Friday, March 23, 2012

San Juan Capistrano Mission Garden Is Simply A California Beauty

           From the outside wall of the Mission San Juan Capistrano garden, the visitor already has the notion that this is a California garden.  The white-stuccoed wall is topped with a thick and heavily blooming red trumpet vine and under planted with a variety of cacti, succulents and other dry garden plants.

      But for a brief second inside the walled garden, it is reminiscent of Greek ruins.  The old Mission itself--the Great Stone Church-- is in ruins, heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1812 and not too much of it remains today. What does remain, the beautiful backdrop of white stone walls that are now 200 years old, heightens the sense of history surrounding this landmark and adds to the garden's mystique and romantic lure.

          It is the seventh of 21 Spanish Missions in California and was founded in 1776.  It is located south of Los Angeles in San Juan Capistrano, California.

          Candles glow inside a small, ornate chapel known as Father Serra's chapel, which is still intact and is considered the oldest building in California.

        Meanwhile, churchgoers attend mass at a newer basilica built in 1986 (indicated by the domes above).

             The central courtyard is anchored by a fountain complete with koi fish and lily pads.

 And the garden--on this, the second day of Spring--explodes with color. The color purple, mostly.    

and lavender, covered in blooms. 

Iris and Mexican sage 

are mixed with bright California poppies. 

A ceanothus matches the sky. 

Dense sprays of bougainvillea cascade over white walls. 

I even developed a crush on a shrubby paddle cactus with reddish buds.

This well tended garden, up against aging stone walls 

                          and rugged wooden benches,

has the feel of simple luxury,

something unexpected in a Mission garden.  

The birds of paradise are impressive and also studded with blooms.


Butterflies flutter seemingly everywhere with so many lovely blooms to choose from.

            Even the creeping fig is in excellent form here.

The only thing missing are the legendary birds, the swallows, that migrate on their own mission from Argentina every Spring. They nest here and around San Juan Capistrano. The story goes that they arrive on March 19 and then return to Argentina in October.  Both the Mission and the town celebrate their return with festivals. These mud nests (above) that the swallows built under the eaves must be from previous years, because there wasn't one swallow to be seen on March 21st.

If I were a swallow I would certainly hitch my nest near a roof at 
                     Mission San Juan Capistrano.              
Even with a bird's eye view, this garden is simply a beauty to behold.   

This is GardenEnvy. Copyright by jayro 2012.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Japanese Tea Garden Bridges Culture In Golden Gate Park

          Japanese gardens ask that you go beyond the garden spiritually, that you look at the garden not merely as an object but also as a path into the realms of spirit.
                                                                                     --Makoto Ooka



                                      Balance between stone and water.
                                      A garden pathway to the East.

    This is the famous Japanese Tea Garden of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. It started out in 1894 on one acre and was expanded to five acres by landscape designer and gardener Makoto Hagiwara, who lived here with his family and nurtured the garden until 1942.  This is the oldest Japanese garden in the United States.

 There was a bit of chill in the air on the February day I visited but it was a gorgeous, sunny day.

   So much so that the fish found a shady spot to rest under a low lying pruned cedar.      

I also found a place for a rest, at the tea house with beautiful views of the garden and where even a bowl of rice soup is a work of art.

Although it is debated, Mr. Hagiwara is also said to have introduced the fortune cookie to customers of the tea house in this garden.
                             Azaleas and rhododendrons were blooming.

                                     Water falls by the dwarf trees 

and a stone boat basin, brought in 1996 originally from a village near Tokyo, is traditionally used for hand washing at tea ceremonies.

      Like the iconic Golden Gate bridge in this city, the Japanese Tea Garden is a graceful icon. It not only bridges a culture but the 'paths into realms of spirit' seem to be everywhere in this garden. I think Mr. Hagiwara would be happy to know that he definitely left us a fortune. No debate.


                     This is GardenEnvy. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.