The Getty Center Garden: Balance


I visited the Getty Center Garden on Thursday. The weather was the best of California spring; a mild, steady ocean breeze kept the air cool and sweet. The cool air was balanced by brilliant sunlight, so that you were warm enough, yet cool enough, simultaneously. The blueness of the sky balanced the brilliance of the sun.   Sunlight balanced with breeze, repose balanced with energy, fresh green growth with travertine stone.


Since last I visited, the gardens have matured.  Coast Live Oak trees enveloping the surrounding slopes look more like trees now than scrub.  The many Crape Myrtles, all white-flowering to match the building's white surfacing, are beginning to develop the beautiful marbled bark of their maturity.  The biggest change was the switch from Azaleas to boxwood for the lake's maze.  Finally common sense has prevailed!  I might have used Myrtus communis or Myrsine africana instead of boxwood, but any one of these makes more sense than to watch Azaleas suffer under the thumb of a blazing sun. 

Pool maze

There are other, smaller changes:  some succulent plants have been added.  The splendid oriental poppies which flourish in colder growing zones but which are annuals here, have been replaced by our native golden poppies and the "Flanders Field" annual type.  Three new Agonis flexuosa 'After Dark' replaced I know not what, and I don't remember all the Euphorbia tirucalli from past visits, but perhaps they were there. 


The bougainvilleas encased in their towering rebar sheaves have improved, healthy but not rampant.  They are still outdone by their supports.  They're at the bottom of a slope where cold air can run down to pool around them.  Bougies are heat lovers.  If they were arrayed on the travertine walls and surrounded by all that hot stone, they'd be mountainous by now. 


I am intrigued to think that the deliberate balance of the day and place created and controlled my mood.  In a place of both austere stone and opulent life, of expansive space and cluttered, enclosed copse, I became balanced too:  calmed by beauty and also thrilled by it.  This is one of the essential powers of a garden, that by being in it, you absorb and reflect its qualities, like leaves reflecting and catching sunlight. 


Plants In The Getty's Central GardenRobert Irwin Getty Garden


  1. Wonderful post. Irwin was sure stubborn about those azaleas! And your analysis of the bougies' weak growth is spot on. Don't think I've visited since the boxwood was planted and should get out while temps are cool in May -- Denise


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