Monday, June 30, 2014

Garden Visit: The Getty Center


The third and final garden that I visited during my recent trip to California was the Central Garden at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Designed by artist Robert Irwin, the garden plays on the natural topography of the site. A path of switchbacks descends from the hill-top museum through a ravine, crisscrossing a conceptualized stream that pays homage to California's many canals. This "journey garden" (my term) is immediately engaging; the path is carved into the hillside bringing the plants up closer to the viewer. The craftsmanship of the sandstone paths and cor-ten steel walls is impeccable.

The path terminates at a plaza dominated by large, tree-like sculptures that serve as plant supports for brightly colored bougainvillea vines. The stream continues through the plaza before plunging down a  wall into a parterre filled pool. The pool itself is framed by paths and raised gardens that are both calming and intriguing to explore.



What did I like the most about this garden? Visitors from all over the world were engaged in moving through the garden, looking at the plants, oohing and aahing over the water features and enjoying the — spectacular! — vistas. (My daughter and I were sucked in, too. We only had 1 1/2 hours to visit the museum, and spent all but about 20 minutes outdoors.)

What didn't work? The planting design. With the exception of the excellent tree placement (and selections), the plant selection looked like an afterthought and did not contribute to a sense of place for the site. The plants were an odd hodgepodge of familiar (i.e. my zone 5 plant palette) and exotic. Mass plantings of single species were a more successful than cottage style plantings in complimenting the strong architectural features of the garden.


Would I return? Absolutely!