The West Coast Journey – Huntington Library and Gardens

Eventually, maybe sooner rather than later, I’m going to split off a different blog  for strictly personal stuff. My days have been so loaded with friendship, communion among old friends and family and the more serious issues of life, they have nearly overwhelmed my more technical pleasures in presenting landscape-specific posts, information and results. As it is, I guess I’ll just punctuate things with a few examples of some of the ridiculously arresting places I managed to see and capture on digital film. In fact, today will be rather easy.

This comes later……..after the Desert.

Below, we’re munching on breakfast at a place famous for its French Toast on a bread they manufacture – more like a roll. Good Lord, there’s a reason for the fame. Here we eat beside the barking seals up the beach in La Jolla in the San Diego area. I regret I’ve forgotten the name of the gorgeous seaside restaurant, but they do a bang up business anyway….plus, its setting is totally unique. I bet Alice Joyce knows this one.

(enlarge pictures by clicking)

Today it’s the Huntington Garden and Library, in beautiful downtown Pasadena, California. I had long heard about it, specifically from James at Lost In The Landscape. I had made up my mind that if I ever got there, I’d check this garden out.


The literal forests of Cactus were extremely gorgeous, busy and arresting.

It was a total thrill, seeing these as we approached, but my delight was just beginning. Famous for its rare and exotic species, collected for nearly 100 years and tended to by true experts, the Huntington’s Desert Garden display is absurdly rich in impractical colors, made even more rare and other-worldly by the electrifying vividness of the blooms.

The Cactus above features a bloom so bright Yellow, it’s as if it creates its own Sun – from inside!

Below, these apparently “Interstellar/Transgalactic” Yucca’s provide us with colors we cannot find in ordinary gardens, certainly not in such combinations.

Looking magnificent comes easy to these guys – the entire lot of them.

Once again, the “artful arrangements”.

There is some amazing material to work with, no less…..

There are also some beautiful accidents    😉

This gorgeous area below looks like something of a transition between the Desert Garden theme and the Japanese Garden. I really dig the blue color – it’s like this air conditioner for the eyes. Plus, the layout is minimalist and tight for that.


Some very unusual individual cactii…….

Silver Jade Plant below.


Beautiful stuff all over



1,000 Miles Of Coastal Color & Loving Friends

I left Portland Thursday morning in a misty rain, cool and dark as the mornings there are. The freshness of the air hit me again as remarkable – it’s an almost therapeutic side benefit of all the constant rainfall, what with the cleansed oxygen and ozone so redolent all around one.

My next leg of travel deals with seeing my daughter again, amid some of the recent changes in her life. As well, I have the great good fortune of my life’s best friend picking me up at the airport, then running up to see his own daughter in Camarillo, a gal I met when she was all of 2 years old. I’m a nice local legend in her family and I was her first real adult friend at her age then.

Here he regales my new bestest little freind, Marleigh, with a railroad tune, further justifying her pet name for her Grandad – “Choo-Choo”.

It was so cool chatting as we drove Northward after we sat for a while with my girl, Alena, at a great outdoor pub close to Mission Beach in San Diego. Here’s a shot of us with her friend, Matt.

But I am a landscaping man…………..enough of the sociality. Time to get local, regional and take a gander at Paradise. As these things go, this is high Rose season in Southern California. Coincidentally, it’s also Bouganvilla season, which rather augments the next picture of a home in Leigha’s neighborhood.

 Here’s “concrete truth” about my whereabouts.

Among the flora of Southern California which I know absolutely Zero about but which I still consider elements of Paradise are Jackaranda Trees. Anything blue always surprises me, I think, but particularly this big.

Leigha and Nic’s place is set in a small and surprisingly mellow corner of humanity, away from the rush of LA, set near the new college of Cal State Channel Islands – you know, the Dolphins. It’s a gorgeous school, the site of an old mental institution and home of a few myths designed to give a scare. But much of it was added later in a great, airy, ultra-modern design which looks real fun to attend.

The view outside is kind of terrific – Leigha and Nic abut the wilds, more or less. Evidently, coyotes are thick especially when it gets drier and farther from Spring. Here’s what’s outside the front porch:

Things are going pretty good, so far. This guy agrees!

Baseball is Life – Just Sayin’

Since I am in the beginning stages of my own writing project dealing with a central figure in my life and who was also a central figure in so many other lives, it has made me reflect on the sport of baseball itself. I have found a love of the sport among the more permanent diversions of my entire life – over the entire length of it, from cradle to grave, as it were. I recall my gracious older brother and sister allowing me to take a swing for the very first time as a baseball-playing youngster, over at Austin Pryor’s front yard on Shelbyville Road at the age of around 8. It was a line drive down the third base line.

From that point on, throughout a career that began in Little League in St. Matthews, Kentucky, thence to Bowling Green and finally Owensboro, my early years with the game were a riotous pageant. I have always considered my “career” to pretty much consist of my experiences in high school. I played a disappointing period of Div 1 baseball for almost a year at Murray State University, then went 18 more years without seeing one pitch, swinging a bat or even making a throw. Like some of my generation, I dropped sports as a participatory enterprise in spite of being asked to play now and then. I “moved on”.

It was in Santa Cruz in 1986 when my good friend from Owensboro, Steve Bare, asked me if I wanted to play on a slow pitch softball team. The local radical veterans who I very much liked were looking to form a team. My first question was: “So, do we try to win?”

Assured this was the case, I joined that team and – 18 years after hanging up the spikes and mitt – I found myself playing shortstop in a recreational slow pitch softball league. It was an ironic return to a first love and I subsequently proved that by eventually, year by year, upping my participation to playing tournaments on weekends and joining one or two other regular season teams. Nor did I stop.

In 2007 I played over 200 ball games. There were a few years where I must have played 300 games. I’ve joined forces with Homicide Detectives, Iraq War vets due to get shipped back (messing with our lineups), females, ex NFL players and a business partner in order to fully explore the competitive spirit together. It was always a labor of true love.

There are ample souls who despair over baseball’s “pace”. They feel it is somehow too slow for their tastes. I often wonder if these same people would enjoy golf played with Jet Ski radicalism, jetting quickly to the next shot and getting it all dealt with in half an hour – replays later on Sportscenter – (lasting an hour.)

Having played both football and basketball at a reasonably high level, I have encountered the pluses and minuses of these sports as well. A fine game for mesomorphs, football is a semi-lethal contest of weight and strength with a ferocity one has to experience to truly understand. I am quite sure my list of concussions is longer than what it might appear to be. You can get absolutely destroyed by the full force of an automobile crash and never even have seen where the damage came from. You can also not know you don’t know what bell got rung until you wake up on your feet, later, sometimes even on the field during play. As a study in human consciousness, football – the game – is not reliable because consciousness becomes literally variably memorable. Then, of course, there are the broken bones. I had about 3-4 broken bones, playing football.

Basketball is another story altogether. Frankly, when the players start rolling out who are above 6′ 6″ tall, it’s time to watch and not participate. My basketball career ended as a junior in high school when I found myself competing with eventual NBA player Butch Beard for a rebound under our basket during a high school game against his team of returning State Champions. As I “went up” for the ball, I swore I saw myself looking at Butch’s knees. Not his waist – his knees. We’re saying here that Butch could grab balls 7 feet more off the ground than I could. It was an epiphany. I also never went back out for the high school team.

But baseball – now baseball lets a 5′ 4″ shortstop like Chris Cates make his current way all the way up to the AA pro level. The best pitcher in baseball, Tim Lincecum, weighs around 175 pounds and the ball absolutely explodes out of his hands. Near-normal men play baseball!! What’s more, they are the best in the world at the sport. Like Soccer, baseball attracts athletes who are far nearer “normal” in size, although there are exceptions.

Then there is the pageant of the hit ball. Once a ball is hit, all 9 defensive positions in baseball are swinging into a choreography dependent on offensive players on base. Every single hit ball demands 9 defenders move in predictable unison to their various assignments. Every percentage is accounted for from bad throws to intuitive throws made to prevent advancement. The sudden bursts of activity in baseball accompany a luring sense of lassitude while people get comfortable watching the pitcher and catcher play catch. Suddenly, it’s on.

Baseball is played during the best time of year – Spring and Summer. Parents find time to watch their kids play, the kids learn to work hard to get better – I mean, there’s no real downside. The practice of any sport is the secret towards improving and advancing. It yields children who grow into adults understanding the work-ethic and what it brings as rewards, the true secret of athletic success.

Kids have no problem loving baseball. Like the requirements of the French language, one plays and corresponds better with a something one loves. The gaps between plays are numerous and sometimes boring to everyone. It is at these times that the game sometimes shows its greatest gift. I have heard jokes in a baseball dugout which stayed with me for life, lol.

I celebrate baseball more as time goes along. Recently, I have been attending University of Louisville’s baseball games. The current college game has advanced to a near equivalent of AA Pro Ball – with the best coaches in America opting to stay at the University level where tenure and longevity apply so much more than the shifting alliances of the professional game. There is more teaching going on and kids are forced to either sign pro after high school or else endure a minimum of 3 years at school before their next draft availability.

It has made for an exceptionally fascinating improvement in the game at that level. I have to believe it also raises the game as a sport since so many guys come into the game with more college behind them, where emotions and rivalries were rife with real emotional character and games played for such things as pride and loyalty. I also believe many of the coaches are more patient and plain better than a string of motivated or under motivated pro coaches.

So I’m enjoying the game as much if not more than ever before.

“Kill the ump!!”

Health Musings – Steve’s Recent Problems

I’ve long since tossed the general template of this blog as a “how-to” or strictly “Informative” and landscaping trade-related item, in favor of more personal and wider ranging purposes. I have stayed away from politics – by all means! – which makes me appear saner than I actually am. Avoiding modern politics keeps the circular arguments which serve to distance us from one another at bay. By concentrating on stuff that I figure means something to us all, it is my conviction that I can enhance everyone’s existence by sticking with themes which we all care about and hopefully build on those factors in life which we all unconditionally share. I am so tired of alienating, scapegoating and circularity – it has become the worst of all things: predictable and boring. Bridges seem so much better than cul de sacs – although I love landscaping cul de sacs! 😉

This was what my past weekend looked like:

It began like this – walking and taking final pictures of this year’s somewhat unspectacular but still-gorgeous Autumn:

Where by I found myself looking for more of this Saturday activity amongst friends:


Then the weekend took a turn.

It turned into this:

Recently, I spent 4 days in the hospital here in Louisville. What began as a visit to the doctor evolved into an epic experience which included the insertion of a stent into my heart. It was the wake-up call of all wake up calls.

I used to be a bit vain about my lack of visits to doctors. When I lived in Vancouver, I played cards and ping pong with a doctor. For 10-15 years, I could consult with him over a game or two. Henry had faced the same thing with all of us – a group of very typical males who enjoyed each other’s company and who would get together pretty much weekly for beer and gossip, and for sporting events on TV or live. Many hilariously inappopiate events occurred, including someone walking up to the poor guy, dropping their drawers and asking in all seriousness: “Hey, Henry, is this just jock rash or should I worry?”

His eyes would roll and he’d get fake incensed, saying “Good Lord, man, come on, I just ate!” Naturally, we’d all roll, laughing. We were brutal.

But he also explained in very real terms – at many times – what the best doctors thought about their trade, which gave me a warm feeling about them in general. Most of them actually do care.

So I wander down for my first Doctor’s appointment in 42 years, having experienced some dizzy spells which I always attributed to a heat exhaustion event I had in 2005, suffered during a heat wave of epic proportions in Reno, Nevada. Soon after this event, I would get these small “near-syncope’s”, which are basically a sensation of ‘nearly’ passing out. While they were numerous that year following the event (I quit softball for a year), the following year they were rare and I pretty much recommenced every activity as if nothing happened. I could get an ‘attack’, having said that, but they were not strong and were rare enough to attribute to the mysteries of body chemistry from heat strokes. Then, about 2 years ago, they began occurring a bit more frequently until recently when they became daily or every other day. Nothing huge, just a “fade”, a sensation of fainting without the Full Monty, and a resultant racing heart and the sweats.

I had an EKG and Chest X Ray done and paid for them and was walking out of Jewish Hospital’s gorgeous East End facility when a lady approached me and asked me to step into ER to see a doctor. As yet, I had no idea why she had asked but I made the move and sat as the nice female doc explained her fears that I was on the verge of ending it all at any given moment. As she worked, explaining what I was experiencing with these near syncope events, she was saying that these near syncope’s were the results of wildly fluctuating heart beats at extremely dangerous levels. She said she would supply an ambulance and was demanding that I be hospitalized immediately. She did indeed frighten me, especially since she was 100% sincere in what she believed to be my situation. I fought her off to a degree and said I would go to the hospital but I wanted to go home first and arrange a ride down as well as pick up some stuff. She was really reluctant but she finally complied against what she stated was her better judgement.

So I wheeled home, got Tom to bring me back, ate a huge meal, grabbed some books and split for the Big Sick Room.

When I got to the hospital, they were ready for me. I had a catheter probe scheduled for early the next morning already. I spent the first night in the hospital finishing a great book, gave Mother my phone number and slept fitfully. To be honest, I was somewhat concerned that it had got this far. It made me realize I may indeed have been fortunate, a fact which later proved out indeed. But I can pretty much guarantee that the full realization of where my medical situation had wandered had not truly hit home yet. It was all a sort of benevolent shock.

The next morning, they ran me downstairs at Jewish Hospital and my doctor greets me dressed in his “Going to War” Togs, lol. He had these black horn rim glasses, surrounded by every single vector-covered head, complete with a leopard-spotted head dress I had to laugh at. I’m being serious. He asked the pertinent questions, they loaded up my pre-loaded IV with some fabulous drugs and I woke up a few hours later, all fixed, or close to it, anyway.

They did find a blockage in an artery – and a severe one. While inside, they inserted a “stent” which re-opened said artery and allowed the blood to flow unimpeded. Immediately, my monitor indicators improved dramatically, although even now, there are still a few worrying random beats they want to close in on later – in the next few weeks, after further testing.

Medical stories are pretty boring but I wanted to mention all this because I have good friends I know through this blog and because of my rampant plain luck in catching something this dangerous at a good time – before it killed me. This is less a cautionary tale than a general announcement concerning my health. But if someone gets something from it, then by all means, I am gladdened.

Today, my first day back from my twisted and sore melding with various stunningly uncomfortable beds for 4 days, toting a heart monitor everywhere I moved, dangling off my chest and losing half the hair on my chest from placements of those sticky monitor suckers, I feel like a lucky person. I also now have even more respect for doctors and nurses than I may ever have had. Dr. Reeser’s concern and lack of backing down convinced me I had a problem and I shall 0we her some great good things as long as I live. I fully intend to offer her something worthwhile – maybe a hand shake, I don’t know yet.  😉  I do some pretty good landscaping – maybe she’ll like that.

I now am concerned about eating habits, exercise, smoking – time to let it go – and all the various billions of impacts which made life a flirtation with a suicide I had no idea of. I cannot, for the life of me, express my gratitude enough to those whose interests served to intersect with my desire to live long enough to do some serious playing with my grandkids to come.

Here’s to Love in buckets full.