Gardens and Architecture

September in the Central Garden

Hibiscus in the Central Garden at the Getty Center, September 2013

September is an odd month in the California garden. Fall officially begins on the 22nd, but the heat is winding up, not down. The Central Garden at the Getty Center, which changes dramatically throughout the year, spends the month in a riotous late-summer fever.

In the Stream Garden, home to the zigzag path that leads toward the azalea pool, flowers are relatively few. Foliage is the star of the show, as artist Robert Irwin intended. Spikes, coils, and fingers of lime, pink, silver, russet, and purple-black shimmer under the dappled sun of the just-turning plane trees. Dead leaves nestle amidst the living within the dark soil, forming dramatic still lifes.

Hellebore and fallen plane tree leaf in the Central Garden at the Getty Center, September 2013

The Bowl Garden, by contrast, is lit yellow and red. The tender blooms of spring are long gone, replaced by rugged, charismatic survivors: spiky coneflowers, Mexican flame fine, Spanish flag. Dahlias are giving up their last flush of giant blooms, roses are nodding under a mass of petals, and cannas are as brilliant as lit-up torches. There are also moments of delightful weirdness, like the first fluffy seedheads of clematis and the fluttery bracts of purple wings.

Dahlia in the Central Garden at the Getty Center, September 2013

Mexican flame vine in the Central Garden at the Getty Center, September 2013

Echinacea in the Central Garden at the Getty Center, September 2013

Purple wings in the Central Garden at the Getty Center, September 2013

Surprise and exuberance, bordering on chaos, are key elements of Irwin’s garden in every season. No matter when you wander through—even on those days when it seems too hot, too cold, too rainy, too dry, or too something to yield any magic—you are always greeted by the beautiful, the strange, and the unexpected.

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One Comment

  1. Carol
    Posted September 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Super gorgeous photos! Now I will have to run down to see the garden!

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      From you have I been absent in the spring,
      When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
      Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
      That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,
      Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
      Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
      Could make me any summer’s story tell,
      Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
      Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
      Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
      They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
      Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
      Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
      As with your shadow I with these did play.

      —William Shakespeare, born April 23, 1564

      Vase of Flowers (detail), 1722, Jan van Huysum. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      04/23/14

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