Sunday, January 1, 2012

Vacation To-Do's

The beauties of the Huntington Library were equally as stunning as the destruction from the winds that closed the gardens for over a week. Philip and I ambled through the succulent gardens, the jungle pathways, and the Chinese garden for tea. We sat on benches; Phil to sketch; I to jot down descriptions.
Splintered Bamboo at the Entrance
Aloe Tree Ripped Off
 Ancient cactus trees have toppled over. Trunks of old oak lay like piles of chopped carrots on the statue lawn. A collection of ferns now exposed to the sunlight leans in odd directions like someone's bed head; this is where a great tree fell. The Camellias too have suffered from the fall of those giants that used to shade them. The White Perfection's branches are held together by a wire and all that remains of the Bleichroeder Pink is a skinny stump. The Vedrine looks untouched. It is covered in red blooms as red as the Queen of Heart's red roses. The blooms hang down like lanterns, red like pomegranates, lipstick red.
Wedges of Oak Trees

The Fountain Lawn
Piles of Oak Branches Beside the White Marble Statues
Palm Fronds and Oak Branches
 The jungle suffered the most I believe. The view south from the main entrance used to be blocked by these massive Ficus trees. Now I can see over the tops. The once shaded forest floor is completely exposed to the sunlight.
The Jungle Ficus Trees Completely Stripped
 The desert conservatory, which is located up an obscure path just within the succulent gardens, was open this time. There we saw all sorts of South African plants: cacti so other-worldy that if canned, their labels must read, "Made from 100% unnatural ingredients."
Tightly packed balls with stringy flowers

Green spotted crab claws

The pac-man plant

Looks like a monkey's tail

Ribbons of variegated color

Wafer thin coin-shaped leaves on this cactus

All this is billowing from the tops of little cacti.

Is that cotton seeping from this cactus?

Boston Ivy Berries
Visiting the Huntington Library was only one of our Christmas vacation to-do's. We drew up an extensive to-do list after Phil got off work the Friday before Christmas. He'd put in a full week at Land Concern, staying until 10 pm the last three days before Christmas Eve. So when he was free, he drew a picture of our plans in his sketch book. As of today we've accomplished almost all of it.

 One item that was NOT on our list was squirrel proofing out avocado tree. Using the Murphy Oil that Grandma and Grandpa Seelye gave us for Christmas, we put together the concoction, which included cayanne pepper and tabasco sauce. Phil—who by the way was dressed in his orange jump suit to paint earlier in the day—climbed the tree and misted the leaves. We clogged or broke all of our spray bottles in the process, so the last few branches were doused instead of misted, but I don't think the squirrels will be able to tell the difference. They BETTER not.

A day of creativity was on the list of to-do's and that meant Shinodas for the Stevens ladies. We spent three hours walking the aisles of silk flowers, plastic foliage, and ceramic vases in search of ideas to beautify the church sanctuary. We are three independent minds, so we each took our own shopping cart and veered off different directions. Occasionally we met between the Christmas topiaries and the pink flower aisle to compare notes. "What do you think of this flower?" "Do you think these sunflowers will be enough?" "What sort of vase should I get for these?"
Heather cutting foam for the vases. It's harder than it looks.
The final products will be used when no one signs up to bring flowers to decorate the GHFC stage. In the long run this cuts down the church's expenses. Plus I think our arrangements look much better than those awful leftover conglomerations thrown together by the florist.

 Tearing out our cactus was also not on our list, but planting a Crape Myrtle in the alley was, and at Ayon Nursery, Phil was so overcome by a multi-trunk Strawberry Tree that I said, "Would you replace our cactus to get this Strawberry Tree?" I do not like that cactus. I have never liked that cactus. Now the cactus is in our neighbors' green bins. There just wasn't enough room in our own green barrel even though the segments cut as easily as watermelon, watermelon with agitating white sap. Phil and I both found red abrasion on our limbs after this.

 Perhaps you're wondering how we lifted that 24 inch box into the planter. It's too big for one man, and I'm feeling more and more pregnant these days. Solution: we rocked it back and forth, alternately tucking bricks under the crate until it was level with the planter. Finally we slid a wooden plank beneath it to smoothly scoot it into its hole. I say smoothly, but Phil did the grunt work.
Crape Myrtle replaces Pony Tail Palm in the alley.

We planted sharp agaves around the base to discourage thieves.
We've one day left of vacation, which we plan to spend planting a Boxwood hedge, replacing a cracked window, watching the Rose Parade, and sharing a meal with the family. I wish it wasn't ending. This time has reminded me how much I love working and being with Philip. It feels like a honeymoon all over again complete with night time walks, lazy mornings, movies, and meals out on the town using long forgotten gift cards. Alas, we've no more gift cards, movie passes, or Christmas cash to use up.