The National Park Service has released its new plan for Yosemite. In 1987, Congress designated the Merced and the Tuolumne as Wild and Scenic Rivers, and now after years of study the park has put together a plan to comply. I’ve been reading through some of the plan, trying to understand the details, but I haven’t made a lot of headway, and the plan is only open for public comment until the 18th. The report is here with links to a summary and information about commenting.
From what I’ve read, a lot of the proposals make sense. For instance, the proposed expansion of Camp 4 is desperately needed. During the high season, people start lining up hours before sunrise and by 6AM there’s a line of people in sleeping bags waiting for the kiosk to open, camping out in hopes of getting a campsite. I don’t even try to get a site any more. So that proposal is easy to support.
Proposed development in the west end of the valley, near El Cap Meadow, is more of a concern. I LOVE El Cap Meadow, in large part because it is one of the less developed parts of the valley. I haven’t read deep enough into the plan to find out the details of what is planned. The Access Fund, a climbing advocacy group, has a form letter that more or less represents my point of view until I get a chance to find out a bit more.
I also wish I knew more about the proposal to remove Sugar Pine bridge, the stone-clad bridge near Curry Village. According to the report, the bridge impedes the river’s flow during high water. You can kind of see in these Library of Congress photos that the abutments are out in the flow of the river.
I wish I was going to have a chance to read more about that before the comment period ends. If anyone know or finds any substantial info, please let me know. Sugar Pine is probably not the single most iconic of the Yosemite bridges, but as a group the stone bridges are quite wonderful. There aren’t a lot of stone bridges in California. It would be shame for it to go.
I haven’t posted about our garden yet this year. It’s still a little early for the showiest bloomers and I have a few projects to complete, but it’s in a nice phase. It doesn’t have a lot of plants at full bloom, but most of the deciduous plants are leafing out, and everything is happy and enjoying the spring, with a lot happening and a lot to appreciate. Before the recent, welcome rainstorm I made a pass from the street to the front door, taking some photos along the way.
Our outer yard has a large mound made of construction rubble covered with soil. Our landlord calls it Nasturtium Hill, though we’ve replaced the nasturtiums with native plants and a fig tree. This spring the Matillija Poppy is making a case for changing the name to Matillija Poppy Hill. We don’t ever water the mound, except for a monthly soaking of the fig tree on the lower shoulder of the mound, but the Matillija Poppy has exploded out with growth, engulfing a number of nice native plants and popping out runners a good five feet from the main mass of the plant. The construction rubble has kept the bamboo in our yard from spreading, so I’m impressed and concerned at the Matillija Poppy’s ability to spread. I think I’m going to rescue the other plants out from its clutches and be even more circumspect about this plant in the future. There are worse things than a large mound full of Matillija Poppy.
The annual wildflowers, mostly Clarkia, have started to fill in, and the bulbs are starting to bloom.
We have native lilies in several parts of the garden. The one inside the vegetable garden is now enormous. Carex dipsacea in a container and a mirror are behind it. Pretty happy with the effect the mirror has.
The rest of the veggie garden is looking a little wild with the Miner’s Lettuce, Mache, Arugula, and Love in a Mist that reseeded around the Snap Pea tepee trellis.
We have three different vines on our front porch. The Pandorea blooms first, the Wisteria is just starting to unfurl, and the native Clematis should be last, though it’s still young and hasn’t ever bloomed yet.
I really like the little pot of species Tulips, T. bakeri, on the steps. I’ve been growing a different species tulip, T. saxitilis, for a few years, and we have a nice patch of them that has already finished for the year. This year I’m trying out a few others, though, I don’t remember which ones and won’t know until the flowers open. So far, T. bakeri is very similar to saxitilis. I like how the blooms have the look of a classic Tulip in the morning before they open up.
I was one of the many judges yesterday at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. It was a great chance to see the gardens without the crowds and I took photos after my group finished judging. I liked a lot of the gardens this year, though scrutinizing the gardens as a judge made it hard to get a sense of the show overall. My favorite was Glade by Mariposa Gardening and Design and John Greenlee. The stonework and plants (mostly natives) are beautiful. The nicest touch was the spotlight on the Needle Grass in the meadow. Grasses are most beautiful when they catch the light, so it was great to see that effect created indoors. Needle Grass doesn’t have the conventional appeal of more traditional garden plants, so I really appreciated that it was a focal point of the garden.
The Goldsworthy-esque egg was well built, and the diagonal walls have become a Mariposa trademark at this point.
The big award winner was Inside Out by the students from Arizona State. One of the walls had a giant ceramic on one side, but was used to showcase a yucca on the other side, with the cast shadow of the creating yucca another lighting affect like the spotlight on the meadow.
I liked the paving and all of the design details in the garden by Arterra. The gardens at the show all reference a specific country, but the one by Arterra is inspired by Wonderland.
The plants in the Thai garden were mostly California natives. The plants weren’t really the focus of the design, so they didn’t register for me right away, but I appreciated that it was different from what you usually see or envision with California natives.
I loved the Philippine garden. You can sort of see in the photo that there are rusting metal bits, shelves holding old bottles and other assorted items, and laundry hanging to dry. The aesthetic is closer to my own garden than I would like to admit, but at the same time, when I sat under the awning it felt like a space that would be loved by its owner so maybe I’m okay with the similarities.
A slab of rock turned into a divan in the Icelandic garden by McKenna Landscape.
The show has the world’s largest succulent globe by the same grower who provided the plants for the Succulent Borg Cube three years ago. It has a diameter of 10 feet, it weighs 2,800 pounds, and it spins. There are 30,000 cuttings of 11 different species: Echeverias, Sedums, Crassula, and Sempervivum. The globe is tilted at the same 23° angle as the earth, which made the Southern Hemisphere more prominent, a nice change from the usual top-down, northern-biased perspective I usually have. Even just the globe on its own was worth the trip to see the show.
I feel like I should be finished with my trip south and get back to Bay Area subjects, but the last thing to post from my trip was my visit to see Levitated Mass. It’s a 340 ton boulder-turned-sculpture at the LA County Museum by land artist Michael Heizer. I don’t have a strong opinion about Heizer’s work, but I was pretty fascinated by this project when I heard about it. As far as I know it’s the biggest and heaviest rock ever moved. Heizer got the idea in the late 60′s and then spent about forty years looking for the right boulder. Then it took 5 more years to raise the $5-10 million dollars for the project, including $1.5 million just to move it about 100 miles from the quarry to the museum. They had to use a special trailer 260 feet long and 32 feet wide with 196 tires, drive only at night, not exceed 8 miles per hour, and I think they had to move or take down some telephone wires and traffic lights. There were several delays involving the permits required to travel through all of the different jurisdictions. Different challenges than the ones that faced the Brits who built stonehenge or the Gauls who moved around the menhirs, but still pretty compelling.
Having spent so many of my working hours moving big rocks and even more of my leisure hours climbing on them, I thought I was the target audience for this piece. It turns out I’ve probably spent a little too much time focused on rocks, because I liked the concept more than the execution. The mass just doesn’t seem levitated; it’s obviously sitting on metal brackets and straddling a concrete trench. The boulder is supposed to look huge, but it’s diminished by all of the open space around it and by the long trench. The concrete trench is kind of beautiful in its own way, but it’s so deep you can’t touch or really interact with the boulder. And the climber in me feels like the face you first see is really the backside of the rock, the downclimb. I’d like to see the prow facing towards the entrance.
But despite my complaints, it’s hard not to like a great big rock on an elaborate pedestal you can walk through and there are a lot of impressive things about pulling off a project of this scale. I don’t regret making the effort to see it, and everyone else there seemed to like it too; Facebook must be filled with photos of people posing with their hands up so it looks like they’re holding the rock. Boulders are fundamentally cool, especially 340 ton ones, and this one was fun in a ‘giant whale sculpture in front of the aquarium’ kind of way. I just wish they’d let me climb on it.
I kept track of links while I was following the project:
an earlier sculpture called Levitated Mass, a fountain in New York that seems somewhat levitational when the water is turned on
an interview with Heizer when Levitated Mass was under construction.
Infrascape Design wrote several posts about the boulder.
a couple of videos in this article
another article that includes a video of the arrival
a long NY Times feature on Heizer
The last of the botanical gardens I visited on my trip was Rancho Santa Ana. Quite different from the Huntington, but it still has a Los Angeles sense of scale. It felt huge to me, three times the size of the Tilden native garden, with some huge specimens and the biggest clumps I’ve ever seen of a number of plants like Heuchera, Dudleya, Snowberry, and many of the chaparral plants. I had big expectations for the famed Rancho Santa Ana native garden, and it didn’t let me down.
I’d like to see this patch in bloom.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dudleya used as a groundcover.
Great Deer Grass meadow. I’ve seen photos of the garden’s annual meadow, but it was still dormant when I was there.
The chaparral plantings made a big impression. The mounding form and small texture of the plants was kept the same, and then the color of the foliage provided the contrast. Really effective how it all flowed together. Probably the best chaparral plantings I’ve seen.
The built forms are nice too. I liked this grape arbor above, I liked the canopy below, and I liked the sculptures throughout the garden.
Because I was gone for much of January and busy right before and after, I missed a lot of the peak manzanita bloom. But Rancho Santa Ana has so many nice ones, I still got a good dose. Now I just I have to make it back there in the springtime for peak bloom of the wildflowers. It’s a great garden.
On my trip I also spent a few days in Los Angeles visiting a friend and went with him to the Huntington. Strikingly different succulent plantings compared to the Desert Museum and the natural areas around Tucson. It felt like the desert on steroids. Really cool, but in sort of an over-the-top body-builder way. I liked it, but was sort of overwhelmed and didn’t take many photos.
Instead I made my friend slow down and wait for me in the Japanese garden. Really nice stone detailing. I realized I’ve had a blog named DryStoneGarden for over four years without ever showing a photo of a literal ‘dry stone garden’ which is another one of the names for a zen garden. No one has ever mentioned it, so perhaps I’m the only one who thinks of that alternate meaning. We used to sometimes have clients who wanted Japanese detailing and we incorporated elements of the dry stone garden in a couple of designs, so maybe I’ll go back and get photos of one of them some day. I would have liked to spend longer there at the Huntington zen garden, but I had to keep up with my friend.
The rock weighting the branch above the cluster of stones is a great detail.
The garden was displaying several suiseki, also known as scholar rocks or viewing stones. I’ve really liked these on the few occasions I’ve seen them, and I wish I knew more about the whole tradition. The vein of white quartz on this one is meant to resemble a waterfall.
There was also a number of bonsai. I’m not a big bonsai aficionado, but the Huntington has some great ones.
I wish I knew more about the genres of bonsai that involve rocks.
And the last photos I took, the entry paving to the teahouse and the river stones beneath the drip line of the roof. I went through the other areas of the garden even more quickly than I had gone through the succulent garden. I realize Southern California gardeners must know the Huntington quite well, but it was new to me. Quite an impressive garden. I really was overwhelmed with the size of it, and the size of some of the specimens and mass plantings, and all of the care and effort and resources put into the garden. Quite a place.