MY LIFE WITH PLANTS: Before the Shutdown, January 2020

By Jim Bishop.


Photo credit: Jim Bishop.
An auspicious start to 2020 at the beach at Borderfields State Park.

Just a year ago on this date life looked very different. This was to be the year to do my take on the California motto: “Eureka, I have found it”.


I turned 65 in the middle of 2020 and also lived in California for 40 years. To celebrate, a year of California adventure was planned with a trip to a different area of California each month. I planned to spend the year visiting iconic locations of the state. Many I’d visited before, but also many new ones. I planned to visit as many as possible of the 36 National Parks, Monuments, Preserves, Seashores, and Recreation areas. Along the way, I’d visit our large cities and small towns, as well as many of our wonderful state parks. I’d spend some time in the Bay Area, Northern California, our deserts and the Sierras. And of course, I’d visit as many gardens and wildflower spots as possible.


But, alas, it was not to be. Instead by February, it had become a year of stay at home projects. Tiling, grouting, painting, fixing things, building a shade cover, expanding the garden, and neighborhood walks. It hasn't been a total bust, I've finished countless projects I've been putting off for years. And I've explored many neighborhoods of San Diego on walks that I've always wondered about.


I was however, able to complete trips in January - in the Los Angeles area - and February - a bike tour of Death Valley with stops at Joshua Tree National Park and Palms Springs.

Here are some of the highlights of the January trip -

January 1

The year started at the most southwest place in California, Border Field State Park. Looking back on the visit, it would become somewhat emblematic of 2020. The week after our visit without warning the Border Patrol bulldozed the California native plants at Friendship Park Garden that was planted in 2007.


Border Fence and Coronado islands in the background.

We concluded the day with a first time visit the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge on the bay in Chula Vista

January 2

Just a year ago on the publish date of this article, January 2, 2020, I toured the Rose Parade floats. What could be more California-iconic than that?

The iconic photo in front of the Well Fargo Coach
The now ironic sounding theme for the parade was the The Power of Hope

A Pre-COVID 19 crowd. It seems so long ago
Some beautiful details of a float peacock
What would the Rose Parade be without lots of roses?

We would soon be looking for a white knight to stop the virus
The 19th amendment giving women the right to vote was passed just 100 years earlier in 1919
There were nice displays that included locally grown proteas.
More Proteas
The Huntington Museum and Gardens turned 100. I would visit it the following day.
Recreation of a statue at the Huntington
The Huntington Float was outstanding with recreations of impressionist paintings
Another painting recreation done with seeds on the Huntington float
Only a few floats can claim that all the flowers and plants were grown in California
Some fun, sun-loving llamas
AIDS Healthcare Foundation Float
The Mayflower landing was 400 years ago!
Amazing detail.
A reminder to call dig alert before digging.

January 3

The previous night I walked to Apple store from my hotel to buy a new iPhone 11 with 3 lenses. Turns out it was much further away than I expected. It also turned out it took a lot longer to upgrade my phone than I expected.

I borrowed Scott's Tesla for the trip. I quickly learned the next morning that I was unable to start the Tesla with the new phone. I also learned that cell phones don't work in underground garages. Several hours later, with lots of calls to Scott and trips up and down in the elevator, I was able to get my old phone working and was on my way.

I hadn't seen the new entrance garden to the Huntington. I guess I liked it even though they had to block part of it to keep people from falling into the water features. Everyone says they like it.

New entrance garden at the Huntington

It is really difficult to figure out which photos to post of the Huntington since it is so easy to take 100's in just a few hours. It is even more difficult when you are trying out a new camera and take even more photos that usual trying out all the new features of the camera.


The Desert Garden is one of my favorite gardens in California, if not the world.
Trying out the iPhone portrait mode.
Winter creates such great backlighting.
Agave closeup.
I was excited to see all of the aloes with their winter bloom.

I hadn't visited the Huntington since the opening of the Chinese Garden several years ago. They were in the process of expanding it.

The Chinese Garden has matured nicely since it first opened.
So many wonderful vignettes.
The large lake at the Chinese Garden
A popular spot was walking under the waterfall.
One of the perfectly maintained Bonsai in the Japanese Garden.
The moon bridge in the Japanese Garden with the last remnants of fall color

January 4

The next day, I was ready to leave Pasadena but not without a stop at one of the places I'd wanted to visit for years, Revival Antiques. It is a shrine to Spanish Colonial Revival lighting, furniture and accessories. After gardening, plants and tile, it rates high on my lists of interests.

Revival Antiques in Pasadena

After spending too much money on antique light fixtures, I headed for the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden. I don't think I had visited since 2012. In keeping with the theme of visiting California iconic places, I wanted to check out 'Lucky' Baldwin's Victorian house and lagoon that was used at the beginning of episodes of the TV show Fantasy Island. As 2020 luck would have it, it was closed and fenced off for maintenance.


House used in the beginning of Fantasy Island.
Fortunately, there are also plants to look at and my new iPhone camera to play with.
I doubt most of us that grow tree aloes realize how tall they can get with age.
A lot of plants in the Canary Island section of the garden caught my eye
These large, old Australian Grass Trees with old blooms are a rare sight in California.

That evening Scott took Amtrak to LA and we met at the 70's iconic Bonaventure Hotel with it's 4 glass towers and a revolving restaurant on top.


The Westin Bonaventure Hotel and moon.

That evening we took in a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Another First. It reminded me of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The organ inside the concert hall.


January 5


The next morning we did a quick stop at the crowded Los Angeles Zoo.

In the afternoon, we headed to the La Brea Tar pits. Another Southern California iconic location that I'd never visited. I found it fascinating. It was difficult to imagine Los Angeles with large herbivores and carnivores. What a different place it has been before humans.

Me at the La Brea Tar Pits. Note to self, try to wear less baggy clothes in 2021.

Next door to the Tar Pits is the Los Angeles Art Museum with a display of old street lights.

Me at street light display.

We ended the day in Santa Monica in our mid-century style hotel room overlooking Santa Monica Bay.

The room had a glass wall between the shower and the bedroom.

Sunset at Santa Monica Pier.


January 6

Today we visited the Getty Museum in Malibu. I'd been there a few years earlier and in the 1990s before it was remodelled. It was one of those unbelievably clear and warm California winter days. We were there slightly before opening time and had the museum almost entirely to ourselves until noon.


The nearly empty museum grounds.

Looking through an open door to classic courtyard.

Scott re-enacting a classical scene.

Playing with the portrait lighting feature on the iPhone.

Me wondering what life might have been like in an ancient Herculaneum villa.

That afternoon we did a short hike up Solstice Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Solstice Canyon and the hills looking out towards Catalina Island.

An early season native gooseberry coming into flower.

That evening we strolled out the Santa Monica Pier to take in the sunset.



Route 66 ends at the Santa Monica Pier


January 7

For our last day in the LA area we headed to the J. Paul Getty museum. There was a special exhibit of impressionist paintings.

Steps at Getty Center showing the way to special impressionist art exhibit.

The controversial rooftop garden with the view Santa Monica Bay.


The controversial, yet stunning, central garden at the museum

A final sunset in San Monica before heading south.

January 8

I drove south around the Palos Verde Peninsula and stopped at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center where there was a small native garden and museum.


San Vicente Lighthouse

Heading south I stopped at one of the best designed and maintained small gardens in Southern California, Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona Del Mar.

The classical mostly white garden.

A little bit of Tillandsia fun in the greenhouse.

The succulent garden is well known for its well thought out and theatrical displays.

My final hotel was the Inn at Laguna Beach looking over the cliff park. I arrived in time to checkout the tidepools, stroll along the cliffs and watch the sunset behind Catalina Island.

Statue on the coast walk overlooking the Main Street Beach.

<Rachel italics> Aloe arborescens in full bloom on the cliff walk.

The whale wall mural on the Coast Highway.

January 9

The last stop before heading home to San Diego was the Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Ruins, reconstruction, and threatening clouds over the mission.

One of the classical views of the mission.

Elaborate wall paintings and religious artifacts in the main chapel.

Shortly after arriving home there was mention of a new virus in China that was highly contagious. It will be interesting look back next year at January 2021.


Past President, Jim Bishop, is the current publicity chairperson on the Board of the San Diego Horticultural Society and hje was the 2019 - 2020 SDHS Horticulturist of the Year among many, many other things.