image and there is a chance you can make that into a masterpiece! I shoot in RAW so all my images have to go through Lightroom (or Camera RAW) anyway.
My favorite part of the grounds is the Desert Garden so I pretty much concentrated on that area. Next time I may avoid it completely! I was attempting to get some closeups and some general views. My favorite lens is my 18-135 zoom. It’s a kit lens and if I ever want to upgrade I am out of luck as there apparently is no stand alone lens in those lengths. But I’ll worry about that when I get there.
I’m hoping I can choose a couple of these to upload to Fine Art America where I have my portfolio. This one above might be a candidate.
The Desert Garden includes more than 5,000 species of desert plants in sixty landscaped beds. I don’t want to be the one to count them.
The weather was unbelievably pleasant. Cool and sunny is my favorite. I remember one visit to the Desert Garden when it had to be 100 degrees F (38C) and I couldn’t get enough water inside me. I’m sure all the cacti and succulents were having a great day!
I’ve never seen so many lizards cross my path. They must have liked the weather too and decided to come out for a stroll. One after the other they were darting out in front of me. No fear of humans.
I took almost 250 pictures this day! Lucky for you I won’t show all of them! But there are 42 in this post.
Unbelievable that it is necessary to post a sign reminding visitors not to carve their names or initials on the bamboo. Aaaargh…. people!
Click on an image below to see slide show of the rest of the photos, if you even made it this far!