Weekly Weeds: Valentien’s Visions
Southern California is basically a desert, right? Maybe we should all be growing cactus in our front yards?
Well, I do love a healthy cactus garden – and the Getty‘s playful arrangement above Los Angeles is both near and an under-appreciated local delight.
From this plethora of micro climates we have much to select from for our very own growing pleasure, cacti being just one option.
Venture away from the big box garden centers to visit some of the independent nurseries, such as Las Pilitas or Theodore Payne California Native Plant Nursery, and you’ll find horticultural harems of climate-appropriate beauties. In such places, your eyes can feast on botanical variety you won’t find in any Home Depot as you share knowledge and experiences with folks whose job it is to nurse and grow them.
He depicted in wonderful detail over a thousand different plants before Miss Scripps decided her Valentien venture was getting too expensive and turned off the cash spigot. It wasn’t until 2000, decades after both a somewhat disappointed artist and patron had died, that Valentien works were finally published.
You can see a few of his finely wrought botanical portraits below. The fact that many of these plants are today endangered or have vanished entirely from our landscape lend these watercolors a special poignancy.
The largest collection of his watercolors is at the San Diego Natural History Museum. An even more lovely way to experience his work may be to plan a romantic summer weekend at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, a classic Craftsman-style resort, and enjoy dinner nestled amongst Valentien’s artwork and memorabilia at the eponymous restaurant, A.R. Valentien.
As with many other California flora in the 1800s the British sneaked the Matilija Poppy back across the pond where it became a spectacular foreign addition to the English garden. The Brits have been cultivating many of our native plants for longer than we have – you should see some of the Ceanothus that grow there!