Plants and Stone for California Gardens


Campo San Roque


I barely took photos in Bahia Asuncion, but I did take some photos at a fishing camp north of town, Campo San Roque. Fascinating landscape, even more extreme than Bahia Asuncion. There are less than a dozen houses, most of them empty, with no running water or plumbing, the plants are low leafless scrub, and the beach stretches for a couple of miles without a structure or person on it.



Tucked against the rocks is a great snorkeling site with gorgeous chartreuse-colored sea grass, lobster, and lots of colorful fish, plus the first guitarfish and octopus I’ve ever seen. It heightens the effect to be in such a barren place and then drop below the water into a lush aquarium.



Oddly enough, the town has a charmingly minimalist new church.


It reminded me of Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light. No doubt some elements of the San Roque church such as the lack of glass in the windows and the simplicity of the building come from pragmatism rather than a devotion to modernist purity, and Ando is obviously getting much more powerful effects from his design moves, but it was still an effective little building in a memorable little place.


Bahia Asuncion Watercolors

We spent the bulk of our Baja trip in a fishing town called Bahia Asuncion about halfway down the peninsula on the Pacific Coast. The town itself is somewhat drab and utilitarian rather than charming, but the landscape around it is fascinating. It’s incredibly austere — none of the plants are over waist high, they’re widely spaced, and none of them had foliage — and I was at first a little unsure about the place as a vacation destination. But it grew on me, as desert landscapes tend to do, and the beaches are fantastic, endless and empty of other people. I made about a dozen watercolors while I was there, doing the sketch on site during the day and then adding color during the evening.


I also made two watercolors of the central desert, Ocotillos, Cardons, and Boojums in the boulder gardens.



And I did three watercolors of the missions. One of an Elephant Tree at Mission Mulege.


And two at Mission San Ignacio.


Cataviña Boulder Gardens


Death Valley and the ‘super bloom’ was just one stop on the trip, we spent the bulk of our time south of the border in Baja. We revisited Cerro San Ignacio, an amazing spot that deserves an interpretive trail perhaps more than any other site in the world. But we’d been there once before; the botanical highlight of this trip was the Boojums. Boojums! I’d wanted to see the boojum forests for years.


We did our boojum viewing amongst the boulder gardens around the oasis town Cataviña, a beautiful area with pinkish granular granite reminiscent of the rock at Joshua Tree (there’s apparently good climbing on some of it, too). Some of the boojums had strange curlicues at the top like something out of Dr. Seuss, but my favorites were the graceful upright ones. There’s something illogical about them, as if the plant got confused and put it’s taproot in the air and it’s branches underground.



The area also has tremendous Cardón cactus trees.


Elephant trees are another favorite. A little bit like small oaks from a distance, but with striking caudiciform trunks up close.


As with any great rock garden, in some places the plants were a compliment to the rocks and in other places the rocks were a compliment to the plants.



There were plenty of showy flowers tucked amongst the rocks and arroyos. A few of my favorites are below. Read the rest of this entry »

A Bit of Super Bloom


Anita and I have been in Baja for the last month. On our way back we swung through Death Valley to see the ‘super bloom.’ It had waned by the time we got there — apparently a combination of hot weather followed by high winds had finished the thickest patches, and quite a few of the plants had spent flower heads mixed in with the fresh blooms — but there were still some impressive areas.


Desert Gold was the most prolific. It made bands of color in the distance but up close it was politely spaced so we could wander around without stepping on any flowers. An impressive number of other species were mixed in with it. My personal count came to over 20 different species inside the park, including a number of flowers I’d never seen before.


The yellow Camissonia was my favorite of the wildflowers. Such a clear, crisp yellow. Gravel Ghost was another favorite, with the white flowers high over a ground-hugging rosette.





I’ll have some posts about Baja, the main focus of our trip. There is more wildflower photo bling at this Death Valley Wildflower Report.

Chaco Canyon Stonework

Last February Anita visited Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Beautiful place, the photos fascinate me. I love seeing the different eras of the stonework as the masons became more skilled and ambitious, and it’s wonderful how the ruins display the cross-sections of the walls. A place I need to some day see in person.

Stonework Symposium in San Francisco


I’ve mentioned the Stone Foundation a few times over the years. It’s an organization whose mission is to honor stone and stonework. Once a year it organizes a symposium, and this year, in January, the event will be in San Francisco and Gualala. I haven’t been to one of the symposiums before, but I’m of course going to go this year. The Stone Foundation website has details about the event as well as reports from past symposiums.