Rancho Los Alamitos Visit Part One
You know your're in California when Historic Sites are located in a Gated Community:
I really enjoyed our visit. The site had so many facets of interest for me--family lore, California history, plants, regional history, plants, even wall paper. Wall paper: imagine taking drawings of all your very favorite plants and having wall paper made up. The recently built small lecture hall/gallery space had walls displaying the plants used extensively on the property:
The historic adobe home had some very different but equally fabulous wall paper as well, but I took no photographs (they may not have permitted photography). The entry way was papered in an abstract patterned paper in brown and cream tones circa 1950 that could be termed "Atomic Papyrus"--indescribably cool--and the other rooms had equally historic papers--huge hydrangea-like flowers in the dining room, circa late 1930s.
The story of the property begins with geography. The site is a hill about 60 feet taller than the surrounding coastal plain, affording a view for miles around. The hill had one overwhelming feature that made the area valuable beyond measure: there was a natural spring of high quality water. Once part of a Spanish land grant, the property by the 1860's became a farm and cattle ranch owned by a Maine immigrant named John Bixby.
1851 is an interesting entry:
Not spineless Opuntia:
I can imagine what a man who had grown up in Maine thought about the California climate: no more winters 9 months long! It must have released in him an enormous joyful energy and ambition, for many pieces of his hand-made furniture was on display, and his farming operations immediately proved successful, even though he only lived to his late thirties. The Bixby family through two generations farmed, raised cattle, had a stud farm for draft horses, and pursued all kinds of business ventures. The family tried growing Opuntia as cattle food, made and sold cheese to nearby Los Angeles, but prosperity really arrived when oil was discovered on the ranch in the early 1920's.
The tour of the adobe home revealed that the family's Annus Mirabilus was 1926--the year they took the European tour and brought home a Monet and Cassat (now at the Los Angeles Museum Of Art), the year they added the fountain with the bronze statue, extra rooms to the Adobe, the year they built the walled garden. The year the oil money poured in.
Mrs. Bixby's "secret" garden.
The site still houses a few animals to represent the ranch's operations. There were a few draft horses housed in one of the historic barns:
Chickens, ducks, bunnies, a goat, sheep.
I found the gardens quite fascinating because the planting scheme (indeed, the plants themselves) are almost all original to the ranching era. They represent the classic California plants of the first half of the 20th century: Aloe arborescens, Phoenix canariensis, Italian Cypress, Bougainvillea, 'Radiance' and 'Lady Banks' roses, Yucca, Cypress, Bamboo, "California" Pepper.
The standard evokes-England rose ghetto:
A Cypress stairway framing a bit of the Palm allee
Giant Timber bamboo:
A Carissa (Natal Plum) of great (tree) size and age:
An ancient and huge patch of Amarcrinum(?) bulbs:
Very typical mid-20th century domestic planting scheme, though the Agapanthus may be a recent addition:
The original "adobe", built for seasonal shelter for vaqueros and cattle, was extensively remodeled and added to for nearly a century, in the end resembling a 1930's ranch house, which come to think of it, the home literally was a ranch house.
There are two huge Moreton Bay Figs on the east side of the home, probably planted about 1890:
I have to stop here. Lots more garden shots to go, but my photo-hosting site is apparently hosed. They proudly announced a new interface that proved slightly flaky, a day later they crashed, and now they are dead in the water. So, I'll have to look for a new photo site, or wait until the old one comes back up.