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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      Olympian Census #4: Aphrodite

      Get the stats on your favorite (and not-so-favorite) gods and goddesses on view at the Getty Center.

      Roman name: Venus

      Employment: Goddess of Love and Beauty

      Place of residence: Mount Olympus

      Parents: Born out of sea foam formed when Uranus’s castrated genitals were thrown into the ocean

      Marital status: Married to Hephaestus, the God of Blacksmiths, but had many lovers, both immortal and mortal

      Offspring: Aeneas, Cupid, Eros, Harmonia, Hermaphroditos, and more

      Symbol: Dove, swan, and roses

      Special talent: Being beautiful and sexy could never have been easier for this Greek goddess

      Highlights reel:

      • Zeus knew she was trouble when she walked in (Sorry, Taylor Swift) to Mount Olympus for the first time. So Zeus married Aphrodite to his son Hephaestus (Vulcan), forming the perfect “Beauty and the Beast” couple.
      • When Aphrodite and Persephone, the queen of the underworld, both fell in love with the beautiful mortal boy Adonis, Zeus gave Adonis the choice to live with one goddess for 1/3 of the year and the other for 2/3. Adonis chose to live with Aphrodite longer, only to die young.
      • Aphrodite offered Helen, the most beautiful mortal woman, to Paris, a Trojan prince, to win the Golden Apple from him over Hera and Athena. She just conveniently forgot the fact that Helen was already married. Oops. Hello, Trojan War!

      Olympian Census is a 12-part series profiling gods in art at the Getty Center.

      08/03/15

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