Category Archives: Gardens

Book: Drunken Botanist

Drunken Botanist

After reading Amy Stewart’s very academic and well researched Flower Confidential, picking up The Drunken Botanist reveals the sharp sense of humor the author has. The full title The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks gives you an idea of the content, but though the background is as well researched as Flower Confidential, the information included for each plant is more the juicy bits of gossip. Scandalous asides and humorous anecdotes fill the entries, which range from the obvious grapes of wine and barley of beer to the decidedly less obvious Monkey Puzzle tree. Huh? I’d never even heard of a Monkey Puzzle tree, much less knew that there’s a drink made from this Chilean national monument. Tons of other tidbits make this book a joy to read. Even if you don’t drink, the stories that accompany the alcoholic ingredients are fascinating.

Also recommended: Stewart’s Wicked Plants. It’s an intriguing trip through the world’s poisonous, deadly and intoxicating plants.


Book: Flower Confidential

Flower Confidential

I’ll never look at a bouquet of flowers the same way again. Amy Stewart’s Flower Confidential really does take you through “The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers.” I had no idea what a flower goes through to end up at a supermarket near you. I shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve been hearing for years about the extreme measure our food goes through to get to market, but I never thought about the flowers going through a similar process of hybridizing for longer shelf life and easier shipping. Except that because it’s flowers, which are not ingested, there are a lot less restrictions on them. Who knew that almost every single rose coming into this country has been dipped in chemicals to kill the bugs and fungus that might harm the rose in transit? One farm owner said that the longer the rose is away from the dip, the less residual fungicide there is on the flower, but “I would never recommend that you take a bath of rose petals. Never.” There goes that romantic scene in the movies.

Stewart’s book is well-researched; she traveled to flower farms all over the world to see firsthand this beautiful and not so beautiful world. She expresses her disillusionment that flowers have lost their soul, but she does offer some promising solutions, which we are starting to see today, considering the book came out in 2007. Organic flowers are available now, and there are more and more places to find them. I don’t buy many cut flowers, but I have to say, in the future I’ll be rethinking anything that isn’t organic.

Getty Villa

After visiting the Getty Museum a few weeks back, I decided to return to the Getty Villa, which is actually the original Getty Museum before it was moved to the hills west of the 405.  Located in Malibu, the Getty Villa is dedicated to the art of antiquity, specifically Greek and Roman.  Obviously, the Getty family is Italian, so there’s a connection to all things Roman.

The museum was built to resemble a villa in Herculaneum, which along with Pompeii was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79.  I have to say the structure is stunning.  God, what a life the Romans had, even without indoor plumbing and electricity.  The detail on the architecture is amazing.  There was such a reverence for artisans and art during those times.

Every single surface is beautiful.  Different colored marble, ornate columns, painted trompe d’oeil arches right next to the real thing.  The gardens and courtyards, or peristyles as they’re called, just take your breath away.  The Outer Peristyle has filled in a lot since I was last there in 2008.  I want to sit there forever enjoying the water, the sculptures and the view.

I’ve included some pictures from my last trip to the Getty Villa in early March 2008, when all the spring flowers were out and there were less tourists.  Unfortunately, I was also less experienced a photographer, so most of the pictures from that trip are worthless.  Why I thought I had to keep the ISO at 100 for every picture and try to handhold 1/15 second shutter speed is beyond me.  Chalk it up to inexperience.  For me, I can’t handhold below 1/80 second or the picture is out of focus.  Of course, that’s out of focus according to me.  Considering what most people put up on Facebook, the pictures are still sharp, unless you’re a photographer.

If you want to visit the Getty Villa, you have to make a reservation for tickets.  Admission is free, though parking costs $15, so pile people in.