They Spent Millions (And It Shows)

From the road we spied a large, white rabbit.  Beloved parked the car and we went to have a look.  On the path to the white rabbit we went around a building and--whoaaaaaatt!!!?!?!!
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Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  What is this place?!??!!! Are we down the rabbit-hole? 
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Ohmygawwdohmygawwwdohmygawwd!  Where did that white rabbit lead us? 
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Why, to the new $135 million dollar Newport Beach Civic Center. 
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They spent millions, and it shows.  This is the Desert Garden section of a sixteen acre complex.  The landscape designer is PWP Landscape Architecture , which has also worked on such projects as the National 9/11 Memorial.  Newport Beach has serious money to spend, so much so there was even a sign showing the layout of the desert plants:
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An Aloe section contained a whole row of thraskii, a couple of specimen barbarae, some beautiful plicatilis...
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Marlothiis and reitziis and striatas, oh my!
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 Anon, to sudden silence won,
In fancy they pursue
The dream-child moving through a land
Of wonders wild and new,
In friendly chat with bird or beast-
And half believe it true.

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The roof of the city hall building is supposed to resemble ocean waves.  The "North Africa" section is wonderfully simple:  Euphorbia resinifera and Dracaena draco.  The Huntington Desert Garden with all its many species is a Dickensian novel.  This place is a poem.
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The Euphorbias will aspire to fill that entire area.  I like it with space between the clumps.  
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Beautiful gravel mulch, thickly applied.  They had budget.  No thin spots in their mulch.  No drip lines showing.  No landscape fabric.  What a delight.  Thanks, all you rich people.  
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The American Desert section featured a collection of Agaves.  Franzonii:
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'Blue Glow', parryi truncata, shawii, victoriae-reginae:
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Attenuata, or 'Nova', perhaps:
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A cacti section had Mexican Fence Post and whatever that cactus is.  The feathery background is Euphorbia xanti.  There were a group of Beaucarnea and what is that midground--Yucca rostrata?
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Golden barrels, of course.
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Opuntias and Puyas
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There's the roof of waves again.
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An city office worker obviously brought his/her worn out pot of plants outside and left it.   
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The Newport Beach logo has a sail in it.  I think that white structure is intended to evoke the sail.  
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The background of Euphorbia xanti made a wonderous background pattern, but it is a plant you don't want in your yard as it spreads everywhere and reseeds like crazy.   Will six inches of gravel mulch control it?
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Puyas led to other Bromileads.
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That's a non-lethal Dyckia there in the foreground.  
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I give this garden high marks.
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And ever, as the story drained
The wells of fancy dry,
And faintly strove that weary one
To put the subject by

"The rest next time-" "It is next time!"
The happy voices cry.

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out-
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.

Alice! A childish story take,
And with a gentle hand
Lay it where Childhood's dreams are twined
In Memory's mystic band,
Like pilgrim's withered wreath of flowers
Pluck'd in a far-off land.



  1. Spectacular! Lots of money spent but at least it shows.

    1. It does show. I have some reservations about how it's going to grow out and be maintained, of course, but the design itself is marvelous.

  2. There's something about disgustingly, obscenely lush about this, particularly the ready-made maturity. I don't know if I love it or find it horrifying. Hmm.

    1. Do you mean the lushness of money spent, or the plants themselves? The plants will mature further--most of the Aloes are juveniles, for example.

      There is this sad lavishness of money spent when a few miles away the public schools are a mess, but plant growers don't get rich, weapons makers do--better money spent on this than on more bombs. The great sadness I see is that this gorgeous public space was not more filled with city residents wandering about enjoying it--civic pride--remember "civic pride"? That used to be a virtue in America.

    2. Well, godspeed civic pride, then. It's not that I begrudge Newport City or its comparatively privileged citizens a public, ornamental garden (ditto the wholesale nurseries that grew its contents or, in some cases, bought them from private gardens at great expense), nor would I prefer further public money going towards funding illegal wars, arming mercenaries and contractors abroad, expanding our empire, creating new for-profit prisons, filling those prisons by secretly lobbying for stricter and more draconian and racist and classist legislation, et cet and et al.

      I suppose now and again, though, both as a home gardener and as a horticulturist, I get waves of doubt and dread about what I'm doing, and what I could be doing. This is one of those times. Fiddling while Rome burns, bread and circuses, the usual clichés. Sorry to dump that angst -- balancing social justice against extravagances, however pleasurable -- on your post, though.

    3. Many of us are feeling that same angst, but what to do? What to do?

    4. Lard knows. Although, I imagine, there are a nearly infinite number of folk who are quite certain. That level of certainty tends to unnerve me.

    5. The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

  3. It's wonderful, the plants and building work together so beautifully. I like how the plant placement is organized with a touch of art in the spacing.

    As for maintenance they will eventually need to sift debris out of all that pristine gravel or replace it.

    1. They did hire the "A" team.

      I picked up a couple of handfuls of that pristine gravel and let it run through my fingers to enjoy the pristine-ness of it. Nice stuff!

  4. "Thanks, all you rich people" indeed! I'm quite blown away by the size of it. So what's the deal with the white rabbit?

    1. The post was getting too long, so the rabbit ended up in the next post. He is going to be late. :*)

  5. Thanks for sharing your visit. My friends and I've sped by the Civic Center on numerous occasions when going to or from Roger's but I've yet to have a chance to explore it. Beautiful plant specimens! It'll be interesting to see how the garden matures - I always think of it more as an artistic display than a real garden but perhaps that's unfair. I'd heard that the giant bunny - and the ring of bunnies - are temporary installations but maybe not.

    1. Do drop in for a visit, as its well worth it. I was very surprised. The bunnies are staying as far as I know.

  6. This is one place where we can give thanks for rich people. Of course there are poor people to be fed, but feeding the soul is important too.

  7. Wow amazing building and landscaping. I'm with you I like the space between the euphorbias. And all those aloes. sigh.

    1. A whole row of thraskiis--they got really quality specimens, too. A wow indeed.

  8. It certainly has the 'wow' factor, the gardens are amazing and so many beautiful plants.
    xoxoxo ♡

    1. I was quite surprised at the quality, but not after I heard the cost.

  9. I LOOOOOOVE this. Finally public money well spent. I need to start a must-see list for the inevitable succulent road trip to SoCal. This one might as well go to the top of my list :-).

  10. I don't begrudge this display of money well spent -- it's rare enough that the landscape gets top consideration, as in this project. Oh, to have buckets of gravel mulch to deploy! This is a huge validation for climate-appropriate plants, and giving them prominent display that many will see. There's still a lot of people clinging to big lawns in Orange County. Glad you followed the white rabbit!

    1. They devoted sufficient resources to making a truly beautiful Desert Garden there. My mulch-envy was intense also. Hopefully it helps residents realize that beauty and water thriftiness are not exclusive. You also blogged about this garden, yes?, with beautiful photos, but after much searching, I could not find it on your site. Link please so others can enjoy it?

    2. Never been here, Hoov! Have to remedy that.

    3. No wonder I couldn't find the post. Go, you'll love it.

  11. Gorgeous! Money can't buy happiness but it sure can make a purty garden!

  12. Lovely post, I enjoyed seeing these gardens and the prose.

    1. Thank you, and I very much enjoyed visiting your beautiful blog with very gorgeous photos!

  13. As an LA, I really, really like to see when budget, taste, timeline, and design skill meet...even if I don't get anything like that! A great example, hardscape, shapes and planting design.

    My main complaint is that there seems to be few native plants used, except the first photo (a specimen live oak looking stressed after your summer). While African and desert succulents are great, I am completely disoriented as to where I am, without you saying Newport Beach. But worth a look next time in your area... Thanks for your excellent photography, too.

    1. Actually a huge portion of the garden is natives, which I am planning to blog about next. Yes indeed, budget, taste, timeline and design skill were all high. Even the plant knowledge was for the most part quite good.

      Glad you liked the photos!


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