My trip to California (part 1)

This trip came about rather on the spur of the moment. I had a chance to attend a film festival honoring Jennifer Jones and meet her son and I jumped at it (regular readers know I have a hopeless obsession with her). I had missed a week-long festival devoted to her in New York City before she died and I'm still kicking myself over that. The plane fare wasn't bad but my time was limited. It was a brief trip - only 4 days - but it was incredible and I didn't want to come home. Two friends - Cindy and Vickie - accompanied me. 

The last time I was in California was when I was eight years old. My aunt lived in Ventura and my family drove out to visit one summer. My major interests then was Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and the ocean. I saw all three but aside from that, I don't remember much about the trip. I got interested in films back in high school and I've always wanted to return to California to see Hollywood.

We got off to a rocky start. We flew out of Huntsville to Atlanta with a 2 hour layover before flying directly to Los Angeles. We sat on the runway for a long time before the pilot announced that we were being delayed due to a warning light. I was already a tad apprehensive - I've flown before but never on a long trip. We then had to change planes. This put us behind two hours and wouldn't you know it, we arrived in Los Angeles right at rush hour. Fortunately, Vickie was driving but it took us an hour to get to our hotel in Hollywood. But after that, things went smoothly.

Before I get to the Hollywood and movie star stuff, I thought I'd share photos of plants (this is a gardening blog after all!). I was amazed by all the unusual trees and flowers. We visited three areas - Hollywood, Pasadena and Santa Monica/Malibu. I thought each was different in character but foliage-wise, Pasadena and Santa Monica were exceptionally beautiful. The palm tree photos above and below were taken in Santa Monica.

Bougainvillea was almost rampant, scampering over hillsides and freeway medians and huge specimens dotted lawns and gardens. This was the view from our hotel window, looking toward Hollywood. Just one block down is the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese Theater, etc. but on the right, you will see bougainvillea and plumbago draping the bank.

This was growing in someone's front yard in Malibu along the Pacific Coast Highway.

And this photo was taken at the famous Chateau Marmont.

I don't recall where the following photo was taken. Such lovely landscaping. I was fascinated by the unusual trees.

On to Pasadena, where appropriately roses (particularly "Iceberg" roses) seemed to be growing everywhere. The following garden was incredible and was in front of a government building. I was amazed, I don't think any business around here would ever consider such extensive (and labor intensive) landscaping!

I've read a lot of Hollywood history and about how the mild climate and vast orange groves scented the air and seduced visitors. Both Cindy and I expected a more lush and tropical landscape so we were surprised that some areas were kind of sparse and rugged. A friend told me before I left that some of Los Angeles looked like Muscle Shoals  - and he was right. A lot of Los Angeles was rather seedy but I loved it. I can't wait to go back and see some things that we didn't have time for.

In upcoming posts, I'll write about the Hollywood Homes Tours, my visit to the Norton Simon Museum (which had fabulous gardens) and Malibu. Stay tuned!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Beautiful landscaping here. My bouganvillia (sp) comes back every year but doesn't produce the colored bracts?? I wonder if the owner of that business is a gardener? If I spent more time at a business I owned instead of at home, I'd have flowers around me.

  2. I am looking forward to the rest of your posts. I have never been to Ca., but have always wanted to. As a gardener I am envious what a little water will grow in their varied climates.

    (my only ever plane mishap also happened in Atlanta)

  3. I am a big Jennifer Jones fan too Phillip. I look forward to your other posts. It has been too many years since I visited CA. and never LA. Lovely photos of exotic blooms and trees. ;>)

  4. We recently went back east to visit family and there is no way around it being an all day affair to go from one coast to another.

    It looks as though you found lots of enjoyment thus far. Wonderful climate in that area, but the ever increasing traffic now keeps us from driving south.

    Next time perhaps you can head north a bit to our neck of the woods. ;)

    PS: thank you for providing such a wonderful opportunity to win the book

  5. I won't tell you what I said when I Saw those bougainvillea behemoths, but you know me, so you can probably guess that there was cursing involved. Wow O_O

    You guys had to drive in LA rush hour? I'm just glad you survived! lol

    Can't wait to see the rest of your posts!!

  6. Sounds like a wonderful trip. I look forward to hearing more about it.

  7. It's always fun visiting areas very different from where we live... esp. in finding new plants! :)

  8. Sounds wonderful, look at that sky, please send me some Californian sunshine it's turned chilly here!

  9. Those Pasadena roses are amazing!

  10. Looks like a great last minute trip! LA is not a favorite city of mine, but Santa Monica and Santa Barbara are both incredible in completely different ways. I have always found something magical about Chateau Marmont....lots of ghosts...

    Unfortunately the waits and "issues" in Atlanta (and other airports) are getting worse rather than better. The government is penalizing the airlines for holding people on the tarmac for more than a limited time period, so now the airlines are canceling lots of flights at the last minute rather than paying the fines (at least that's what the flight attendant told me.....) Can't wait to see your Hollywood photos!

  11. It does feel other worldly out there to me. The landscaping you saw is gorgeous. I can't wait to read/see more of your impressions.

  12. Wow! who knew you would go to sunny California and hit an iceberg!!!! Great pictures. Must be nice to have such beautiful weather year round....


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