Behind the Scenes, Gardens and Architecture, Getty Center

Summer in the Getty Garden

The annual theme for summer in the Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin is color—and lots of it. Here, a plant preview


Spring is said to be the most colorful season, but we can’t wait for you to see the Getty Center’s summer garden in full bloom. As the summer heats up in June and July, all the delights of a summer garden are yours to experience: tantalizing color, rich textures, shaded pathways, and a flurry of aromas and sounds.


While saying goodbye to our gorgeous spring-blooming California poppies isn’t easy, it’s thrilling to see the rainbow of dahlias in our greenhouse getting ready for planting. Expected to grow up to four feet and fill the garden with every color of the rainbow, the dahlias will be stunning. By artist Robert Irwin’s design, the garden beds will be so robust and spilling over with color, texture, and aroma, you won’t be able to see from one path to another. You’ll truly be immersed in the garden as a work of art.


The dahlias are patiently awaiting their planting rotation in the Getty Center nursery.

A Rainbow Connection

By mid-July, blooms in every color of the rainbow will be exploding from the Central Garden. From hauntingly elegant black petunias to banana-shaped kangaroo paws to magnetic red sunsets over the Pacific, the garden will be alive with colorful energy. Don’t forget all the varieties of dahlias! Robert Irwin’s favorite is the cultivar ‘Hissy Fitz,’ which blooms a bright school-bus yellow.

Petunia black ray and anagazanthus (Bush Dawn)

Petunia ‘Black Ray’ and Anigozanthos ‘Bush Dawn’

Coprosma (Pacific Sunset)

Coprosma ‘Pacific Sunset’ features dramatic russet and off-black foliage

Textures at Play

Cousin IT to the left, and a detail of Little John's distinct curly flowers.

The lush green of Casuarina ‘Cousin It’; distinct curly flowers of Callistemon ‘Little John’

Summer is about bounty, and to build out the richness in the garden, small shrubs such as Casuarina ‘Cousin It’ are planted to provide both green and fullness. Look for other interesting textures that will soon make their appearance, too: the bottlebrush cultivar ‘Little John,’ recognizable by its little curlicue flowers, can found both in containers and down in the Bowl Garden, around the azaleas. And just in time for 4th of July, the affectionately named firework plants—ornamental alliums in the same family as chives and onions—will be bursting with spikes and seeds. Early-season bloomers, these amazing plants are left to gracefully weather in the garden, acting like botanical punctuation marks.

Alliums gone to seed

This spring’s alliums remain in the garden through summer, offering an unusual sculptural beauty

The Getty gardens are full of interesting little details worth your time to stop and observe. The lime-and-black leaves of the begonia variety shown below look like little frogs ready to spring from their pot.

"Leprechaun" begonia

Begonia ‘Leprechaun,’ aka frogs cuddling

Charged By the Sun

Like a solar lamp, Brazilian angel’s trumpets with their dramatic leaves soak up the sun during the day and buzz with delightful aroma in the evenings. The Getty’s summer evening hours mean you can catch sunset and a whiff of the sun-kissed flowers on an evening garden stroll. And if you look carefully at the grapevine-covered trellis, you might see bunches of purple grapes tucked into the shaded cover.

Grapes on a trellis

Grapes on a trellis

The scene is set! Enjoy an evening stroll, a picnic with a bottle of wine, a sunset, and the aroma and sounds of the garden around you.

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      All Hail Tiberius, Least Media-Savvy of the Roman Emperors

      Tiberius was proclaimed Roman emperor on September 17 in AD 14, exactly 2,000 years ago.

      He was also a bit idiosyncratic. “He was the least media-savvy emperor you could imagine,” says curator David Saunders, who has been in charge of this bronze portrait of Tiberius which leaves us on September 22. He point to this description found in the writings of Cassius Dio:

      Tiberius was a patrician of good education, but he had a most peculiar nature. He never let what he desired appear in his conversation, and what he said he wanted he usually did not desire at all. On the contrary, his words indicated the exact opposite of his real purpose; he denied all interest in what he longed for, and urged the claims of what he hated. He would exhibit anger over matters that were far from arousing his wrath, and make a show of affability where he was most vexed…In short, he thought it bad policy for the sovereign to reveal his thoughts; this was often the cause, he said, of great failures, whereas by the opposite course, far more and greater successes were attained.

      Moreover, David tells us, “Tiberius’s accession itself was a farrago: Tiberius sort-of feigning reluctance, the Senate bullying him, he being all, ‘Well, if-I-have-to,’ and in the end—according to Suetonius—saying he’ll do it as long as he can retire.”

      Suetonius is full of great, albeit spurious, anecdotes about poor old Tiberius, David reports. “When someone addressed him as ‘My Lord,’ it is said, Tiberius gave warning that no such insult should ever again be thrown at him.”

      Happy accession, My Lord!

      Portrait Head of Tiberius (“The Lansdowne Tiberius”), early 1st century A.D., Roman. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      Statue of Tiberius (detail), Roman, A.D. 37, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Laboratorio di Conservazione e Restauro. Currently on view at the Getty Villa following conservation and study.


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