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Spring Overture

March 17, 2015


Spring is still a day or two away from its official dawning but I figure we needn’t wait. Not while there are wisterias in spectacular bloom. Part of Bill & Hal’s beautiful garden in Riverside, these lilac-colored swags trail upward on decades-old muscular vines.

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The port cochere

The port cochere is an imposing structure on its own, but add in the wisteria’s filtered shade and writhing energy and it’s positively awe inspiring.

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Abstract underpinning

Looking up I’m taken with the design of the shade, a series of heavy timbers crossed by metal pipes. They would need to be quite sturdy to sustain the wisteria’s weight; I love the visual contrast of the linear elements against the snake-like vines. I imagine a gorgeous table set beneath this shade, piled high with all manner of food and drink. Or just a few comfortable chairs and some champagne … I’ll bring the champagne.

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Against red

The wisteria has not been content to stay in one place, it’s also crawled a sinuous path around a corner and onto the red wall of another structure. I wouldn’t ordinarily think to pair the colors red and lilac but I think they’re rather charming together.

There are other sights to engage the eye at B&H’s; it’s time for a refresher …

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Arboreal delights

Trees in B&H’s garden were either gifts or carefully chosen for their fruit, flowers or both. The fig tree at top has fruit on it, as does the key lime at center … it’s the blossoms that have overtaken the small tree at bottom that is the real eye-catcher.

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Reflections in a pool

Through a gate is the pool area. It’s quite serene, the water still; reflecting earth and sky. A symmetrical arrangement of potted plants — with an antique urn at the center — adds to the cool calmness of the scene.

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Succulent hardiness

A selection of succulents in a mix of pots features plants that have lived long lives. One could do worse than to live one’s life at the edge of this body of water.

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Steps from the pool, this climber has definitely made a run for it. I would love to see it in full nocturnal bloom, loaded with pale star-bursts.

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Cool greens

Of course there’s a greenhouse, a cool, shaded lathe structure sheltering specimens that might otherwise fail in Riverside’s summer swelter.

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Greenhouse scenery

Whether vibrant purple, barely-there yellow, or powder puff pink, these greenhouse blooms are pleased as punch. An enormous conglomeration of stag’s horns is misleading hanging from the main beam overhead; it’s got a huge gouge on its backside. At bottom, an explosion in green.

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Bright florals

Back outside the cloud cover is burning off and the sun’s beginning to warm up. These flowers caught my attention because of their unique structures and colors. The amazing orange and pink posies (at top) have a level of detail I might associate more with a crafter’s workshop or folk art decorative paintings; the pale yellow blooms of Turkish sage (center) have an interesting structure that circles their stems; old-fashioned sweet peas (at bottom) give off the scent of childhood memories. I had a teacher in grammar school (ask your mom, kids) who always seemed to have a bouquet on her desk.


I first visited Bill & Hal’s garden in April, 2010 (click here for that post). Since that visit I’ve gone through many changes … as have B&H. Wandering the grounds with Hal, now in his 80s, he lamented the state of certain plants and areas he could no longer address himself. He waved them off, saying that he just had to “let them go”. I heard him say this and knew his sadness. I’ve had to face the fact that I will never garden the way I used to; never be able to keep things the perfect way I was so proud of. For Hal  — botanist, horticulturalist, teacher, docent — this resignation cannot be easy. I’m honored he’s taken the time to show me his garden and shared his knowledge, then and now. I’m happy to have documented it here.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Guida permalink
    March 17, 2015 4:21 am

    In love with this estate………I’ll be going back to look at this again and again……thank you R.

    • March 17, 2015 4:24 am

      It truly is an estate… thanks, Guida

      • Guida permalink
        March 17, 2015 4:22 pm

        Had another look and read just now, what a treat to go there…..yes, time does march on….I too am trying to simplify my garden as a new season approaches…… to you, Paul and your friends Hal & Bill…

      • March 17, 2015 5:05 pm

        Sending love back to you and Danny! I have to say I have similar feelings about your garden as B&H’s 😉

  2. Vickie Perez permalink
    March 17, 2015 6:25 am

    Such a lovely place..

    • March 17, 2015 2:39 pm

      Vickie, I’m always moved, and really in awe, when in this garden. It reflects the man who created it so much.

  3. March 17, 2015 7:21 am

    This garden is just beautiful — big thanks to Bill and Hal for letting you share it with us. Of all the elements, it’s the lath house that touches me the most, because my grandfather had one — he raised camellias and orchids in his lath house in Glendale. I loved to play there when I was very young, loved to swing on loose laths, and have the scars to prove it :~/

    Reuben, I think that your own garden will always be extraordinary, and will always convey “the immersive sense of being in a wholly unique space that envelopes and seduces,” as Denise wrote. You have too much heart and creative intelligence for that not to be the case, no matter how your garden changes and evolves. But I have some idea how terribly dispiriting pain can be. You’re in my thoughts! Take care —


    • March 17, 2015 2:38 pm

      Luisa, thanks so much. I love that you’ve shared your grandfather’s memory here; very sweet. R

  4. March 17, 2015 3:20 pm

    wow, what a lovely garden !!!!

    • March 17, 2015 5:04 pm

      It’s a wonderful garden, Gwennie … in many ways unlikely. The reason I love it so much? I think so.

  5. Vickie Perez permalink
    March 18, 2015 4:31 am

    And my yard is a scattered like me!! Love organized but can’t quite get there.

    • March 18, 2015 4:53 am

      Ha! Scattered is a look, too, Vickie! One I find very attractive … I’ve met several very interesting people by noting first their “disorganized” yards … To me the “disorganization” bespeaks a mind full to overflowing, something I absolutely love clawing through! I just received permission to shoot a garden down the street that’s bizarre and unexpected … I’ll be sharing it soon. Organization can be be a prison, one I avoid like the plague. Give me chaos any day!

  6. March 20, 2015 1:39 pm

    I couldn’t choose a favorite here if I had to, but the appearance of that backdrop “mountain range” series of what, Italian Cypresses? that grow behind the pool area demonstrates how far sighted the plans were/are for these gorgeous spaces.

    As much as anything though, the love and care for the landscape is so lavishly demonstrated. I feel a bit as though I’ve just read your friend’s love letters, written in plants. Happy First Day of Spring!

    • March 20, 2015 2:16 pm

      Thanks so much, Deb! And you’re right: The garden is definitely an expression of B&H’s love. Those cypresses are glorious, rising up behind the far end of the pool. It’s one of my favorite views, from a garden with many.

  7. Vickie Perez permalink
    March 23, 2015 2:26 am

    Yahoo for scattered! I just remembered that if you like the climber by the pool I have some that are looking for a place. They’ve been residing in a bucket since the termite treatment last year. can’t make up my mind what to do with ’em. Just let me know.

    • March 23, 2015 2:45 am

      Hi, Vickie — Part of my fascination with B&H’s climber is that it, well, climbs! You know, like yours used to before the termite guys invaded. Mine just sit there and look stunted; and just barely standing most days. So, I don’t really need climbers, I need climbers willing to climb. BTW: Very excited about new stuff being in the works at your place …

  8. March 23, 2015 7:30 pm

    Reuben, thanks for this amazing piece. The way you discribe the spaces, I could almost feel myself walking through the garden. I so miss wisterias with their color and fragrance.
    I feel for B&H not being able to work the garden the way they did for so many years. Time does take it’s toll on all of us.

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