Meet horticulturist Brian Houck, Getty’s head of grounds and gardens, and enjoy a walk with him through highlights of the Central Garden. Brian and his team carefully tend the garden — a work of art by sculptor Robert Irwin — to keep it thriving for our future visitors, and for the earth and the creatures that inhabit it.

While the Getty Center is temporarily closed, the fountains are resting, the grass is growing lush, and the plants are enjoying a rejuvenating pruning for spring.


Hi everybody, my name is Brian Houck. I’m the head of Grounds and Gardens here at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa.

Today we’re at the Robert Irwin Central Garden. And I know it’s an odd time with the public not being here at the Getty Center, so it seemed like a nice opportunity to show you what’s happening in the life of the garden right now.

Spring has not stopped! Spring continues for everybody, including the plants here.

What you’ll see today is [that] a lot of the plantings that we’ve sort of initiated in the fall and winter are really starting to look pretty good—this is normally our chance to renovate the lawn, so we would be doing that, although we’re not having as much staff here right now so that is something that we’re going to adjust this year, and not do our normal turf maintenance.

It’s a Bermuda grass like they have on golf courses on the putting green, but this year I think our biggest opportunity is to let it rest, because we don’t actually have the public walking on it. So for the grass it appreciates the feet not being on it lately.

And let’s see, we have happened to turn off the stream and we have emptied the azalea pool at this time. We don’t have as many staff here right now, so maintenance-wise, it was easier to not clean the pool regularly like we would normally do. We have our sycamore trees, which are what they might call pleats, so they have a very formal sort of boxy curvilinear shape going down on the top of the garden. And it’s really hard to tell right now, but you might have to trust me, they are just starting to put out their new leaves for this season.

The bougainvillea arbors, which are a typical big favorite here, it’s a little early in the season for them to show a lot of color, they’re just starting to come out.

They need a little more heat and then they’ll pop to be sort of the full summer exuberance going down.

All right, we’re down now on the plaza level. It’s very quiet here; normally the stream would be rushing, but that’s off as well. We were just commenting on some duck prints that we saw in the decomposed granite, so our wildlife are still here. And actually just this week, in the last couple of days along the outside edge, the crepe myrtles have leapt out there, just a little bit ahead of the sycamore trees, so these are the magenta color and they’ll be blooming in the summer.

You know, this garden is now 20 years old, and that’s a mature feature in the garden, so we’ve begun adjusting their pruning for a more mature shape. From this standpoint if you look out over across the azalea maze, you’ll see that in these couple of beds we have started to remove some things. This is sort of a more purple area of the garden, so we are replanting it. Some things are newer over here, some things are just getting started, and one area just got pulled out yesterday. And then beyond is the azalea maze, so you can sort of see how tightly cropped some of those azaleas look right now.

The bloom season is just past, you’ll see some straggler blooms on it. We’re just taking the opportunity to be a little, do a little bit more rejuvenating pruning, to let it come back so when you all do return to the site you’ll see something that looks a little tighter and a little more finished.

Oftentimes people will think this is a bit of graffiti in the garden but Anna Grace and Adele is the daughter and wife of Robert Irwin when he made the garden, so I guess if this is called graffiti it’s one that Robert Irwin did himself so it’s fine, we’re very happy to have it.

The Robert Irwin Central Garden represents what high horticulture can really do. It’s not necessarily something people have the resources and time to do in their home yard; it’s a very intensive garden that the Getty does and sponsors, and it really supports what I think the idea of what can be happening — so we’re offering something symbolic and something meaningful that can remind people of what’s possible — and that’s really valuable, to have people sort of reflect on what opportunities they have in their own yard to know a greater variety of plants, to get excited and find their own journey in the horticultural world.

You know, for example, in my own yard, first thing I did was take out the lawn and I have a more wildlife-friendly garden-slash-drought-tolerant garden, and that personal decision that I’ve made supports the butterflies, and it supports the birds, and it supports — I know there are skunks and raccoons and opossums that go through my neighborhood and they find harborage in my yard, and that’s okay. I’m really happy to do that.

So those are things that I believe can inspire, and maybe it’s ripples in a pond for people to think about an effort we should all be doing.

Hi everybody, my name is Brian Houck. I’m the head of Grounds and Gardens here at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa.

Today we’re at the Robert Irwin Central Garden. And I know it’s an odd time with the public not being here at the Getty Center, so it seemed like a nice opportunity...