California: Filoli Gardens in Early Spring

White Flowering Fruit Tree and Daffodils

Cherub and Daffodils

Yellow Daffodils Blooming

White and Orange Daffodil Blooming

Pink Star Tulips

White Narcissus Flowers and Bird Bath

Majestic Tulip Tree in Bloom

Tulip Tree Flower Close-up

Red and White Camellia

Red Velvet Camellia

It seems like ages ago, but in February we enjoyed a trip to Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California (south of San Francisco).  It is one of the most beautiful gardens in the United States!  It is well worth a visit.  More info is at:  https://filoli.org/

UCSC Arboretum: Unusual Flowers

Female Anna’s Hummingbird at Bridal Heath

Pink Poker Grevillea

Clusters of White Eucalyptus Flowers

Common Pagoda

Grevillea Robyn Gordon

Rose Coneflower

Bishop Tutu Protea

Allens Hummingbird on Protea Bud

The diversity of plants at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum is amazing!  There are unusual flower shapes that you could never imagine.  The hummingbirds are especially abundant too – it is a photographer’s playground.  It is well worth a visit.  More info is at:  https://www.santacruz.org/a-stroll-through-the-arboretum/

Gorgeous Banksias!

Strawberry Banksia

California Quail on Showy Banksia

Anna’s Hummingbird by Silver Banksia

Golden Acorn Banksia

Teddy Bear Banksia

Candlestick Banksia

Popcorn Banksia

Popcorn Banksia Seedpod

“Hairy” Banksia Man Seedpod

Naughty Banksia Men Illustration in Australian Children’s Book by May Gibbs

Carved Popcorn Banksia Seedpod Vase

The banksias at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum are gorgeous!  These Australian native wildflowers attract wildlife, and the woody seedpods are carved into vases and other gifts.  Popcorn banksias smell exactly like buttered popcorn!  Banksias range in size from shrubs to full grown trees.  More info is at:  https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/visit/garden/australia/index.html

Spectacular Pincushion Flowers!

Leucospermum cordifolium, Yellow Bird

Leucospermum Spider Portrait

Leucospermum Spider Pair

Leucospermum cordifolium (Perry’s Orange)

Leucospermum veldfire: Close-up of Ribbons

Leucospermum erubescens (natural “bouquet” of flowers at various stages of bloom)

Leucospermum Tango (closed bloom)

Leucospermum Tango (open bloom)

Leucospermum grandiflorum (Rainbow Pincushion)

Leucospermum reflexum luteum (Yellow Comet / Rocket Pincushion)

Leucospermum reflexum (Red Comet / Rocket Pincushion)

The pincushion flowers at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum are spectacular!  These evergreen shrubs in the genus Leucospermum originated in South Africa.  Proteas are one of the Earth’s oldest families of flowering plants.  The flower structures are incredibly complex and interesting, and heavy nectar attracts birds and insects.  Learn more at:  https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/

California: Huntington Garden Favorites

Chinese Garden’s Scenic Lake

Tranquil Japanese Garden’s Weeping Willow Overhanging Bridge

Japanese Garden’s Entrance to Bamboo Forest Walkway

Historic Mexican Pincushion Garden

Mammillaria Pincushion Cactus with Pink Flowers

Hundreds of Globular Golden Barrel Cacti

Shapes of Barrel Cacti and Agave

Desert Garden’s Blooming Agave

California Praying Mantis on Red Hot Poker Flowers

Matchstick Bromeliad

Sundew Carnivorous Plant

Flock of Wild Red Crowned Parrots in Garden

Sweet Dog Statue Beside Camellia Flowers

Besides favorites detailed previously on roses and orchids at Huntington Gardens, we also enjoyed seeing the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, and Desert Garden.  The plants and landscapes are stunning at this California treasure.  Some of the largest specimens were first planted in the 1920’s, and the golden barrel cacti collection is one of the largest in the world.  If you get lucky, you  might see a flock of wild red crowned parrots and hummingbirds too (read about urban parrots in the Los Angeles area at:  https://www.kcet.org/shows/earth-focus/creating-an-urban-ark-for-endangered-species-in-los-angeles). Our anticipated one day visit was not nearly enough, so we returned again a second day.  There are also multiple museums in the garden and so much more to see that is not detailed here.  If you would like to visit, more info is at:  http://www.huntington.org/

Huntington Gardens: Roses

Red and White Striped Rose

Vibrant Pink Rose

Pink and Cream Rose

Pink and Cream Rose

Lavender Rose

Peach Rose

Butterscotch Rose

Red Roses

Huntington Gardens’ historic rose garden contains over 1,400 cultivars covered in thousands of blooms.  Two beds are devoted exclusively to fragrant varieties – joy! Roses do exceptionally well in the area, which explains why Pasedena, California, is home to the annual Rose Parade every New Year’s Day.

Huntington Gardens: Orchids

Showy Lady Slipper Orchid

Pink Lady Slipper Orchid

Spotted Lady Slipper Orchid

Yellow Lady Slipper Orchid

Complex Orchids

Huntington Gardens in Pasedena, California, has gorgeous orchids on display in the Brody Botanical Center.  The variety, complexity, and colors of these beautiful plants are amazing!  Pictures of unusual orchid species are at: https://www.boredpanda.com/flowers-look-like-animals-people-monkeys-orchids-pareidolia/

 

California: Spectacular Filoli Gardens!

Birdbath with Pink Camellia Flowers

Layered Delicate Pink Camellia Flower

White Camellia Flower with Yellow Center

Hot Pink Camellia Flower with Yellow Center

Red and White Camellia Flower

Bench by Yellow Daffodils and Red Camellia Tree

Yellow and White Daffodil Pair

Orange and White Daffodil

Field of Yellow Daffodils

Pink Tulip Magnolia Tree and Bench

Pink Tulip Magnolia Tree Flower

Branch of White Magnolia Flowers

White Magnolia Flower Pair

Bunny Statue by Flowering Tulips and Hyacinths

Filoli Gardens (south of San Francisco, California) is spectacular in spring!  The blooming flowers put on a beautiful show.  It is one of the top gardens in the United States and a must-see.  These pictures were taken in February just a week after it opened for the season.  In full bloom already were camellias, daffodils, and magnolia trees.  More info is at:  http://filoli.org/

California Hummingbirds

Male Anna’s Hummingbird’s Spectacular Pink Gorget Feathers

Female Anna’s Hummingbird on Nest

Two Tiny Eggs in Nest

Anna’s Hummingbird at Grevillea Flower

Costa’s Hummingbird’s Purple Gorget

On a recent trip to California we got lucky and saw some spectacular hummingbirds.  They are a favorite!  Hummingbirds are incredibly beautiful and full of personality.  In flight their wings beat at least 50 times per second, which sounds like a buzz when they zoom past you in the garden.  Forward flight speed reaches 30 mph, and dive speeds reach 60 mph! 

Hummingbird nests are constructed of plant material bound together with sticky, stretchy spider webs.  Lichens are attached to the outside of the nest for camouflage.  Mother hummingbirds lay two eggs.  Although each egg is less than ½ inch long and smaller than a jellybean, they represent as much as 10% of her body weight.  These little flying jewels are precious!  More fun facts about hummingbirds are at:  https://www.thespruce.com/fun-facts-about-hummingbirds-387106   A live cam on Bella’s current active hummingbird nest is at: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/bella-hummingbird-nest

Los Angeles: Getty Center and Gardens

Getty Center Campus

Getty Center Campus

Building's Curvilinear Design

Building’s Curvilinear Design

Giant Travertine Slab of Fossilized Reeds, Mosses, and Algae

Giant Travertine Slab of Fossilized Reeds, Mosses, and Algae

Travertine’s Fossilized Crystallized Bubbles Formed in Ancient Hot Springs

Travertine’s Fossilized Crystallized Bubbles Formed in Ancient Hot Springs

Natural Ravine and Tree-Lined Walkway of Stream Garden

Natural Ravine and Tree-Lined Walkway of Stream Garden

Blooming Bougainvillea Arbors

Blooming Bougainvillea Arbors

Central Garden Overlook of Getty Logo formed by Floating Azalea Maze

Central Garden Overlook of Getty Logo formed by Floating Azalea Maze

Flower Bowl Garden

Flower Bowl Garden

Waterfall into Floating Azalea Pool

Waterfall into Floating Azalea Pool

South Promontory Cactus Garden

South Promontory Cactus Garden

Close-up of Barrel Cactus

Close-up of Barrel Cactus

Van Gogh’s Irises Sold for $53.9 million in 1987

Van Gogh’s Irises Sold for $53.9 million in 1987

When we visited Los Angeles, California, last summer we toured the Getty Center and Gardens.  The $1.3 billion Center opened in 1997 and sits on a hilltop overlooking the Los Angeles basin.  Featured on campus are the Getty Art Museum, outdoor sculptures and fountains, the Central Garden, and the Getty Research Institute.  Buildings are covered in white Italian travertine that comes from the same quarry used to build the Roman Coliseum (look for fossilized plants, marine life, and crystallized bubbles in the stone).  The architecture is stunning.  On a clear day the view extends from the mountains to the sea.  Indoor spaces emphasize the use of natural light.  Masterpiece paintings on display include those by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas.  

The ever-changing Central Garden is so exquisitely planned down to the last detail that it is registered as a piece of art in the Getty collection.  Even the way the soil is tilled is part of the master plan created by artist and designer Robert Irwin.  A fun television show called “California’s Gold” by Huell Howser features details and interviews about the garden: https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2008/01/13/getty-garden-californias-gold-10006/

The Getty Center was an all day excursion that far exceeded our expectations – it is a very impressive and amazing place to walk around.  It is a monument to both nature and culture.  And besides the parking fee, the Center is free!   Don’t miss this gem in Los Angeles.  More info is at:  http://www.getty.edu/visit/center/­­­­­

UPDATE:  The Getty Center escaped damage when a wildfire raged on a hillside nearby in early December 2017.  An interesting article about how the Getty Center was constructed to withstand fire and protect the art is at:  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/12/arts/design/getty-center-fire-evacuation.html?smid=tw-share.  

An interesting article about fire-chasing beetles (genus Melanophila) is at:  https://baynature.org/article/fire-chasing-beetles-make-appearance/  Charcoal beetles are known by firefighters to follow smoke – they encounter them most often during cleanup operations when the beetles swarm out of burned out stumps.  There are even reports from the 1940s of beetles swarming people smoking en masse at California football stadiums!

Catalina Island: Wrigley Botanic Garden – Amazing Cactus!

Photographing the Garden

Photographing the Garden

Photographing 80 year old Barrel Cactus

Photographing 80 year old Barrel Cactus

Trail Past Cacti and Succulents

Trail Past Cacti and Succulents

Cactus Garden

Cactus Garden

Tropical Aloe (Quiver Tree)

Tropical Aloe (Quiver Tree)

Stone Aloe

Stone Aloe

Blooming Pachypodium

Blooming Pachypodium

Barrel Cactus "Face"

Barrel Cactus “Face”

Heart Shaped Opuntia Cactus Pad

Heart Shaped Opuntia Cactus Pad

Wrigley Memorial

Wrigley Memorial

View Down Canyon to Pacific from Wrigley Memorial

View Down Canyon to Pacific from Wrigley Memorial

Tile Arch of Memorial

Tile Arch of Memorial

Close-up of Tile Arch

Close-up of Tile Arch

Beautiful Catalina Tile on Memorial Walls

Beautiful Catalina Tile on Memorial Walls

Catalina Mule Deer

Catalina Mule Deer

One of our favorite activities at Catalina Island was visiting the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden. The idea for the 37-acre garden came from chewing gum magnate William Wrigley’s wife Ada in 1935. She wanted to showcase a Desert Plant Collection. Many of the original cacti and succulents still thrive in the garden today. New plantings are focused on those unique to the Channel Islands – many are extremely rare or endangered.

The Wrigley Memorial contains beautiful examples of locally made Catalina tile. The memorial sits on a hill overlooking the Pacific.   Wrigley’s greatest legacy was his vision to protect most of Catalina Island in its natural state for future generations to enjoy. Over 88% of the island remains undeveloped and is under management by the Catalina Island Conservancy. More info is at: www.catalinaconservancy.org/index.php?s=visit&p=Wrigley_memorial_and_botanic_garden

California: Mission San Juan Capistrano and the Swallows

Mission San Juan Capistrano Entrance

Mission San Juan Capistrano Entrance

Flower Gardens by Great Stone Church Ruins

Flower Gardens by Great Stone Church Ruins

Statue of Father Junipero Serra and Native American Juaneno Indian Boy in Garden

Statue of Father Junipero Serra and Native American Juaneno Indian Boy in Garden

Stone Arch Ruins of Great Stone Church

Stone Arch Ruins of Great Stone Church

Two Largest Bells Preserved from Great Stone Church (San Vicente and San Juan –cast in 1796)

Two Largest Bells Preserved from Great Stone Church (San Vicente and San Juan –cast in 1796)

Sacred Garden and Fountain

Sacred Garden and Fountain

Tapestry of Sacred Garden and Fountain

Altar Covered in Gold Leaf in Serra's Chapel

Altar Covered in Gold Leaf in Serra’s Chapel

Golden Altar is Adorned with 52 Angel Faces. Building is Oldest in California in Current Use.

Golden Altar is Adorned with 52 Angel Faces. Building is Oldest in California in Current Use.

Restored Painting of St. Joseph with Baby Jesus

Restored Painting of St. Joseph with Baby Jesus

Waterlilies Blooming in Fountain

Waterlilies Blooming in Fountain

Vibrant Pink Rock Purslane Flower in Garden

Vibrant Pink Rock Purslane Flower in Garden

Koi in Courtyard Fountain

Koi in Courtyard Fountain

Cactus and Dome in Background of New Mission San Juan Capistrano

Cactus and Dome in Background of New Mission San Juan Capistrano

Altar at New Mission San Juan Capistrano

Altar at New Mission San Juan Capistrano

Murals at New Mission San Juan Capistrano

Murals at New Mission San Juan Capistrano

Song Album Cover for "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano"

Song Album Cover for “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano”

Original Sheet Music for “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano”. Written by Leon Rene in 1939.

Original Sheet Music for “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano”. Written by Leon Rene in 1939.

Cliff Swallow Pair at Mud Nest

Cliff Swallow Pair at Mud Nest

Swallow Tile Purchased in Gift Shop

Swallow Tile Purchased in Gift Shop

In spring we visited Mission San Juan Capistrano (between San Diego and Los Angeles). This historic church is known as the “Jewel of the California Missions”.   It was founded in 1776 and contains a complex of adobe buildings (including Serra’s Chapel), along with gardens, fountains, and historical displays. The famous “mission grape” was first planted at San Juan Capistrano in 1779, and wine production began in 1783. The mission’s original “Great Stone Church” chapel was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812. At the time it was the largest stone building west of the Mississippi. The stone arch ruins are preserved on site, along with the original mission bells. Preservation efforts for the mission began in 1910 by Father St. John O’Sullivan, and restoration continues to the present day.

The city is famous for the return of the swallows to the area every March from Argentina.  To celebrate there are parades, fiestas, and street fairs. The cliff swallows’ return is memorialized in a popular song written by Leon Rene in 1939 called “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” (listen to a recording by the Ink Spots in 1940 at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUSC37bLuuU).  The story of the swallows at the mission is at:  http://sanjuancapistrano.net/swallows/.

In 1986 a new parish church was built adjacent to the mission that is similar in design and spirit to the original Great Stone Church. In the year 2000 Pope John Paul II honored the new Mission San Juan Capistrano with the title “Basilica”, and in 2003 it was designated a “National Shrine”. The church has 2-foot-thick walls that are engineered to withstand future earthquakes. The motifs on the sanctuary walls were painted over 18 months by Dr. Norman Neuerberg. For inspiration, he studied historical records of the Great Stone Church, and traveled to Father Serra’s homeland in Mallorca, Spain. More info about Mission San Juan Capistrano is at:  http://www.missionsjc.com/ . Click on any of the pictures in this post for more detailed information (including song lyrics).

Amazing Hummingbirds

Female Allen's Hummingbird

Female Allen’s Hummingbird

Male Allen's Hummingbird

Male Allen’s Hummingbird

Female Anna's Hummingbird

Female Anna’s Hummingbird

Male Anna's Hummingbird

Male Anna’s Hummingbird

Wings of Anna's Hummingbird

Wings of Anna’s Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are known as “flying jewels” because of their beautiful iridescent feathers.  They are the only birds that can rotate their wings in a circle.  They can hover and fly forward, backward, and even briefly upside down.  They are among the smallest of birds, and only live in the Americas.  Their tiny nests are 1.5 inches in diameter – just big enough for two jellybean-size eggs.  Spider silk is used to stick lichens onto the nest for camouflage.  Hummingbirds eat small insects and drink nectar from up to 1,000 flowers per day.  They are a favorite of mine – what sweet little birds!  More fun info is at:  http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/humm/funfacts.html

Nature at Alcatraz Island National Park

Fog Bank Flowing Over Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island - "The Rock" Front Side

Alcatraz Island – “The Rock” Front Side

Alcatraz Island - "The Rock" Back Side

Alcatraz Island – “The Rock” Back Side

Western Gull

Western Gull

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Pigeon Guillemot

Pigeon Guillemot

Beautiful Peach Rose

Beautiful Peach Rose

Gorgeous Calla Lily

Gorgeous Calla Lily

Succulent Garden

Succulent Garden

Alcatraz Island National Park is San Francisco’s number one tourist attraction.  Most people visit “The Rock” to learn about its role as a Federal Penitentiary housing criminals such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly (1934-1963).  But some visitors come for a different reason – they come to see its historic gardens and nesting sea bird colonies in spring. 

The gardens were important to everyone living on the island.  Park rangers say the gardens demonstrate the importance of plants to the human spirit.  More info is at:  http://www.alcatrazgardens.org/index.php   A self-guiding brochure of the gardens is at:  http://www.alcatrazgardens.org/pdf/AZ%20Garden_05_12.pdf

Sea birds nest on the island from February – September.  Birds that breed on the island include California and Western Gulls, Pigeon Guillemot, Brandt’s Cormorants, Black-Crowned Night Herons, and Snowy Egrets.  A brochure on the “Waterbirds of Alcatraz” is at:  http://www.nps.gov/alca/naturescience/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=388749

Killdeer Nest at Matanzas Creek Winery and Lavender Gardens

Killdeer Distraction Display

Killdeer Distraction Display

Killdeer Eggs in Nest

Killdeer Eggs in Nest

Matanzas Creek Wishing Well

Matanzas Creek Wishing Well

Lavender Flowers

Lavender Flowers

View of Matanzas Creek Lavender Gardens

View of Matanzas Creek Lavender Gardens

Killdeer nests are a simple depression scraped out of the ground with added bits of sticks, grass, rocks, or shells.  If a predator gets too close, killdeer perform a distraction display.  We knew we were near a nest when this mother killdeer pretended to have a broken-wing – the performance was quite convincing!  We didn’t want to upset her, so we quickly walked away in the other direction.  Just like that she “recovered” and ran back to the 4 eggs safely tucked in her nest.  She couldn’t have picked a more scenic place to raise her family – right in the middle of the lavender gardens at the Matanzas Creek Winery in Sonoma County, California.  Info on visiting is at:  http://www.matanzascreek.com/

Rain Lilies

Pink Rain Lily

White Rain Lilies

Rain Lilies bloom in Fall in the San Francisco Bay Area.  They are also known as Pink Fairy Lilies, Surprise Lilies, or Naked Ladies (because of their bare stems).  These fragrant flowers in the Amaryllis family are very beautiful!

Filoli Gardens: Spectacular Knot Garden

Filoli Knot Garden Lavenders

Filoli Knot Garden Patterns

Filoli’s Knot Garden is spectacular!  It contains many different types of lavenders, along with lollipop-shaped rosemary bushes.  The patterns, colors, and textures of the garden are especially amazing in summer.  Specific details are at (click once and then click again):  Filoli Knot Garden

Hummingbird Taking a Bath

Anna’s Hummingbirds at Cherub Fountain

Anna’s Hummingbird With Yellow Pollen on Bill

Anna’s Hummingbird Dipping Head into Fountain

Hummingbirds enjoy baths.  Sometimes they will flit in and out of the spray from a garden hose.  One time we watched an Anna’s hummingbird bathe in a cherub fountain at Filoli Gardens.  She dipped her head in the water to wash off the yellow flower pollen.  How sweet!

Filoli Gardens: Roses

Rose Meadow at Filoli Gardens

Pastel Rose at Filoli Gardens

Yellow Rose at Filoli Gardens

Rose Petal Swirl at Filoli Gardens

Roses start blooming in May at Filoli Gardens.  The rose is the national flower of the United States, and a symbol for love and beauty.  There are over 500 kinds of roses at Filoli Gardens!

Our Favorite California Quail Photo

California Quail on Banksia Flower

We saw this California Quail at the University of California – Santa Cruz Arboretum.  The bird is sitting on a Banksia bush in full bloom.  Banksia flowers smell just like buttered popcorn!  Because quail are so cute, they have been featured in many Disney movies (including Bambi). Although the topknot looks like a single feather, it is actually six feathers clustered together as one.

Filoli Gardens: Spring Bloom

Filoli Clock Tower, Tulips, and Forget-Me-Nots

Filoli Reflecting Pool and Red Tulips

Purple and White Wisteria on Filoli Mansion

Filoli Hyacinths

Filoli Pink Camellia

Filoli Red Camellias

Filoli Red Camellias

Filoli Oak Tree and Red Tulips

Filoli Redbud Tree Blooming

Filoli Redbud Tree Blooming

Filoli Iris

Filoli Gardens is rated one of the top ten formal gardens in the world!  The spring bloom is always gorgeous.  More info is at:  http://filoli.org/

Filoli Gardens: Tulip Time

Filoli Tulips and Reflecting Pool

Filoli Red Tulips

Filoli Pink Tulips

Filoli Yellow/Orange Tulips

It’s tulip time at Filoli Gardens – enjoy the beauty of spring!

Rare Blue-Flowering Bromeliad

Puya berteroniana Flower Stalk

Close-Up of Puya berteroniana Flower Cluster

Blue Puya berteroniana Flower

Thrasher Drinking Flower Nectar

If you are lucky, you will see an unusual bromeliad plant in bloom when you visit the University of California – Santa Cruz (UCSC) Arboretum.  Puya berteroniana is native to Chile, and is related to the pineapple. The plant produces a spectacular 10-foot-tall flower stalk in spring.  The blooms are one of the few in the world that are truly blue!  Birds love to drink the flower’s nectar.

Filoli Gardens: One Million Daffodils

Filoli White Daffodils

Filoli Daffodil Close-Up

Filoli Daffodils and Redbud Tree

Filoli Yellow Daffodils

Filoli Daffodil Field

It’s daffodil time at Filoli Gardens!  In spring Filoli showcases over 1 million daffodils, featuring 100 varieties.  Information is at:  http://filoli.org/explore-filoli/

Filoli Gardens: Cherubs and Flowers

Filoli Cherub and Daffodils

Filoli Cherub and Silk Tassel Flower Chains

Filoli Cherub Surrounded by Daffodils

Enjoy the beauty of these cherubs and flowers at Filoli Gardens (south of San Francisco) in early spring.

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