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Visiting the Maya Garden

March 13, 2010

The intrigue starts here

I’m the type of person that becomes obsessed easily. So seeing something intriguing in a garden I pass frequently, it’s only a matter of time before I find a way to get in to see more. The object of intrigue in this case is the tree you see above. From the street I could see that the trunk was painted blue and white to resemble a dress, and that a woman’s head was sitting between where its forked branches rose up like arms holding massive leafy clumps.  Obsessed? You bet — and I had to see more! I stopped by recently, meeting several members of the Maya family, and was allowed in to see more …

Intrigue from the front, too

Finally inside, I was able to see the front of this amazing tree-sculpture and it was even more interesting that I expected. The tree is the creation of the patriarch of the Maya Family, who is responsible for not only the gardens, but also for an array of ongoing projects. Everyone pitches in apparently, but as his son pointed out, things could change at any moment. For the Maya family inspiration is addressed as it strikes. I know that feeling, too. Maybe this is why I responded to this garden; I could see inspiration made flesh in the form of the woman-tree on the other side of the chain link. The lower part of the tree, a brilliant blue, is decayed-looking and rough; the upper torso is painted like a white blouse complete with a wavy eyelet trim neckline. The sculpted woman’s head has painted features and wears a beaded metal necklace. Mr. Maya is responsible for the trimmed leafy ends of the branches (and all the topiaries in the garden) and the overall effect is surreal magic. But this tree is not the last surreal, magical element in this garden. There are other unexpected inhabitants here, too… some human, some animal and some mythical.

Rusty trumpeter

A trumpeter stands beside a gateway, his form still taking shape courtesy of a cooperative red leafy vine; another vine with smaller green foliage fills in from the other side. During my visit, the family was working diligently on a new feature beyond this gate and this guy will herald that new area in style.

An offering to nature

An array of plants with various leaf shapes provide the perfect setting for a sweet garden sprite. The interplay between the colors of the sprite and the plants is quite charming. The black river rocks of the porch provide a grounding contrast.


I don’t know much about golf so I’m not sure if this guy’s stance will help his game,  but I really like his style. I also like how the branches of the hedge inside the chicken wire form takes on the look of veins and capillaries coursing under skin. Obviously not in a hurry to take his shot, small flowers have sprouted at his feet for a final surrealistic touch.

The well-painted fetcher

If a tree’s trunk can be painted in the Maya garden, why not a concrete dog? Painted crisply, this pooch offers a basket of grass on one side the house’s entry. The pink nose and Amy Winehouse-style eyeliner add some stylish humor.

A shady blessing

A plaster figure of the Virgin Mary sports a look of concern while bestowing a blessing under a tree. The multi-hued parrot at her feet, and the leafy plantings, lend the scene a cool, tropical feel.

Make a wish

Twining vines, bricks, river rocks and  a great looking bucket, complete the look of a homemade wishing well. One of Mr. Maya’s projects, this well shows the ingenuity he brings to all his garden projects. No element is too small to address in some way and he’s found ways to make the mundane special.

Step this way

How do you elevate an off-the-shelf circular stepping stone? By adding spokes made from bricks, adding concrete between them; then painting that in a contrasting color. Add a contrasting center to each and you have a floral tribute in concrete that takes you places.


This huge goblet planter was already on site when the family arrived. The cycad is the perfect size and proportion for the pot and it’s surrounded by asparagus fern that’s been creatively trimmed by Mr. Maya. Topiary is another of Mr. Maya’s talents and in this case he’s used it to contain something that would ordinarily look rangy and out-of-control and given it structure.

Cypresses between cuts

More Maya inspiration in the form of cypresses trimmed into decorative columns. Although they were obviously between trims when I visited, the cypress columns really set off the garden’s boundaries and tell passersby that there’s something special inside. In the Maya garden nothing is beyond improvement and subject to creative alteration. I was not able to see everything during my visit since the family was busy on a construction project at the rear portion of the property. Thankfully, I was invited back in a couple months to check that out too. Until then, I’m going to be taking a look around the Rancho to see what Maya-style  inspirations I can come up with.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. faroutflora permalink
    March 14, 2010 2:43 am

    Where do you find these amazing places? Can’t wait to see pics from your next trip in a few months.

  2. reubix1 permalink*
    March 14, 2010 4:00 am

    Hey, Megan … I think the fact that I don’t drive contributes to my finding interesting places; that and being basically nosy! Walking and being at ground level mostly, makes it easy. I can’t wait to see what the family was working on, too …

  3. March 15, 2010 11:04 pm

    I can’t get over that lady tree! I’ve never seen anything like that.

  4. mattisalomaki permalink
    March 16, 2010 2:00 pm

    Megan just pointed this out to me. Yes, truly amazing. RoadTrip! Matti

  5. Cyndi permalink
    March 24, 2010 7:15 pm

    This has been one of my favorite Riverside houses and I still have the Press Enterprise article from a few years back. Glad you found it! Are you going to the UCR Plant Sale this weekend? Be sure to alert everyone!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      March 24, 2010 7:24 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Cyndi… I will post about the sale when i get 5 minutes later…

  6. Candie Edwards permalink
    July 19, 2010 9:17 pm

    Wonderful yard, especially the “Lady Tree”. I just drive by and stop and look at the yard on occasions.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      July 19, 2010 9:19 pm

      I know… it’s almost time for me to return and see their next projects… stand by!


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