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“He often said is that this was a garden not for the visitors. He was happy if visitors enjoyed it; it was a garden for the people who worked here, who every single day, would see the slight changes and would have a seasonal experience.”

The largest work of art at the Getty Center is located outside the galleries—the Central Garden, designed by artist Robert Irwin. The garden stretched Irwin’s understanding of what art could be; it is alive and changing with every passing moment. In the nearly 25 years since the garden opened in 1997, Getty’s gardeners and horticulturalists have worked tirelessly to execute Irwin’s original vision. This involves constantly evaluating the health of plants, whether the breeds are well suited to their locations, which plants have reached the end of their life, and how to manicure large plants to maintain a sense of openness.

First in this episode, Lawrence Weschler discusses artist Robert Irwin’s approach to art and the Central Garden. Weschler is the author of Getty Publications’ Robert Irwin Getty Garden, a series of conversations between the author and the artist. Next, Getty head of grounds and gardens Brian Houck and horticulturalist Jackie Flor walk through the garden, explaining the wide array of plantings and sculptural features as well as how the caretakers enact Irwin’s vision.

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Robert Irwin Getty Garden buy the book


JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
REN WESCHLER: He often said is that this was a garden not for the visitors. He was happy if visitors enjoyed it; it was a garden for the people who worked here, who every single day, would see the slight changes and would have a seasonal experience.
CUNO: In this episode, I walk through the Robert Irwin–designed Getty Central Garden with author Lawrence Weschler, Getty’s head of grounds and gardens Brian Houk, and Getty horticulturalist Jackie Flor.
The Getty Central Garden opened in 1997. It was designed by the artist Robert Irwin and is today overseen by Getty’s head of grounds and gardens Brian Houk and Getty horticulturalist Jackie Flor. The garden is officially a work of art, accessioned by the Getty Museum as part of its collection. On the fifth anniversary of the garden, in 2002, Getty published an engaging and informed series of conversations between its designer Bob Irwin and the author Lawrence Wechsler. Nineteen years later, on the eve of the garden’s twenty-fifth anniversary, I spoke with Ren Wechsler about the original intentions of Bob Irwin, and then with Brian Houk and Jackie Flor about the garden’s life and maintenance. Weschler’s 2002 book Robert Irwin Getty Garden was revised and re-released last summer by Getty Publications.
CUNO: Okay, thanks for joining me on this podcast, Ren.
REN WESCHLER: Thank you.
CUNO: Now, this podcast episode was provoked by the publication of the new edition of your 2002 book of interviews with the artist of the great Getty Garden, Bob Irwin. Take us back to the conception of the garden. It wasn’t the idea of the Getty’s architect, Richard Meier, I know. How, then, was Bob Irwin chosen to design the garden?
WESCHLER: Well, the story, as you know, is that Richard Meier was chosen. And his conception, for people who have been up here, of the space that we’re looking down on right now, was a series of, basically, cement and marble terraces all the way down.
CUNO: Did Richard Meier want the garden to be something that one looked at or one experienced?
WESCHLER: For Richard Meier, there wasn’t even a garden; it was a cement series of plazas. And he would’ve said that it was all tied into the whole conception of the entire building. He just wanted it incredibly straight, angular, white. Which was a problem, ’cause it was glaringly blinding. And the people on the board were saying, “Wait, this is out of control. And there really isn’t a garden.”
CUNO: Well tell me about the choice of Bob Irwin. So I understand that he got a MacArthur grant and he was a well-known conceptual artist, you might say, at the time. So what made him be chosen to do a garden? Had he done gardens before?
WESCHLER: He had never done gardens before. And in fact, more to the point, he had reached point zero in his work, which was he had stopped making permanent art altogether. Going back and looking at Robert Irwin, he was an artist who had, over a period of twenty years, kind of dismantled the act of making art.
He had gotten rid of figure and was doing abstract work. There were just lines for a while, two lines on a canvas. He would have seemingly empty rooms that he had very subtly lined. And then he gave up his studio. And at the time that my first edition of my book Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees came out, he had basically achieved a point where, in fact, at the Venice Biennale, he had just put a square of string on the ground.
And so for him to come out the other side with what at the time was the biggest art commission anybody’d ever seen, was a huge thing. And it was a huge gamble, on the part of the Getty people. But it was exactly the kind of thing he was interested [in]. He was interested in exactly how, you know, a tuft of grass played against bougainvillea, played against structures, marble.
I remember around that time, to give you some idea what it was like, because it was a years-long project. He picked me up one day when I flew in, and he said, “We gotta go up and look at a tuft of grass.” And we drove for, like, an hour, up past Malibu. And there was one particular kind of wild grass on a slope. And he said he’d been coming and looking at it once a month for the past twelve months, ’cause he wanted to see how it played out through the whole year.
And conditional, in that sense, for example, the site goes through different seasons.
CUNO: Your book begins with statements by Bob titled “A Conditional Art.” And you just talk about the conditions of conditional art. What did he mean by that?
WESCHLER: He was trying to distinguish himself from a thing that was going on at that point, called site-specific art. And something he had done before, where you know, you don’t know what you’re gonna do when you show up, and then you spend time, you think about what you’re gonna do, and then you place a wager on a particular notion. And that is specific to that site. But I think when he talked about conditioned, it was even more phenomenological. It was more embodied. It was the wind blowing through.
And so for in terms of here, for example, what’s conditional about this situation? Every single thing he comes up with affects everything else he’s gonna do. But at a certain point, he came up with the notion that he would recreate the original contours of this canyon here, where there was a stream going through. He wanted to recreate what this had once been.
Originally, he had an idea that there would be the stream that would be curving, and then there’d be a waterfall down there, and that there’d be paths along the stream, going down. And then it turned out that there was a wheelchair requirement. And far from being defeated by that, he said, “Well, what would it look like if we did exactly the right gradient?” And he wanted to know what it looked like with exactly the gradient of the zig-zag going down. That is what determines that gradient, is that it’s wheelchair access. And suddenly, instead of having a path that went right down the stream, it crossed it at several places. And that, in turn, allowed all kinds of other opportunities.
Specifically, you can a little bit in the background hear, the water, as it enters. At every bridge crossing, he aligned the rocks in a way that it was tuned with a different sound of water. So it’s kind of a rapids at one point and a kind of puddles and— and as you walk down, it’s very interesting ’cause you can just hear the difference. All these things that are almost subliminal, but that he would say create the experience.
That is the experience. The experience is nothing but a series of subliminal things. And he is trying to tune all of them—color, density, shade, breeze.
CUNO: Now, the Getty Center opened in January of 1997, I think.
CUNO: And so Bob must’ve planned for the opening for the garden at the same time. But he would have to take into account seasonal changes over the course of the life of the garden. So how did he deal with that?
WESCHLER: Well, interestingly, it opened in the winter, basically. And so at one level, he knew that the garden would be down. It wouldn’t be very colorful. And by the way, that’s an interesting thing about Los Angeles, is that you don’t have seasonal gardens in LA because everybody says there aren’t seasons in LA. But he made a point of finding flowers that did, in fact, have four different seasons. So that when it opened, the general consensus was, “Ah, what is this?” But it was winter; it was meant to be down.
One thing, by the way, he often said is that this was a garden not for the visitors. He was happy if visitors enjoyed it. It was a garden for the people who worked here, who every single day, would see the slight changes and would have a seasonal experience. And so you’ll see that right now, there’re certain yellows that are predominant. The bougainvilleas and the reds are kind of a note of that. The number of things he had going on in his head at each decision was interesting.
In any case, it was, in fact, the case, though, that I don’t think the garden was thoroughly appreciated when the Getty opened. Nothing he could do about it, except not care what everybody was saying. And then sure enough, six months later, it was really taking off. And then beyond that, it’s aged and is an ongoing work. It’s never the same any day, and that’s a tribute to the gardeners, who he gives very specific instructions to.
CUNO: In your book, he talked with you about the stream garden planting schemes in terms of painting and painters, like Morandi and Mondrian. Describe these to us and why, for example, he didn’t reference paintings of gardens like Van Gogh and Monet, Cezanne, and Matisse.
WESCHLER: That’s a very good example of the kind of thing he was talking about. He would say that a painting is a painting. What it’s a painting of, a garden, isn’t the point; it is about the interaction of colors and so forth and so on; that the subject matter is the least of it. Flip side of it was that he wanted to create, what he would call a modernist garden, or even a Cubist garden.
And as people said, “But it’s not Cubist.” He says, “It’s doing what Cubism’s trying to do.” It’s all about figure and ground. Now, in the case of Mondrian, we talked about that because there was an artist who had done a Mondrian garden, where they had just taken flowers that were the shapes of colors and made squares of them and, you know, and called that a Mondrian garden.
And Bob would say, “That’s not the point of Mondrian. It’s not that they’re rectangles and so forth. It has to do with a certain kind of—a step further. With how things are interacting with each other and so forth.” And he then would talk about Morandi. Morandi is the Italian artist who basically spent his entire life painting bottles and cups and so forth.
CUNO: With very little color.
WESCHLER: With— The color was toned down. And what he says, which is very interesting, about Morandi is he says—Morandi is the only successful European Abstract Expressionist. Which is a wild claim. But Morandi was doing things about colors, things going back, things coming forward, shadow, shade, and so forth. And he said that if there was an artist that he was drawing on, to some degree it was Morandi, in some of the plants or the interactions that happen here.
CUNO: He said that it was difficult to teach young artists about the edges and surfaces and pieces of paintings. They were only interested in the subject of paintings. What did he mean by that?
WESCHLER: Well, kinda what I was just saying. Interesting thing about him, by the way, is he only taught for about three years altogether. He taught at Otis, I think, and then he was for a year and a half, at Irvine. And the artists who he taught include Ed Ruscha, Vija Celmins, Laddie John Dill, Alexis Smith. Chris Burden was another one of his students. Entirely different kinds of artists.
There’re about ten of them, major artists. And what’s interesting there, for example, is he wasn’t trying to teach them subject matter or to limit them to a particular kind of thing, but to a particular kind of way of being in the face of the easel or in the face of the project. Which is very much the kind of thing that he’s also doing here.
CUNO: Now, he described the garden as “the greatest, most complex, and most challenging palette of all.” What did he mean by that?
WESCHLER: Well, he is somebody who spent a lotta time thinking about what colors—often in a very minimalist way. He would do a yellow painting with two yellow lines on it. And work on it for, you know, six months, at the end of which, there was a painting of two lines, you know? But it was an incredible education to what yellow does, what line does, and so forth. Every single one of these—the cactus over there, the bougainvillea and so forth, are so complicated.
And it’s infinitely more complicated than any amount of stuff you could have on your easel. And it was ecstatic for him to be doing that. But he felt— I think he would argue that the greatest intensity of education in his life took place right here, trying to see— gather all this.
CUNO: And what about his emphasis on what he called the splendor of craft? The work of the woodworker David Frisk, for example. The teak benches that are here, the bronze railings, and what I think of as Corten steel, the big sheets of steel.
WESCHLER: He absolutely treasured craftspeople. And he said that all kinds of things that you would never even notice make a huge difference. This goes back, by the way, to his roots in car culture, and how they paid attention to the slightest detail of things that you would never see. The bolt and how it was finished—inside the inside of a door. In a way that you would never see it. And that mattered, and it made all the difference.
He came out of that kind of perfectionism. And so for example here—I’m looking at the—at just the railings that you walk. The size of the handhold, you know, as you go down. The incised lamps on the ground with the beautiful lamps that he designed, that light the ground, but they don’t shine in your face if you’re looking down on them.
And precisely the teak chairs, which are very complicated if you look at them. The curve and so forth. All that was stuff that he would commission. He would design things, but then he would work with craftsmen on an equal basis.
CUNO: Now, any visitor to the gardens begins their journey from where we’re standing at the top of the garden, and walking down through the plantings then through the water, stream that we can hear in the background, down until we get to the bougainvillea plaza, which is a colorful explosion three-quarters of the way down there. He called it an emergency refuge for the whole place. And the bougainvillea, he said, “was the most important sculptural move I made in the whole project.
WESCHLER: Yeah. Well, and I think he’s talking about that as the most important conventionally-sculptural—in other words, he had done this whole garden and people were saying, “Where’s the art? Where’s the art?” And he decided to have one thing that was gonna be, okay, well, this is art; this is obviously art. One of the things that’s very strange about that bougainvillea is that he created that design and that flooding over of the red; but suddenly it shows up everywhere. He doesn’t get credit for it, but this particular gesture of this outpouring, this outflowing of color was very much something he was doing.
CUNO: Does Bob think of the garden as a sculpture or a painting?
WESCHLER: He has a phrase. I don’t remember. It’s a work of— a garden aspiring to be art. So I mean, he’s not that interested in those categories. Interestingly, right now, there was— after he did this, there— he did a whole series of these gorgeous fluorescent light arrays, where he would surround them with theatrical gel that if they were turned off, they looked one color; they were turned on, they looked another. There was incredible subtlety. Sometimes there were twenty-five gels wrapping around it. That was all about what it looked like to look into a flower and to see it—what the light looked like from different sides. And then recently, he has started doing pieces of that same type, except he doesn’t turn them on or turn them off. He leaves out the electricity. But he plays off of the mountings and so forth.
And those, he calls drawings because the light— He doesn’t turn on the light. That, I guess, he would think as more of painting. But if you leave the lights off, they’re drawings. So he plays with words.
CUNO: Now, the garden is twenty-five years old next year. How has it grown on you and how’s it grown on him?
WESCHLER: What is he? Like ninety-two, ninety-three. And so he doesn’t get up here much. He lives in San Diego. And he has given it over to the workers now who manage it. But I think it was absolutely the case that for the first fifteen years, anyway, he was here regularly. When you ask, how has it grown, the way it’s grown is it’s grown. It is getting denser and richer and changing from year to year.
And by the way, there is the garden of 2013, which was one garden; and there’s the garden of 2018, which was a whole different garden because of— It’s almost like wine. Depending on whether there was a drought or a hot streak at the end of the season and so forth, it completely changed everything. But again, the major thing to say about it is that it’s living and is changing every single day. So anybody who thinks they’ve seen the garden because they came once and saw it, they should come another time because it’s completely different.
And especially the people who work here can just take—and many of them do. You watch them at lunchtime coming down and sitting in the garden, and even if they aren’t consciously studying the differences, they are being shaped by them.
CUNO: Well, Ren, it’s been a pleasure talking with you about Bob Irwin’s Getty garden. Please tell Bob that we had this conversation.
CUNO: Let him know that the garden is in good hands.
WESCHLER: Okay. Thank you very much.
[sound of running water]
CUNO: Now I’m standing with Brian Houck, head of the Getty’s gardens and grounds, and Jackie Flor, horticulturalist, overlooking the Getty garden, designed by the artist Bob Irwin. It’s May 26th. I don’t know if it’s been a late spring, but the garden seems more colorful than usual this time of year. Thanks for joining me, Brian and Jackie. Now am I right? Has it been a later spring than usual this year?
BRIAN HOUCK: Well, first of all, thank you for coming out today, Jim. It’s a pleasure to be here with you. And you are absolutely right. It’s been a cooler spring than normal. We’ve had a lot of I guess what we’re calling now May gray. It’s like June gloom, where the mornings are marine layer; it’s pretty overcast.
But more importantly for the plants, our night temperatures haven’t warmed up. So the plants are acting a little bit slow to sort of hit their peak this spring. But now actually, today, it’s starting to feel a little bit warmer and the night temperatures are going up, so you see the plants responding to that.
CUNO: The Getty’s been closed for almost a year and a half, due to COVID-19. What’s been the consequence of that on the garden?
JACKIE FLOR: Having the garden closed, we decided to have a plan to take advantage of having more time to work without the public here. So it accelerated some of our renovation plans. We actually probably accomplished what we were intending to accomplish in two years, in just the one.
CUNO: Tell us about the renovation plans. What do you mean by that?
FLOR: Sure. In gardens, you’re constantly replacing things that have worn away through attrition. And plants all have different shelf lives. So if something’s overgrown and woody, you would take it out and replace it. In our process, we would do an analysis, if the plant was actually appropriate for the area. And if it was, if it was correct, we would replace it with the same plant, only younger. Sometimes we found a more appropriate plant to reinforce the design. And that’s the ongoing story of, a garden is never finished. You’re always reassessing because plants wax and wane. Like everything else in life, they have their season and their time, and then—
CUNO: Now, we’re at the top of the garden, looking down through the garden to the—basin at the bottom. And we’re starting here because the visitor to the garden starts here; but also because there is water that’s streaming down this wall here behind us. And is that the same water that then makes its way down into the stream, and the stream to the garden?
HOUCK: It certainly appears that way. Now, technically, that may not be true, because each of the individual fountain features have their own recycled water. So the amphora here at the beginning recycles back up to the plaza with the runnel fountain. And then the stream here, which is sort of the beginning of the zig-zag path where people walk down and start having a real garden experience, that water recycles amongst itself.
CUNO: Let’s begin to descend down through the garden, and tell us about the trees that we’re walking through.
HOUCK: Oh, sure. So it’s a hybrid of a London plane sycamore. So it’s two species put together. And the cultivar is called Yarwood. And it was chosen by Robert Irwin after a lot of tree analysis, because it’s resistant to anthracnose, which is a fungal problem that we have here in Southern California. So it does not show that disease, which normally happens early summer.
CUNO: And what’s the fruit of the tree?
HOUCK: Well, it looks kinda like a golf ball, but sort of tan in color. But it’s not like a liquid amber, which might have the spikes; this one is sort of soft. And when it’s mature, it sort of puffs open like a dandelion seed head, to spread the seeds around.
CUNO: Do all the plantings that we see get sourced locally? That is, on the West Coast of the United States. Or are they sourced more broadly than that?
FLOR: Primarily from California. Because of agriculture laws, a lot of nurseries don’t ship across state lines. So combined with the fact that we’re looking for things that do well in our climate, it’s logical that most of the stuff is sourced in California.
CUNO: How often do you have to change plants out?
FLOR: Regularly. Like, all the time.
CUNO: Is that because of seasonal change or because of other issues?
FLOR: It’s a combination. We’re always anticipating seasonality. If you respond to it, you’re a little behind the eight ball. And also plants have a certain shelf life where they look good. Lavender’s a good example. Perennial lavender looks really nice for five to seven years, then it starts to look woody. So you’re looking at more of a woodiness than that beautiful lavender structure.
HOUCK: I could also add that the garden has three primary season highlights. So we’re coming up to the summer season, where Jackie and team will be putting out some dahlias. So they’ll be small when they come out, just starting to bloom; and they’ll be reaching peak performance sort of August, September. So there’s the summer season; there’s sort of the fall-winter season; and then there’s also the spring season.
At the end of those seasons, there’s some removals, and then new plantings that prepare for the plants that are accustomed to that time of year.
CUNO: Now, listeners to the podcast can hear the water behind us. Let’s start walking through the garden itself and down through the zig-zag pathway. Tell us about the rocks that we see that we’re walking past.
HOUCK: Well, the big blue stone that’s in the stream is a chert, from up close to the Canadian border, in Montana. Robert Irwin worked with the team at the time to specifically place them in the stream where the bridges cross.
And there’s much conversation about how he tuned the sound of the water going through the boulders, to have different sounds for each bridge. So there’s four or five bridges in the garden. And if it’s quiet like it is today, you can actually sort of experience the different sounds.
CUNO: And they’re surrounded by all kind of plantings, sort of the explosion of color. The rocks must’ve been placed where they were to emphasize the stream itself, off against the color of the plantings. But tell us about the plantings.
HOUCK: The plantings are, in my personal view, the highlight of the garden. We’re in the stream. Robert Irwin divided it into four sections. There’s color themes and treatments per each section. So where we are now in the first section, you see a lot of gray and chartreuse with accents of orange. All of that is sort of Jackie’s work, in terms of curating the effort in the garden, making sure the plants sort of match the original design intention.
Now, Robert Irwin was very clear that those things could change. But it’s, we think, very important to match what was his original design.
And you’ll notice that there are different heighth changes in the plantings. You also notice that there are different color changes. On each side of a bridge—and we’re just now walking through the second bridge—there’s more of the rust tones, there’s some maroon tones, there’s some purple tones. And that palette is different than the first section.
CUNO: How many gardeners does it take to maintain the garden?
HOUCK: Quite a few. We have four gardeners who are permanently assigned to this central garden, and they do the detail work. But we also have a tree crew that will work on the trees two to three times a year. We also have different people that handle the cleaning of the stream and the pool, and then another crew that sorta helps out with the mowing.
CUNO: Are there particular talents that a gardener must have for this kind of garden, as opposed to the plantings generally throughout the Getty campus itself?
HOUCK: This is very fine gardening. This is high horticulture. So a gardener’s ability to observe what the plants are doing, I think, is very key. You know, there’s a certain amount of physical stamina that’s necessary, because you’re bending and stooping and digging and pruning sort of all day long. Jackie, did you want to add to that? Because you are actually out in the garden almost every day.
FLOR: Like all gardens, the gardens continually reveals itself. So depending on what area you’re working at on any given day, in any given season, you see a new opportunity to fine tune. There are architectural features as we go through the garden. We have screens in the bowl garden that, for example, one vine just completely coated. And as pretty as it was, it was an impervious wall that created such a segmented experience of the garden. We looked at ways to maintain the vine material so there were kind of windows through this wall.
We never let a vine completely cover a screen anymore, so the air and the light can get through and the plants are healthier. And then people that are walking by that get a glimpse of the next room they’re moving into. So it kinda sets the stage; it heightens the experience. So that’s just one example, as we look at the garden, for ways to continually evolve it.
CUNO: What about the sounds as you walk along the gardens? The sounds of your feet on the stones and on the wood.
HOUCK: Well, that’s part of the experience that I really like. Here we come up to another bridge, so we’ll have another chance to hear how the sound is different, as per Robert Irwin, with the water going through. But the bridges themselves are wood, so it does tell you, with the feel of your feet and the sound it makes, that you are in a different spot.
And my understanding of Robert Irwin is that he’s giving us a sense of place in each of these locations and asking us to observe different things as we go along.
CUNO: Now, I’ve worked at the Getty for ten years, and I like to point out that I’ve never seen a squirrel at the Getty. What kind of animals are there up here in the gardens?
HOUCK: We do have squirrels. But yes, we do have, in terms of animals, insects, you’ll see a lot of bees and butterflies. We do have occasional visitors that we don’t like. So we’ll have maybe a rabbit or a deer that we have to shoo away. We will also have birds come through. Jackie, you’re pretty good with birds. What do you see regularly?
FLOR: I’m an amateur birder, at best. I regularly see spotted towhees and phoebes and yellow-rumped warblers, and most of the denizen birds that migrate through this area.
CUNO: One thing that you don’t anticipate, I think, when entering the garden, but you certainly experience while you’re walking through the garden, is the change in temperature, from when you’re going into the shade and out of the shade. And it can be quite impressive.
HOUCK: Well, the garden is— You know, it mirrors the original canyon of the landscape that was here before the Getty Center was built. And we have the buildings on either side. So the museum on the east side, and the Getty Research Institute on the west side. So you do feel like you’re in a canyon here. So we get the shade from the buildings, and the we get the shade from the sycamore trees, and you are going in and out of the shade through the zig-zag path.
CUNO: Where do people most gather in the garden?
FLOR: They like to gather very much around the bougainvillea arbors we’re coming up to, which are one of the largest architectural features in the garden. And they provide a lot of shade and there’s a lot of chairs there. It’s the transition between the stream and the bowl, and you have your first glimpse of the bowl garden. So it’s definitely a hub people gather at.
CUNO: I know outside the pathway along the lawns, you see families gathered in the lawns, resting in the middle of the day, in the afternoon, when they come for a visit.
HOUCK: Guests are welcome to picnic. They can bring their own food. You might have to sit with some schoolkids who are rolling down the grass. That’s quite a common activity when they’re back.
CUNO: So we’re approaching the bottom of the zig-zag path. There’s a poetic inscription carved here into two stones. “Ever present, never twice the same, ever changing, never less than whole. December, Robert Irwin.” I wonder how many people notice this carving.
FLOR: We’re in the process of having it re-engraved because so many people have walked over it, the engraving’s worn down a little, so it’s not as noticeable. But the garden always provides opportunities to stop and consider, so this is a stopping point. It’s the transition between the stream garden and the bowl garden.
And the sentiment behind the inscription resonates with any garden. Bob intuitively understood that a garden always changes. So if I come one day and I prune one shrub or change out one plant, I’ve supported his conceit about the garden. And gardens are always evolving. So I think this is very meaningful and resonates.
CUNO: And it’s oriented toward the visitor who would be approaching it from above and be at the point at which you just get to the bougainvillea. And then you can turn and return up the pathway, back to the Getty Center.
FLOR: Yes, the path spills you out into this plaza. It is kind of a threshold. It’s like the foyer to the rest of the garden.
CUNO: Now, the bowl has hedge in it, in a certain pattern that reinforces the circular motion of the bowl itself. There’s been times of year in which they’ve been a riot of color. Right now, they’re green.
HOUCK: Right. We just got through with spring, so these were blooming red. There are three circles. And Jackie sorta describes them as if you imagine the Olympic rings, but you take away the two on the ends, you’re left with the three Olympic rings in the center, but with then additional rings in between all of them. Maybe like ripples in a pond.
These are azaleas. We have two varieties of red azaleas here right now, Redbird and Hino Crimson. And they have been changed out a number of times in the past, because these planters sit within the pond. So you know, that’s not a normal habitat for azaleas, so occasionally, we do have to do some replacements.
CUNO: Thank you, Jackie. Thank you, Brian.
FLOR: Always a pleasure.
HOUCK: Thank you, Jim. It’s good to be here today with you.
CUNO: Let’s capture some of the sounds of walking out of the garden.
This episode was produced by Zoe Goldman, with audio production by Gideon Brower and mixing by Mike Dodge Weiskopf. Our theme music comes from the “The Dharma at Big Sur” composed by John Adams, for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2003, and is licensed with permission from Hendon Music. Look for new episodes of Art and Ideas every other Wednesday, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast platforms. For photos, transcripts, and more resources, visit or if you have a question, or an idea for an upcoming episode, write to us at Thanks for listening.

JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
REN WESCHLER: He often said is that this was a garden not for the visitors. He was happy if visitor...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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