Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Restoration in the Rockies

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
~Sir Edmund Hillary
1919- 2008

The sight of mountains rising high into the clouds of heaven points my mind on a journey to inner peace. The sound of water  rising from an unseen source past the horizon tickles my curiosity over the rock filled stream bed into a state of wonderment.

The sight of trees, which as little seedlings broke through rocks, assures me that God provides the least of us with great potential to break through any barrier.

A loved one suggested I take some needed time away from the everyday. Journey up to a  place where I could pray and reflect. Get my priorities in order.  Take stock.

 I communicate rather well on paper, but as every instrument needs an occasional tuning- the compass of my interpersonal skills  needed some polishing and resetting back to true north.

To achieve these goals,  I needed to go cold turkey from my technology addiction.

Which is how I came to go off the grid for 6 days in the Rocky Mountain State of Colorado. No computer, not much cell phone reception, no email and no camera for the first two days. 

 A long and winding drive to Estes Park through Boulder is the anecdote to a life creeping along in LA traffic. The  town marks the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park- wildflower capital of the region. 

One look at wildflowers resting at the edge of the roadside, and I was renewed.

Aster, like I pay to pair with geraniums in the ground cover near my English roses- bobbing their smiling faces up through the grass, to the delight of the local elk.

Ah, the fabled elk.  Each weighing in around 850 pounds. I kept to the parking lot. The rental car my shield  just in case the pair took offense to my aiming my long lens in its direction.

On the retreat, I faced my devil. My pride.  

Fear and Anger are Siamese Twins. When someone is angry- stop and ask- What are you afraid of?  I don't know about you, but my greatest sins have been committed when I am afraid. So the more we can do to conquer fear, the happier and more honorable a life we live.

I look forward to exorcising my tendency to leap from having judgement to being judgemental. Want someone to fail- be judgemental or hover. Its like providing cement fins  to a swimmer.

I am a recovering fixaholic. I resolutely act to fix anything or anyone, anytime and anywhere. Wrong. I need to focus on just a few priorities and then turn the rest over to God.   

I learned that to live on a ledger sheet is to live with all the joy of Ebeneezer Scrooge. This was a new concept: constant mention of price tags unwittingly communicates grandiosity. I will remember to ask if there is a need to know before volunteering prices in everyday conversations.  

But most important. Love. There will come a day when someone you love deeply will not be there. You won't be able to hold them or tell them they mean the world to you. That they are your hero and inspire you to breathe on days when it is hard to. 

The saddest people I have ever known are those who decided to withhold love. They never intended that would be until it was too late. That is something overwhich we have no control.

Unless there is dishonor in the love: declare it often and loudly. 

Refreshed, retooled and restored, it was time to head, like Moses, down the mountain. Before I was out of town, the local celebrity posed for me. An elk clearly identifiable for the Christmas lights entwined in his antlers.  I stuck to photographing the majestic animal. I didn't want to be the paparazzi who made him mad asking for an autograph.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bringing Home The Ivy Restaurant

What we remember most about rooms we like is the 'atmosphere.' 

~ Charlotte Moss, A Passion for Details

I am on the hunt for the provenance of this flag at The Ivy. In the mean time, I can  fill  our home with roses.
My daughter in love knew. The atmosphere at  The Ivy on Robertson is a match to my spirit.   Inspired by the beautiful roses EVERYWHERE the day I dined at this antonym of trendy, today I put together my own version of what were their signature bouquets that day- roses with mint. 

In the background is the stairway my husband built. It is based on a stairwell we saw in the old film classic The Seven Year Itch. My parent's bedroom dresser is re-purposed to hold linen and dining accouterments. 
August is not the prime month for roses from the garden. Which may be why God gave us grocery stores.Long stems: 18 pink and 12 yellow from Von's and 12 lipstick red from Albertson's.

The Ivy restaurant has swags festooning windows; we covered cornice boxes with  tapestry  scenes straight from American outdoor life.
Closer up, sunlight streams through the west facing lace covered window. Where the Ivy used pewter pitchers, I got out the silver polish. There is nothing more romantic than roses held in gleaming silver

Knowing that we blend the boundaries between inside and out, the birdhouse was a gift from my sister-in-law. Billie carted it home from her native Kentucky one Christmas. 

The china cabinet is filled with memories of our travels.
My china cabinet was one of our first purchases when we moved to Diamond Bar. We weren't even a city then; today my adopted hometown is ranked by Money Magazine as one of the best places to live in the United States. I keep waiting for the news crews to show up and start asking how our city government achieved this while operating in the black for its entire history. But that's another story...

Today the story is my gratitude to live in a place where I can go out to pick mint and Betty Boop Roses. I can set a table with the same love and abundance as where movie stars dine out. 

Linking up to Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leaving The Virginia Robinson Gardens for The Ivy Restaurant

"The human soul needs actual beauty more than bread." 

~David Herbert Lawrence


A sculpted dog stands guard over potted succulents  at the corner 

A voracious reader, certainly Virginia Robinson read D. Lawrence, the English poet and author. So much of Lady Chatterley's Lover celebrated not just the erotic nature of love, but the intrinsic lure of nature. Whether left wild as God created or cultivated by man, a garden, by nature, is seductive 

There is soothing beauty in repetition. The pyracantha in the top image is clipped to a diamond pattern. The Madagascar is threaded and allowed to hang through with Spanish moss on a trellis. 

The diamond pattern repeats on outdoor furniture and other iron work. 

A bas relief panel is characteristic of Beaux-Arts style.  Together with overhanging
greenery , it relieves a wall of stark dreariness.

The mixed ivies peaking out from under heavy balustrades. This adds all the charm as if the garden were a cake and giants came through and super-sized the swagging. 

Virginia Robinson's plans were to have a cohesive Mediterranean garden. However her property had other plans.  

When the Mediterranean plants repeatedly insisted on converting into layers of compost, a guest suggested Virginia try King Palms. 

The palms leaning in for a kiss are named Harry and Virginia, in honor of the Robinsons. 
 Not being the timid sort, Virginia grew the largest grove of King Palms in North America.  
In later years, she insisted on going on her own to read. Unbeknownst to her, a very thin maid followed from a discrete distance. If the doyenne fell- assistance would be timely.  

As the tour winds to an end, the interest keeps on coming. A wall fountain feeds a pond filled with water lilies.

The soul needs beauty- but the body needs nourishment. This was my excuse to join a special friend for lunch at The Ivy Restaurant on Robertson Blvd.  I specifically did not ask the photo policy because I so wanted to share  how absolutely romantic a tiny little cottage plopped on a major Los Angeles city street can be. Learn some lessons on how to create the ambiance in our own homes.

First- Being swept away is romantic. The imagination needs to be queued. Farm animals and implements, such as baskets and enamelware, may be even more romantic when they are in as unexpected place as in Los Angeles on the border of Beverly Hills.

Chivalry is romantic. As is good service. By courteous men. Lots of them wearing rose fabric ties with nothing on their minds but bringing you pleasure. 

 A life well-lived is romantic. It is full of roses and collections brought together not for how they match visually, but for emotional impact.

I particularly love the use of flags in restaurants. There is an authenticity to how they tie in the history of the proprietors to place. 

There are very few rules in true romance. But if I were to advise young lovers, I would say to be concerned with practicalities is decidedly un-romantic. There is nothing practical about a patio open for business to be stuffed with umbrellas. They squeeze out a table or two of potential customers. There is everything romantic about vases stuffed with a rainbow of roses with mint for greenery.   

To demonstrate the importance of color and pattern I want you to look at this salad and imagine it on a white plate-  because the imagination would be quieted, the appeal would be, too.  

 A simple salad. Sparkling water. Romance is best uncomplicated. 

More info on The Ivy Restaurants here 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The First Estate of Beverly Hills~ Home and Garden Tour ~ Part III

"A garden should make you feel you've entered privileged space- a place not just set apart byt reverberant- and it seems to me that, to ahieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry."

~ Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
Design note: citrus are social trees. Give them companions.
Travel mixed with good earth and the blessed weather of Southern California make for wonderful gardens. Terraced hillsides holding cutaways for citrus trees borders on Nirvana. Don't you just love how the the fruit bearing limbs are shown off amongst other greenery?

Our modern selves take for granted shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables. In the early decades of Beverly Hills, not even wealthy socialites could send their staff out for much in the way of fresh produce. It was grow your own or do without. 

Before the summer sizzled, the lath house orchid's is frequently shaded under a blanket of purple morning glories.  The MacKenzie-Childs watering can and artwork punch up the visual interest of the good eats of the vegetable garden near the kitchen door. 
Image found at  The Department Store Museum blog
Virginia Robinson, with her taste for couture, while serving on the board of the family flagship stores (J.W. Robinson's) heavily influenced the decision to build its first major branch store outside Los Angeles. Built on the site of a successful Hollywood Atelier, the building designed by Charles Luckman and William Pereira was set off by the landscape  design by Florence Yoch and Lucile Council. The luxurious interiors by Raymond  Loewy specified Vermont marble and Brazilian agate. In 1952 the store opened to accolades- anchoring Beverly Hills reputation as a destination for status shopping. 
Each cypress is trimmed exactly 2" shorter than the last to subtly enhance the perspective
With mountains of money at her disposal, Virginia Robinson was not content to just spend it on personal pleasure. Not content to spend her time at board meetings of the department store founded by her late husband's family.  She put her resources to work as a benefactor of charities as diverse as The Hollywood Bowl through Kennel Clubs. 

However, h
er greatest legacy is the home and gardens she bequeathed the public. She died just a few months short of her 100th birthday, leaving behind a property that was old and in need of repair. Gratitude to the Friends of Robinson Gardens and the LA County Board of Supervisors for working lovingly with the property- and respectfully with the neighborhood.
Magenta pops of color on blooming succulent Calandrinia 

Swaths of lavender essential oils warmed by the hot Southern California sun spoil you forever for the real McCoy

Virginia was not corseted up by her original vision of a totally Mediterranean ambiance. As the land was worked and the microclimates forced some plantings into fields of mulch, she worked with the reality that because dreams don't always come true, there is no reason you can't have another, just as lovely dream

Hanging pots of  succulent hides the imprefection of an aging wall

Our docent led tour mentioned that the reality of growing water constraints feeds changes to the garden.

The stairwell would be stark wihtout the symmetrical planting of pots
The 90 minute tour left time to notice vignettes and the broader context of the garden.

This gateway to the mansion was originally straight from the cul de sac. But Virginia decided life was not that way. So she had pedestrians turn on entereing; a physical metaphor for life's journey.

I apologize that the richness of photos and lessons just over-flow what I intended to be my last post on the garden. To live the poetry created on a once barren dirt hill requires a bit more time to digest than planned.
 Please come back one more time for this series closer. I promise- we'll rest our feet while we stop to smell the roses at The Ivy Restaurant on Robertson...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The First Estate of Beverly Hills~ Home and Garden Tour ~ Part II

Virginia and Harry's families moved to California in the 1880's to enjoy the mild Southern California winters. 

Virginia Dryden was born into a family of successful builders. Born in Missouri, when she was 3 years  old, her family moved to California. One of the great influences of her life, her Uncle Leslie Brand, was busy building his reputation as the founding father of Glendale.  

At about the same time, Harry Robinson's merchant family prospered as the founders of The Boston Stores, later building the brand under the family name. While their families knew each other, it wasn't until the family put their foot down about college educated Virginia's need to marry, did the couple decide they should become romantically involved. They married very, very shortly thereafter, building their home in the popular Beaux Arts architectural fashion *. 

The  pool pavilion, built in 1924, transitions slightly from the heavier balustrades and ornamentation to the lighter Mediterranean style  known as Renaissance Revival. 

Modeled after Italy's Villa Pisani, the house is separated by a great lawn and the pool smartly trimmed in mosaic tile wainscoting. 

The exquisite detailing continues with windows with mullions trimmed in a rich terra cotta tone, creating the allusion that viewing through is like looking through a richly framed picture which is matted and lined. 

The decorative panels are created by the old world technique of sgraffito, where the underlying base color is etched away, revealing the design by exposing the underlying base color. 

The solarium, which once housed pool parties of the indoor and outdoor variety is now furnished in the modern Victorian interpretations of MacKenzie- Childs.  The small gift selection to commemorate your visit may be perused in the back part of the building.

The MacKenzie-Childs Flower Market Bonnet Chair puts a new spin on the motto "bloom where you are planted." Based in rural Aurora, New York, the firm captures the colors of summer - pink, fuchsia, green, orange, red and blue - and turned them loose with their Flower Market furniture collection. The website describes the collection as "Fancy, fun, and just a touch eccentric, with inset Flower Market enamelware panels and black and white accents, front and back. Sturdy, easy care, and made to withstand the elements. Hand-woven resin wicker, powder-coated metal accents, wrought iron frame. Includes one Flower Market Lumbar Pillow. Bonnet Chair is double-woven for durability." 

The home shows its Beaux Arts roots in the balustrades, flat roof-line and strict symmetry
Looking back to the main house, we will wave good-bye for this post. Next up- we can talk some about Virginia's influence during our serious hike through what the grand dam of Beverly Hills is best known for.  Her beloved gardens.  

Linking up to May Dreams GBBD. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The First Estate of Beverly Hills~ Home and Garden Tour

“Gardens are a form of autobiography.”
~Sydney Eddison,

In 1906, noted east coast landscape designer, Wilbur David Cook, Jr. drew plans to turn land  mostly barren ~ or hospitable mostly for unfussy lima bean crops~ into a garden-centric community named Beverly Hills. With prices beginning at $900 for lots measuring a minimum of 80 x 160' in "the flats", the lots largely languished until a pair of newlyweds got lost looking for the Los Angeles Country Club.

Virgina Robinson and her husband, Harry, fell in love with the unending views from a particularly barren  knoll  above Sunset Blvd. From the plateau, the dreamers and shakers  envisioned an Italian inspired home surrounded by terraced gardens, which once complete, exemplify the seamless indoor- outdoor California lifestyle. 

When the young couple returned from an extended vacation in 1911, it was to a formal home straddling the hillside. Built of reinforced concrete, their villa took full advantage of the spectacular views which stretched across the LA basin to the mountains , slinging back all the way to Catalina Island, twenty miles offshore in the opposite direction.

This view is near where Mrs. Robinson started her mornings. From her room, she  would have picked her outfit for the day from a notebook filled with illustrations and  fabric samples of her impressive wardrobe.  A decision made, an assistant was dispatched, fetching the dress from the tailor's area. 

The family library is special in the lady of the house is reputed to have actually read every book in it. Before there were megalithic bookstores, the place to purchase books was JW Robinson's Departments stores. Mrs. Robinson's book collection undoubtedly was built from the first offerings delivered from the warehouse stockroom.

When Alex Haley's Roots was released, I was an assistant buyer in the downtown LA headquarters. On the morning of the booksigning, a line of people wrapped more than completely  around the full city- block multi story department store and up the stairway to the second floor book department.  Such response to an author was unprecedented. Every clerical worker was pulled out of their office and into action. The pre-purchased books pulled from the employees for the customers. When my copy was replaced with the writer's autograph inscribed, my volume instantly and forever remains one of my most precious possessions.

Shortly before her death in 1977 , the first lady of Beverly Hills bequeathed her estate to Los Angeles County. The government entity, in concert with the non-profit Friends of the Robinson Gardens, preserve the estate for  public enjoyment. This extraordinary look into the inspired lifestyle of the irrepressible Virgina Robinson is is open for escorted tours via advance reservation

 I know. The restricted hours of the tours and LA Traffic make visiting the garden in real life difficult.  Which is why I will dedicate the next few posts to bringing you to the world that Harry and Virginia built.  Surviving her husband by 4 decades, her home and garden are the epitome of  how a physical space can survive to speak in silent autobiography. 

When we're finished, we will glide over to The Ivy Restaurant, on Robertson, for lunch. My daughter-in-law recommended it for my friend and I. Besides picking my son, recommending this divine spot for refreshment goes to Shannon's impeccable taste.

 Dear Readers- Thank you for your patience while I was off the grid. Its a bit of a hullabaloo catching up after a week exploring the wonder that is Colorado. Not helped one bit by Google eating 4 hours of work in the wee hours of this morning. The words were so delicious, we shouldn't  blame the Internet for swallowing whole):-  

Friday, August 3, 2012

Summer Means High Color ~ The Blessing of Gabby Douglas

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.”
Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

The Meyer Lemon is ever-bearing this year. Despite what the original label promised, dwarf it is not.
Oh, how I wish I had saved the tag for this hibiscus. It would be nice to order more.

She was shipped home from the Garden Writers Association Symposium the summer it was in Portland. Every year,  as the sun reaches higher in the summer sky, she races to climb just a bit higher than the last year. Then when winter comes- she retreats into the earth's bosom. At her peak, she's tall and charming as a hollyhock- without any of the messiness of rust or the like. At least not so far. Can't wait to see what treasures await this year's GWA event in Tucson! Maybe someone will remember my beauty's name.

Past the unruly roses, you can spy the umbrella put over the barrel of cymbidium. 

I heard these orchids bloom better when they get more sun. However, the one week of a real summer weather I remember- perhaps this spot is too exposed this time of year in my inland garden. Too heavy to move the barrel on my own, Cost Plus sold me their last 5' umbrella to push into the compost enriched bark.  It should keep them safe enough while that area is under construction. More on that project later. 

For now, I'm going back to watching the Olympics. They gave me a new role model. The Olympian, Gabby Douglas. Only 14 years old- and so wise. 


When the training was tough, she meditated on the scriptures. 
She went into the gymnastics competition with a smile. 
When she won, she kept perspective "The glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on me.”

Aren't we all just a little less cynical for the blessing of her presence? 

The photo of Gabby was found at CNS News.