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/­­­­­

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

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

Unusual Low Fog Covering Alcatraz

Unusual Low Fog Covering 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

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