Sunday, September 29, 2013

Talk to me

So there was this guy in the 1930s, a financier, who, while a goodly portion of the world stood in breadlines, installed a Japanese garden in his backyard. Well, backyard is the wrong word; estates don't have backyards, they have -- what -- acreage? Estaterage?

Anyway, that's what he did. And nothing against Mr. Storrier Stearns; for all I know, he donated millions to and fed thousands of those in need. But lazy me, I'll just kind of doubt that.



Eventually, the property, which ran the length of Arlington in Pasadena, was purchased and subdivided by a Gamelia Haddad Poulsen, of the Poulsen art gallery in Pasadena.

Fast forward to, why, it's 2013. Her son and his wife own the Japanese garden today. Over the past dozen years, they have sunk their every last dime (turn your back for a second, and gardens will to that to you) in order to preserve and revitalize this piece of Pasadena history. The garden is open to the public once a month ($7.50 buys you a whole day if you make the purchase in advance), and is also available for weddings and parties.


Today, the Haddads share their home with the horticulturist who tends the garden, a gentleman born in Mexico and educated in Japan.

"Sir," I said, "You grow running bamboo but your bamboo doesn't run. How do you keep it contained?"

"I tell the bamboo 'You grow here, and you don't grow there. Plants are very smart.'"

"No, I mean, do you cull them, cut them down, dig them out?"

"I just explain; I talk to them."

This man speaks three languages I don't -- Spanish, Japanese, and Plant. None of which I could possibly learn in a two-hour visit.

I'll be back. Here's how.

28 comments:

  1. I love this: "But lazy me, I'll just kind of doubt that." Also, a great title.

    I suppose the gardener--er, bamboo architect--is a kind of artist, and you know how mystical, how supernatural in their powers, artists can be.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Where is this exactly? Of course you know the Arlington Garden at Arlington and Pasadena Avenue, which is an empty CalTrans lot that's been turned into quite a large native or draught-friendly garden.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yeah Banjo, he was what you might call whimsical.

    Earl, it's across the street from the Arlington, which was really nice because we toured both and they really couldn't be more different. Although the Japanese garden requires a tremendous amount of water, they have a 10,000 gallon holding tank on the premises, underground. And during the wet years, it's filled with captured rainwater.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's beautiful. I'm currently dreaming of a flower garden in the space that currently resembles a large football field of grass/weeds. It's a bit daunting and I admire this horticulturist's ability to instill some manners in his charges.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Delightful--never heard of this place---

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your photos turned out beautifully. It's worth paying $7.50 ($10 if you turn up on the day) just to talk to the sweet gardener. I'm going to ask him to have a word with my giant bamboo hedge.

    Mr. Haddad loves to recount the history of the place. His mother bought the Storrier Stearns mansion at auction on a whim (she'd gone to buy chairs). When the city refused to let her use it as an art gallery, she had to demolish it. The house's Japanese room is now in the Pacific-Asia Museum.

    Like Arlington Gardens, the land is leased from Caltrans, acquired by eminent domain to build the 710 freeway. If the Pasadena community hadn't stopped Caltrans in its tracks after they demolished the Neighborhood Church on California-Pasadena Avenue (at 2 am when the pickets were in bed), the garden would be under the hard shoulder. Thirty years later, we're still fighting the 710!

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's a beautiful garden, and the best thing about it is the gardener himself.

    ReplyDelete
  8. "...for all I know, he donated millions to and fed thousands of those in need. But lazy me, I'll just kind of doubt that."

    It's not even noontime and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to read anything as amusing, sad or as true as this today.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The Japanese garden in your wonderful photos is achingly beautiful and I would gladly spend $7.50 for a visit and I would do it often.

    As for The Bamboo Whisperer, we have clumping as well as running bamboo and the running bamboo tells us the only way to contain it is to bury a mysterious barrier all around it. Anything solid will do. True story.

    ReplyDelete
  10. He talks to the bamboo. Something to try . . . .

    What a lovely place for a wedding.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Have you an info on the original designer?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Carolynn, my place is so parched right now. Seems I should wait for some sign of rain to decide how to deal with the mess that is my garden.

    Dez, they're open on the last Sunday of the month, so if you can plan your tranquility in advance, I recommend a visit.

    Bellis, you should see if he'd visit your place; you're so close.

    P, he definitely adds to the zenishness.

    Ok K, now I'm wondering if I get a win, place, or show for the day.

    Paula, I have roofing material sunk into the ground surrounding my runners. But given my half-assed gardeners of the past, some of it peaks above the soil level.

    Jean, something to the effect of Speak softly and carry a big pruner.

    Yes, Bandit -- Kinzuchi Fujii

    ReplyDelete
  13. We have a plant whisperer. But he costs a lot, so he only comes here for a little while when something is in great need. You see, I believe "Plant" is a rare language; I don't know many people who speak it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. The Haddads must have accomplished quite a bit in the past six years. Here is an article from 2007, that also includes information on the original architect of the garden. He was "relocated to an internment camp in 1941." You need to scroll down to Storrier Stearns, as the article covers several other Japanese gardens.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, and if 10 acres in a small town counts as "an estate" then the Japanese garden is indeed the "back yard." Because that's what we call the 8 acres behind the house: "the back yard."

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm sure it's all perfectly charming/rustic.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Can you get the gardener to tell your bamboo to take a walk over to the bottom of my hill?

    ReplyDelete
  18. No way will I argue with Marjie. PA is the land of giants. Her handsome viking sons are 7 feet tall, give or take. (We won't mention Marjie's height; but she does drag down the state average, considerably.)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Looks so lovely! I'd like to have a gardener that talks Plant....

    ReplyDelete
  20. There are places like that around NYC, but mostly lost to time, and buried in the vines..

    ReplyDelete
  21. Doesn't ucla own a Japanese garden, and which is open to the public??

    ReplyDelete
  22. they have a Japanese garden over at CSLB (if your not afraid to step foot on a state campus)

    AH - my blog isn't showing up on your blog side bar...can you check it on your end for broken links?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Sorry Pasadena Adjacent, the blogroll probably won't get any better. If I add a link, some link drops. No idea why. Plus, it doesn't necessarily shoot the latest blog to the top. I guess the roll doesn't work and play well with others after the blogger shift of a year ago.

    ReplyDelete
  24. On a sort of related topic...we just met a gaucho who speaks to animals. Goats, horses and dogs. They all seem to understand him. Cushion is jealous.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I left Southern California too soon. Never even heard of it.

    I found the gardens on MapQuest. Next time I'm down, maybe I'll see what answer I get to your question.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I've never even heard of this place. My lose, clearly.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thinking of you tonight. I read your post of Oct 1 on Feedly but it's not showing up here. It's a sad day....

    ReplyDelete
  28. I wish I had the funds to do something whimsical like this. Thanks for the link, I'm going there now!

    ReplyDelete