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Walking Tour: Pitzer College, Part 1

February 20, 2011

Wow factor

Taking advantage of a brief respite between rainstorms on Saturday, Paul and I headed up to Claremont for a visit to Pitzer College. A small liberal arts school, Pitzer is part of the larger Claremont College campus which figures so prominently in the town of about 40,000 residents 30 miles east of Los Angeles. I’d seen some photographs of the landscaping at Pitzer and was intrigued by the large place succulents seemed to occupy in it. The photos could not have prepared me for the succulent reality there, however, and its beauty … The beauty is not accidental: Pitzer’s succulently delightful grounds and on-site arboretum are managed by Joe Clements, formerly of the renowned Huntington Library’s desert garden, with the assistance of Pitzer’s students. I almost never have that “wouldn’t it be fun to go back to school” feeling, but did while exploring this sprawling campus …

Dry vignette

Wandering the campus was like viewing a hit parade of fantastic succulent specimens! Complex, colorful, graphic, sculptural and out-and-out gorgeous, all my favorites are on display in a matter-of-fact way that would make most botanic gardens envious. The idea of attending classes, or living in dorms, surrounded by all this beauty makes me envious of Pitzer’s student body.

Unassumingly gorgeous

From the moment we turned into the parking area, the presence of succulents is constant, not to mention exhilarating … Structured plantings, loose groupings, tiered gardens and naturalistic vignettes all figure in the campus’s far-ranging scheme. Many of the boulders and rocks used in the displays were dug from the grounds during the development of the landscaping, and they’re naturals playing off the juicy-leafed  specimens.

Super tall

Amazing succulents are everywhere on campus, some of them for being so large they’re breathtaking … this euphorbia is like several at the Rancho, except it’s two-stories tall!


A multi-armed aloe tree displays the Seussian quality that I love so much … in a size and height that makes me giddy!

Diverse delights

Diversity of shape, color, texture and size — all the elements that contribute to my love of these fantastic plants — is everywhere. Especially effective for its complementary color and texture is the use of gravel in the landscaping. Note the red glass mulch in the topmost left photo; it’s a hot-colored counterpoint to the adjacent succulent cool and nicely echoes the hues of plants and blossoms found in other parts of the landscape.


A citrus orchard sits next to a classic craftsman-style house on campus that is used as student cafe and meeting place. The small orchard is heavy with oranges being picked by invitation … just be sure to leave some for others reads a small sign at the entrance. This communal spirit extends to the vegetable gardens and chicken coop behind Grove House, which, like the landscaping is tended by students … and a boon to those not on the school’s meal plan.

So still

Behind Grove House the desert garden part of the arboretum displays an impressive array of cacti and more succulents. It’s small but enjoyably natural in feel … even in the cool of this soon-t0-be-a-really-rainy-day a lizard skitters nervously between rocks and a plump rabbit sits very, very still in the hope that I won’t notice it. I do, however, and get this shot; that’s him on the ground between the cactus and agaves.

The succulent landscaping at Pitzer is an inspirational surprise on numerous levels, but there’s even more to love there. But, that’s the subject of tomorrow’s post … see you then!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2011 2:23 am

    First rate ! Wouldn’t I love to have one of those old smudge pots as a garden ornament…

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 21, 2011 2:25 am

      Hi, Kathy… check craigslist for one of those terrific smudgepots; I see them often and at really low prices.

  2. February 21, 2011 4:07 pm

    great tour! we recently toured pomona next door and couldn’t believe the natural beauty and gardens, but this place rocks! pitzer’s hippy-dippy boho aesthetic shines through, too!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 21, 2011 4:43 pm

      Thanks, standby for even more…

  3. February 21, 2011 8:17 pm

    Lucky them (student body) and lucky you for getting to visit. Thanks for the amazing photos.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 21, 2011 8:36 pm

      I know … I was looking for a study group I might join under the aloe trees …

  4. February 27, 2011 1:30 am

    I like “Suessian” as well–have just decided Agave gypsophila should be so-deemed. Loopy squiggly.

    Very good post!

  5. AlgaRythums permalink
    October 6, 2011 2:57 am

    Very Nice! Love the red gravel.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      October 6, 2011 3:16 am

      It’s just such a great campus; lucky students!


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