Pasadena’s Arlington Garden…an excellent weekend’s exhale

Wednesday was the first day of spring, but I hear that in some parts of the country winter isn’t making a gracious exit.

If you’re tired of rain and snow maybe you want to add your name to a lawsuit filed against Punxsatawney Phil, stating he “purposely and with prior calculation and design, caused the people to believe that Spring would come early.”

Since February 2nd, when the famed Pennsylvania groundhog didn’t see his shadow and spirits were buoyed at the promise of an early spring, much of the midwest and northeast  has been blanketed in cold, rain or snow.

Apparently enough is enough! Ohio Prosecutor Mike Gmoser even called for the death penalty!

Waking this morning to this story I almost changed my mind about posting photos of a beautiful spring garden. But maybe it will give you a nice focus…it just CAN’T be long now!

In my part of the world, spring has fully sprung!

And the colors are starting to create such a splashy show I find myself letting go with some ” ooooh’s and ahhhh’s” in deep appreciation.

And Pasadena’s Arlington Garden is the perfect spot to drink it all in.

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This dedicated public garden is the perfect place to bring a cup of coffee and maybe a scone or sandwich, to sit surrounded by 350 trees and thousands of plants that do well in a Mediterranean climate, and luxuriate in tranquility.

This three acre garden is on the site of a former turn-of-the-century Victorian home, on a street once referred to as “Millionaires’ Row.” The elegant home remained in the family of the original owners until 1960, then a year later it was razed, with property eventually acquired by Caltrans.

But something wonderful and very unusual transpired.

Beginning in 2003 community members came together with city government to create a garden of native and drought tolerant plants, shrubs and trees. The garden is open from dawn to dusk 365 days a year and is located on the corner of Arlington Drive and Pasadena Avenue.

It’s just down the street from the famous Fork in the Road landmark, and only a block away from one of the busiest Pasadena thoroughfares. But somehow this park’s design fools you! It’s quiet and peaceful, and a big surprise!

One thing about its location that pleases me the most is its close proximity to Huntington Hospital. I can’t help but think of how restorative a brief walk in this quiet environment would be for anyone required to make frequent hospital visitations.

There is a lot of history connected to the property and many more wonderful things I’d love to share about the garden, but spring is just getting underway. I expect to be a frequent visitor and as I share the garden with you across the seasons I’ll add a little bit more of the story for added measure.

If you just can’t see yourself spending any time outdoors this weekend, I hope that sharing some photos of Arlington Garden might inspire you to begin planning spring outdoor adventures of your own–the winter thaw can’t be too far off.

Hang on just a little bit longer…

And it’s still the weekend…so don’t forget to exhale!

The Southern California garden…the weeds are thriving!

I’d be very unwise to imply any complaint about winter weather conditions in Southern California. Many of you comment with a hint of awe at the warmth that comes through in the photos I’ve recently shared.  Our coldest day in February is probably warmer than most in the northern hemisphere.

But we have had some cold weather, too.

Mt. Baldy with snow

Southern Californians know this peak as Mt. Baldy–it’s rarely called by its real name, Mount San Antonio. This tallest point in the San Gabriel Mountains was named “Baldy” by the miners who came in the 1860s during the Gold Rush.

At 10,068 feet it’s the highest point in Los Angeles County, so when topped with snow, we certainly gawk a bit, marveling at the sight of all that unfamiliar white stuff.

This week’s storm didn’t produce that much rain for the valley, but we did gain plenty of fresh white powder in the mountains.

Baldy’s snow is beautiful, but what I’m most wondering is what is happening to the snow pack in the Eastern Sierras?

While we Southern California gardeners like to pretend water is not a problem, drought conditions are always a threat.

And since 65% of the water intended for Los Angeles comes from the Eastern Sierras, we hope for a good snowpack and a healthy supply of runoff to feed the Aqueduct.

I’ll never complain about our mild winter weather, but I do sometime feel weary with year-round garden maintenance. We don’t get much of a break in garden chores.

The weeds continue to grow, and although the sky may spit a little of the wet stuff, it rarely lets loose! Gardens still require some watering even throughout the winter.

These are just a few of the many succulents that  sweetly bloom in winter adding quite a bit of warmth to our landscape. They are drought tolerant, requiring very little care except for a covering of frost cloth during the most extreme cold snaps.

But do you notice the weeds? They never stop thriving!

Last weekend was dry and warm, and we thought about heading out to do something fun. Instead, I evaluated frost damage and trimmed plants, alternately spreading several bags of compost, while Jay spent the better part of two days on his hands and knees pulling dandelions and spotted spurge.

That’s part of the price we pay for a garden in a year-round Mediterranean climate. Light moisture and warm sun equals fresh weeds.

I haven’t yet decided how much time I’ll spend working in the garden this weekend, but I have a couple of hours between appointments in Pasadena today, so I’m going to spend at least a little time soaking up some garden inspiration.

Arlington Garden is a heavy dose of serenity in an urban setting. If I’m going to spend so much time weeding and pruning, I like to go where I soak up inspiration.

The garden emphasizes drought tolerant plants and the most creative use of space. It has an interesting history, too, so I’ll share that with you soon.

Arlington Garden will be my first step towards my weekend exhale.

Don’t you think we all could use a transition from the workweek to the weekend–a change of pace to help eliminate stress?

I like to give gifts.

So my gift to you is a short article from a few years ago,  “A Poet in Winter Relishes Spring in His Garden.”  This 2005 NY Times story features Stanley Kunitz, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet laureate of the United States, as he approached his 100th birthday.

Kunitz loved his garden in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and this short article makes me smile as I picture a poet using the joy he received in his garden as the palette from which he painted words…and I’ll bet that’s also where he did a lot of his own exhaling.

Now it’s your turn!


Succulents and cactus…spring in a California garden. Think water-wise.

I’m always commenting that I don’t have much time to enjoy my garden and that between work and my “extra-curriculars” I’m not home as much as I would like. Today was a rare exception. Instead of spending “granddaughter day” at their home, we brought Sophia and Karina to our house so we could be a little closer to the hospital if needed.We really thought my dad would be released  today. Everything was moving in that direction but it seems his doctors were called to more urgent matters, and my very patient parents just hung out at the hospital all day waiting for the final physician sign-off. We did volunteer to come over and stage some kind of choreographed protest to “spring him,” but he doesn’t like to make a fuss.

It was a good day to sit outdoors, let the girls play, and for me, just to have a chance to observe my own backyard. Would you like to see what grows in my Southern California garden? I have roses, hydrangeas and iris, as well as lavender and  a variety of fragrant herbs, but in our Mediterranean climate I also have great success with succulents and cactus. And you may not be familiar with how  these hardy, drought-tolerant specimens flower, especially in the spring!

The picture is a little dark because it WAS a little dark. These cactus blooms greeted me before sunrise Mother’s Day morning. They bloom in the night and close up in the heat of the day.

Still here on Monday…

And then gone by Tuesday…

Can you see the little blooms-to-be? First they look like little cotton Q-TIPS…but they’ll flower soon.

All shapes and sizes…and colors

Little spiky stems…waiting to flower

I threw this one in as a little tease. Winter weather is a little hard on our G-scale (Garden) railroad. I’ll have some pictures to show you soon…all little boys enjoy their trains. And I enjoy accessorizing–with lots of succulents and cactus.

And one final note…while I was putting this post together, Mom threw dad into the get-away car and they beat it out of the parking lot and headed for home. They escaped by cover of night…and are now safely holed up in their house. The long incarceration  hospitalization is over…and we are seriously thankful and glad to have him home!

Breathing MUCH lighter…Debra