Thursday, February 28, 2013

Romancing The Home: Garden, Courtyard And The Ocean In San Clemente, California

The key to a romantic home--in my book--often starts with a garden. 

Cup of Gold vine

Lush vines clamoring across the white stucco entrance to this Spanish inspired home is a case in point. A peek through the door

reveals a courtyard, originally featuring a reflecting pool in the middle when the home was built. I love courtyards--very romantic.

 As I walk through here, I imagine the outdoor dinners and cocktail parties I could host in a courtyard--

especially with an outdoor living room and fireplace.

And, of course, if a house ends with the Pacific ocean in its backyard then without a doubt--extremely romantic. 

So this is the Casa Romantica. 
 Built in 1927, this Spanish Colonial Revival home with white stucco walls and a red tile roof, sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean in San Clemente, California.  It was the Southern California home of Ole Hanson, founder of the city of San Clemente, and was designed by Carl Lindbom, who is also the architect of former President Richard M. Nixon's home, Casa Pacifica, also in San Clemente.

There are gorgeous views of the ocean rolling up on the beach, looking to the north, over a beautiful planting of this African Daisy hybrid. The silvery leaves and pink blooms of this drought tolerant plant look stunning here against the gray sand and blue ocean.

Looking to the south is a gorgeous view of the city's pier.

Lots of drought tolerant and native California plants fill the back gardens and hillside, including sages, salvias, manzanitas and euphorbias,

trailing rosemary,

Mountain lilac (ceanothus, above),
succulents, cacti and white Matilija Poppies that will bloom in early summer.

The strawberry tree (arbutus unedo) in front of the house was in bloom during my visit in mid-February.

Archways are a ubiquitous architectural feature on the house both outdoor

and indoor. Casa Romantica is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for the public to tour and rent, naturally, for weddings.

Saying "I do" at the Casa Romantica--with the ocean as a backdrop--sounds like a piece of cake.

This is GardenEnvy.

Copyright 2013 by Jeannine. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year From The Bellagio Hotel Garden

Today, February 10, 2013, 

is Chinese New Year's Day and unlike most new year celebrations,
this one lasts for 15 days.

It is the year of the snake. According to the Chinese zodiac, individuals born in the year of the snake are intelligent, keen, wise and cunning. And it is a year of good fortune if you were born in the year of the snake.

This nine foot tall snake is in the atrium display garden of the Bellagio Hotel, in Las Vegas, Nevada. I once saw a snake close up while gardening in my San Diego back yard.  I don't know if it had anything to do with good fortune, but I immediately froze in my tracks and then slowly backed away, went in the house and closed the door.  Gardening done for the day--or for a few.

I'm not much of a gambler but I recently came to Vegas to visit my niece.  We made a bit of the rounds on the strip, and I even played $25 in slot machines just to round out my Vegas experience. (Turns out I donated.) We were also lucky to get reduced price on tickets to Cirque du Soleil's Beatles LOVE show (it was fab) and I ate at my favorite Spanish restaurant, Chef Jose Andres' Jaleo at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. (Eating paella with bomba rice and Iberico pork ribs was way better than gambling my money away.)

And the bright colors and winning flower combinations in this Chinese New Year's garden display were more appealing than any of the losing combos I saw on the slots.

 Yellow bromeliad and Vriesea Purple "Vogue"

The display was filled with yellow, red and purple bromeliads and chrysanthemums in yellow,orange and purple.

There were bubbling water fountains

and rocky waterfalls.

The Chinese doll mannequins had costumes made

only with flowers. They were lovely.

But I knew I hit the jackpot when I laid eyes on this beauty. She stole the show--
Aechmea, Blue Tango.

A quick Google search indicates this is a patented hybrid bromeliad that stands out in a fashionable cobalt blue and hot pink. I found it for purchase in a 9" nursery pot for just under $105 on the web. That could be quite the gamble: high stakes if your green thumb turns out not to be so green. Ha!
Turns out I am a gardener who gambles with plants all the time in my garden, betting that I can grow them!

So here's to good fortune in your garden this year!

Chinese symbol for  blessings, happiness and good fortune.

This is GardenEnvy.

Copyright 2013 by Jeannine.  All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What Could Be Sweeter Than A Garden At A Chocolate Factory?

A chocolate factory with a botanical cactus garden on site.

This is Las Vegas, of all places, and two of my favorite things are combined most unexpectedly.

A chocolate factory smack in the middle of a desert region, with crazy high temperatures for months on end, seems an unlikely spot for making and selling fabulously fresh chocolates, made without preservatives, that could melt outside in a New York minute. 

Because they use no preservatives, the factory doesn't make more chocolates than they need and they suggest you eat the chocolates you buy within two weeks for the best flavor.  Not that they would last longer than two weeks in my possession, ahem.

February really is just another great reason to buy and eat chocolate.

And then they have this garden, which also might seem out of the question. Let's face it, you can drive for hours in Nevada without seeing much foliage, plants or even civilization for that matter (with the exception of the Strip, where fantasy on all levels pervades).  For the most part, landscaping both on tamed and untamed grounds here is mostly gravel and rocks. Lots and lots of rocks.

So this chocolate factory garden is a sight for sore eyes. 

 Eye candy, if you will.

Lechuguilla agave

Even though spiky

Fishhook barrel cactus
Ferocactus hamatacanthus var. hamatacanthus

and spiny is the genre of the region.

Twisted Acacia tree
Acacia schaffneri

It was a bright but slightly cool day in the low 60's with a beautiful blue sky in Las Vegas in early February when I visited this garden with my daughter, sister and niece.

Opuntia santa-rita

We saw the purple pancake paddle cactus

Ferocactus Pilosus

the red barrel cactus

Carnegiea gigantea

and the mighty Saguaro.

We saw the Prickly Pear paddle cactus that always makes me think of Mickey Mouse ears,

the adorable polka dot cactus, another prickly pear variety,

Agave americana var. marginata

and the variegated century agave plant.

Opuntia bigelovii

We saw the teddy bear cholla, and even though this looks fuzzy
I don't think you want to cuddle up with this teddy bear.

But the Baja style garden, native to the Sonoran Desert in California and the Baja Peninsula, is probably my favorite, with layers of color and variety.

Plants are decked in colorful lights at  the holidays

And while I have eaten and enjoy prickly pears and nopales, which are both harvested from cactus, I tend not think of desert gardens as productive. 

So just to challenge your notion of what constitutes a garden,
the cactus garden overlooks a modern day "solar garden" where energy from solar panels is harvested.

So what could be better than a chocolate factory with a garden on a gorgeous day?

Being there with my daughter. 
She's the sweetest.

Happy Valentine's Day!

This is GardenEnvy.

Copyright by Jeannine 2012.  All Rights Reserved