Natural beauty in Balboa Park’s Desert Garden.

Here are many photos of natural beauty in Balboa Park’s Desert Garden. This rugged garden, which was created in 1976, contains a huge variety of fascinating cacti and succulents, a few winding paths, and a wide view of Florida Canyon below.

You can find all this beauty just east of Park Boulevard, across the pedestrian bridge near the Plaza de Balboa. The Desert Garden is directly north of the award-winning Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden.

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Thousands of tiny stars in a beautiful park!

So many flowers are abloom right now in Balboa Park! Many appear like tiny yellow suns, or stars exploding in a fiery supernova. Walking through the park yesterday felt like a journey through galaxies. I discovered clusters of stars in every direction!

This beautiful sunburst was discovered in the Casa del Prado, at the San Diego Bromeliad Society's weekend plant show.
This beautiful sunburst was discovered in the Casa del Prado, at the San Diego Bromeliad Society’s weekend plant show.

These beautiful yellow flowers seem like a sky full of shining suns. You can find this fantastic blown glass at Spanish Village Art Center in Studio 41.
These beautiful yellow flowers seem like a sky full of shining suns. You can find this fantastic blown glass at Spanish Village Art Center in Studio 41.

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Nudist colony recreated in Balboa Park’s Zoro Garden!

Sign warns of simulated nudity at the Zoro Gardens in Balboa Park. It's a one day recreation of the historic 1935 nudist colony, arranged by Parkeology, supported by various art institutions.
Sign warns of simulated nudity at the Zoro Garden in Balboa Park. It’s a one day recreation of the historic 1935 nudist colony, arranged by Parkeology, supported by various art institutions.

The historic 1935 Zoro Garden Nudist Colony was recreated today in Balboa Park!

The unusual one day event was produced by Parkeology, an organization that according to their flyer “is a public art series that excavates sites, stories, and sense of our urban parks”.

In 1935, San Diego opened the California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park, trying to replicate the enormous success of the earlier 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The main intent of this “world’s fair” was to promote economic activity during the Great Depression. Various lowbrow entertainments created for the exposition were designed to lure a popular crowd.

Well, today’s recreation of the Zoro Garden Nudist Colony certainly did draw some eyeballs, and a very wide range of reactions!

It was interesting to note most participants appeared to be college age females. The literature suggests the motivation for the event was at least partly political, stating “the reincarnation of the 1935 nudist colony can be an accessible, diverse, intersectional, gender-non-conforming and body positive social experiment.”

One thing I know for certain. Take a walk through lively Balboa Park on any given day and you never know what surprises you might stumble upon!

Visitors to Balboa Park view a reenactment of the nudist colony that was a sensational attraction here during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.
Visitors to Balboa Park view a reenactment of the nudist colony that was a sensational attraction here during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.
A variety of placid picnic-like activities are undertaken by the supposed naturists. The literature suggests a political motivation--a body positive social experiment.
A variety of placid, picnic-like activities are undertaken by the supposed naturists.
Body suits worn by people in the Zoro Garden simulate nudity.
Flesh-colored bodysuits worn by people in the Zoro Garden simulate naked bodies.
A variety of reactions are provoked by this rather unusual sight in San Diego's most popular public park.
A variety of reactions were provoked by this rather unusual sight in a public park.
One of the nudist actors photographs another. One thing is for certain--one doesn't see this everyday!
One of the friendly “nude” actors photographs another. Not the sort of performance one often sees!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! Sometimes I encounter surprising things!  You can experience even more Cool San Diego Sights by following me on Facebook or Twitter!

March flowers in Balboa Park’s Botanical Building.

Cymbidium orchids. Many can be seen in the Botanical Building in early March.
Cymbidium orchids. Many of these gorgeous flowers can be seen inside the Botanical Building in early March.

It’s the first weekend of March. Even though it is still winter, many flowers are blooming inside Balboa Park’s always lush Botanical Building!

Large displays of Cymbidium orchids are the main attraction. But today I spotted other beautiful flowers, too!

Here are some photos!

Visitors to the Botanical Building in Balboa Park enjoy beautiful displays of early March flowers.
Visitors to the Botanical Building in early March can enjoy beautiful displays of flowers.
Cymbidium orchids.
Cymbidium orchids.
Cymbidium orchids.
Bright yellow Cymbidium orchids.
Rhododendron azalea - Gretel.
Rhododendron azalea “Gretel”.
Nematanthus wettsteinii, also called Goldfish Plant.
Nematanthus wettsteinii, also called Goldfish Plant.
Camellia japonica.
Camellia japonica.
Stamens of Camellia japonica.
Stamens of Camellia japonica.
Tulips.
Tulips.
Tulips.
Elegant, beautiful tulips.

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Photo tour of Japanese Friendship Garden canyon.

Visitors to the Japanese Friendship Garden in beautiful Balboa Park carefully step across a stream that flows through a lush canyon.
Visitors to the Japanese Friendship Garden in beautiful Balboa Park carefully step across a stream that flows through a lush canyon.

A few days ago I took you on a short photo tour of the upper level of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. You can find that here. Now we follow our docent tour guide down a gently sloping path into the large canyon expansion below.

Of course, a few quick photos don’t really convey the profound beauty and tranquility of this place. And my understanding of the garden is quite limited. While our tour guide spoke of the garden’s careful creation, its tending, and the meaning of its elements, I was so absorbed in the surrounding beauty that I took only a few notes. Please read the photo captions, and forgive me for not knowing more. I’m still learning.

Gazing down from an overlook into the canyon expansion of the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego. This large section of the garden opened in 2015.
Gazing down from an overlook into the canyon expansion of the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego. This large section of the garden opened in 2015.
Before heading into the canyon, our docent tour guide talks a little about what we will see below.
Before heading into the canyon, our docent tour guide talks a little about what we will see below.
Beautiful handle on the Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate which leads into the canyon.
Beautiful handle on the Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate which leads into the canyon.
After stepping through the gate, the docent shows us a black pine. This one is being trained with a bamboo splint to assume an aesthetically beautiful shape.
After stepping through the gate, the docent shows us a black pine. This one is being trained with a bamboo splint to assume an aesthetically beautiful shape.
Visitors to the Japanese Friendship Garden head down a path that leads from the Upper Garden into the Lower Garden. The winding path is a journey of discovery.
Visitors to the Japanese Friendship Garden head down a path that leads from the Upper Garden into the Lower Garden. The winding path is a journey of discovery.
Here we are, just walking along, feeling at peace, surrounded by so much natural beauty.
Here we are, just walking along, feeling at peace, surrounded by so much natural beauty.
Trees provide shade and fluttering leaves; a bench near a stone lantern allows for rest and meditation.
Trees provide shade and fluttering leaves; a bench near a stone lantern allows for rest and meditation.
We have arrived at the Dragon Bridge, where a serpentine dry waterfall creates the impression of flowing water.
We have arrived at the Dragon Bridge, where a serpentine dry waterfall creates the impression of flowing water.
The carefully-placed white stones in the dry waterfall were imported. But the yellowish boulders on top were found in the canyon. A Japanese garden must contain an element of what is native.
The carefully-placed white stones in the dry waterfall were imported. But the yellowish boulders on top were found in the canyon. A Japanese garden must contain an element of what is native.
One of three highly-prized cloud-like trees placed near the dry waterfall. Every part of the garden has been designed with the greatest attention to detail.
One of three highly-prized cloud-like trees placed near the dry waterfall. Every part of the garden has been designed with the greatest attention to detail.
Now we walk into an area full of cherry trees. In spring, if the preceding winter had a sufficiently cold period, the grove of 160 trees becomes magical with cherry blossoms.
Now we walk into an area full of cherry trees. In spring, if the preceding winter had a sufficiently cold period, the grove of 160 trees becomes magical with cherry blossoms.
Walking slowly along a winding path through the cherry tree grove. It's a November day in San Diego. But the Japanese Friendship Garden is beautiful in every season.
Walking slowly along a winding path through the cherry tree grove. It’s a November day in San Diego. But the Japanese Friendship Garden is beautiful in every season.
Approaching a second bridge where there is a pond and a turtle-shaped small rock island.
Approaching a second bridge where there is a pond and a turtle-shaped small rock island.
Our tour guide shows us a bamboo deer chaser, or shishi odoshi. You might recall that we saw another in the garden's upper level.
Our tour guide shows us a bamboo deer chaser, or shishi odoshi. You might recall that we saw another in the garden’s upper level.
Crossing the low bridge as bright water ripples gently past.
Crossing the low bridge as bright water ripples gently past.
The rock with a bent shape at the bottom of the small waterfall represents a salmon, which like we human beings fights to move upstream, against difficult currents.
The rock with a bent shape at the bottom of the small waterfall represents a salmon, which like we human beings fights to move upstream, against difficult currents.
We walk along the artificial stream. Many flowers can be seen here in spring, including azaleas and camellias.
We walk along the artificial stream. Various flowers can be seen here at different times of the year, including azaleas and camellias.
A tranquil scene at the Japanese Friendship Garden. There are five bridges, each with its own distinct character.
A tranquil scene at the Japanese Friendship Garden. There are five bridges, each with its own distinct character.
Sitting on a shady bench.
Sitting on a shady bench.
Now we are walking past an ornate Nara period Japanese stone lantern.
Now we are walking past an ornate Nara period Japanese stone lantern.
We come to the elegant Inamori Pavilion, which is used for special exhibits and events. The Sukiya-style building has a moat full of koi. The viewing deck, or engawa, looks out at a waterfall.
We come to the elegant Inamori Pavilion, which is used for special exhibits and events. The Sukiya-style building has a moat full of koi. The viewing deck, or engawa, looks out at a waterfall.
Gazing out at the sparkling waterfall and a bridge just beyond it.
Gazing out at the sparkling waterfall and a bridge just beyond it.
The Japanese Friendship Garden is treasured by many for its beauty, subtle wisdom, and serenity.
The Japanese Friendship Garden is treasured by many for its beauty, meaningful design, and serenity.
Photo of the beautiful Inamori Pavilion from nearby bridge.
Photo of the beautiful Inamori Pavilion from nearby bridge.

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Photo tour of Japanese Friendship Garden upper level.

People on a tour of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park experience the beauty and tranquility of this unique place.
People on a tour of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park experience the beauty and tranquility of this unique place.

I recently went on a docent-led tour of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. I took photos and jotted down a few quick notes about the many things I learned. We first strolled through the upper level, then ventured down into the more recently opened canyon expansion.

In this blog post I’ll relate a little about what our group saw in the upper level. I’ll provide a very small taste of the beauty, history and meaning of the wonderful sights in this gem of a garden. But, of course, to truly absorb the quiet beauty, you must visit the Japanese Friendship Garden yourself. Even better, become a member!

Our friendly docent guide meets everyone in front of the Japanese Friendship Garden, near the Tea Pavilion.
Our friendly docent guide meets everyone in front of the Japanese Friendship Garden, near the Tea Pavilion.
The docent explains the kanji on a rock near the entrance. It translates Three Scene Garden. The three elements represented in every Japanese garden are mountains, water and the pastoral.
The docent explains the kanji on a rock near the entrance. It roughly translates Three Scene Garden. The three elements represented in every Japanese garden are mountains, water and the pastoral.

Before entering the garden, the docent explained some differences between traditional European and Japanese gardens.

Formal European gardens originated as demonstrations of a person’s wealth–think of the wide, lavish gardens beside the palaces and chateaus of Europe. They show man’s ability to master and order nature, with symmetrically arranged rows of flowers and grandiose columns and gravity-defying fountains.

Traditional Japanese gardens, however, are quite different. Inviting meditation and abstraction, they emphasize what is natural. They simulate a winding, personal walk through an idealized, beautiful wilderness. Rugged stones, dripping water, asymmetrical trees bent by the elements–one encounters scenes found in nature that might represent a growing human life and the experiences that shape who we become.

Walking slowly along the pathway through the upper level of the Japanese Friendship Garden. Scenes open as corners are turned; every visit is a personal journey of discovery.
Walking slowly along the pathway through the upper level of the Japanese Friendship Garden. Scenes open as corners are turned; every visit is a personal journey of discovery.
A black pine has been carefully pruned over many years to provide a sense of uplift to the passing viewer at eye level. The needles all point upward.
A black pine has been carefully pruned over many years to provide a sense of uplift to the passing viewer at eye level. The needles all point upward.
A shishi-odoshi made of hollow bamboo. When one end fills with water, the swiveling bamboo tips forward then falls back, producing a sharp clack. The sudden motion and noise scares deer and other herbivores from the garden.
A shishi-odoshi made of hollow bamboo. When one end fills with water, the swiveling bamboo tips forward then falls back, producing a sharp clack. The sudden motion and noise scares deer and other herbivores from the garden.
We continue down the winding path through the upper level of the Japanese Friendship Garden. This is a zen garden, with a focus on spiritual meditation and human appreciation of beauty.
We continue down the winding path through the upper level of the Japanese Friendship Garden. This is a zen garden, with a focus on spiritual meditation and human appreciation of beauty.
Rocks are a very important part of every Japanese garden. Representing rugged mountains, they are chosen with extreme care and the best ones are highly prized.
Rocks are a very important part of every Japanese garden. Representing rugged mountains, they are chosen with extreme care and the best ones are highly prized.
These plants have been pruned using the Japanese technique called o-karikomi to look like rounded boulders. The garden is primarily green--the most relaxing color.
These plants have been pruned using the Japanese technique called o-karikomi to look like rounded boulders. The garden is primarily green–the most relaxing color.
A tsukubai basin near the door of the Exhibit House. Kneeling, one washes hands before entering a temple. This represents spiritual cleansing.
A tsukubai basin near the door of the Exhibit House. Kneeling humbly, one washes hands before entering a temple. This represents spiritual cleansing.
Two long benches inside the Exhibit House look out at the carefully arranged Dry Stone Garden. This karesansui invites deep meditation; the stones appear like islands in Japan's Inland Sea.
Two long benches inside the Exhibit House look out at the carefully arranged Dry Stone Garden. This karesansui invites deep meditation; the stones appear like islands in Japan’s Inland Sea.

The Dry Stone Garden, in Japanese called karesansui, contains a numerologically auspicious odd number of stones. The stones all seem to bow to a vertical master stone, the first to be placed. The stones float like islands, and the raked ridges around them appear like choppy waves in Japan’s Inland Sea. Shrubs behind the rock garden simulate wooded hillsides. The extended roof and garden’s nearness draw the observer into the calm scene. Zen meditation and mental abstraction is sought.

A rain chain at one corner of the Exhibit House is used to collect water and provide a pleasing touch to the garden.
A rain chain at one corner of the Exhibit House is used to collect water and provide a pleasing touch to the garden.
Our group heads on a stone path past a lantern to a patio near the koi pond.
Our group heads on a stone path past a lantern to a patio near the koi pond.
Those lights dangling overhead are not typical in a Japanese garden. These were added for Christmas to please Balboa Park visitors who expect twinkling lights at night during the holiday season.
Those lights dangling overhead are not typical in a Japanese garden. They were added before Christmas to please Balboa Park visitors who love twinkling lights at night during the holiday season.
We approach the beautiful, very popular koi pond.
We approach the beautiful, very popular koi pond.
We learn about koi, their colors, value and symbolism. They originated in the desert ponds of Iran and are black when found in nature. Long-living fish, they are seen as symbols of longevity.
We learn about koi, their colors, value and symbolism. They originated in the desert ponds of Iran and are black when found in nature. Long-living fish, they are collected by the wealthy and viewed as symbols of longevity.
The koi pond and the island in its center are both shaped like turtles. Many subtle and hidden images can be found in a Japanese Garden.
The koi pond and the island in its center are both shaped like turtles. Many subtle and hidden images can be found in a typical Japanese garden.
Walking along, feeling peaceful and at one with nature. All worldly cares have been left behind.
Walking along, feeling peaceful and at one with nature. All worldly cares have been left behind.
Our docent tour guide shows us some black bamboo.
Our docent tour guide shows us some black bamboo.
Now we've arrived at the bonsai garden. Some of these weathered specimens were acquired on mountaintops and are over 300 years old.
Now we’ve arrived at the bonsai garden. Some of these weathered specimens were acquired on mountaintops and are over 300 years old.
A small juniper has been trained over time to appear like a gnarled tree in the wild.
A small juniper has been trained over time to appear like a gnarled tree in the wild.
Patience and an eye for beauty are requirements when practicing the Japanese art form of bonsai.
Patience and an eye for beauty are requirements when practicing the Japanese art form of bonsai.
Our tour of the upper level of the Japanese Friendship Garden is almost done. We pause for a moment by the Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate.
Our tour of the upper level of the Japanese Friendship Garden is almost done. We pause for a moment by the Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate.
In a coming blog post, we will pass through the gate and descend into the amazing large canyon below to see a river, waterfalls and more!
In a coming blog post, we will pass through the gate and descend into the amazing canyon below to see a river, waterfalls and more!

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Floral Association event honors Kate Sessions.

Photograph of the Marston House across the south lawn.
Photograph of the handsome Marston House across the south lawn.

Kate Sessions, the pioneering horticulturist who is often called the Mother of Balboa Park, was honored yesterday at an event held at the beautiful George Marston House and Gardens. Every year the San Diego Floral Association throws a special birthday party for Kate Sessions, who was born on November 8, 1857.

Many of the large trees that grow today around Balboa Park were planted in person by Kate Sessions over a century ago. That the annual floral party is held in the sprawling gardens of the 1905 Marston House is appropriate, because George W. Marston, successful businessman and founder of the San Diego Historical Society, was also an important advocate for Balboa Park. His old house, situated in the northwest corner of the park, is a fine example of the Arts and Crafts architectural movement. It was designed by famous architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill. Today it is the home of a historical museum.

The Marston House Museum and its lovely gardens are open to the public in the northwest corner of Balboa Park. The current exhibit is titled Irving Gill - Progress and Poetry in Architecture.
The Marston House Museum and its lovely gardens are open to the public in the northwest corner of Balboa Park. The current exhibit is titled Irving Gill – Progress and Poetry in Architecture.
Several vintage automobiles from the Early Ford V8 Club were on display in front of the house.
Several vintage automobiles from the Early Ford V8 Club were on display in front of the house.
Geraniums and other colorful plants were for sale on the Marston House grounds.
Geraniums and other colorful plants were for sale on the Marston House grounds.
The San Diego Floral Association, founded in 1907, is celebrating their second century of community service and horticultural education.
The San Diego Floral Association, founded in 1907, is celebrating their second century of community service and horticultural education.
Victorian attire and a food truck greet visitors to the fun annual event.
Victorian attire and a food truck greet visitors to the fun annual event.
Sunlight through gilded leaves.
Sunlight through Autumn-gilded leaves.
View of the Marston House from the north, across a section of the gardens.
View of the Marston House from the north, across a section of the gardens.
Beds of blooming roses in the Marston House gardens.
Beds of blooming roses in the Marston House gardens.
Sitting quietly on a bench among green hedges.
Sitting quietly on a bench among green hedges.
Fountain in the gardens of Balboa Park's historical Marston House.
Fountain in the gardens of Balboa Park’s historical Marston House.
Beautiful tiles with images of flowers.
Beautiful tiles with images of flowers.
A peek inside the lath greenhouse between the Marston House and its carriage house, which now operates as a museum store.
A peek inside the lath greenhouse between the Marston House and its carriage house, which now operates as a museum store.
A perfect yellow rose.
A perfect yellow rose.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can enjoy even more Cool San Diego Sights by following me on Facebook or Twitter!