Tranquil beauty near the center of San Diego.

Botanical Building by reflecting pool in Balboa Park.
Botanical Building by reflecting pool in Balboa Park.

In Balboa Park you can retreat from life’s turbulence. Simply walk, read a book, or sit quietly and reflect. You can delight your senses with splashing fountains, green lawns, music, museums. Pleasing architecture is on every side. And there are many beautiful gardens.

My favorite garden of all grows in the Botanical Building. Stroll down El Prado and you’ll see an imposing wood lath building at the opposite end of the reflecting pool. That’s the Botanical Building.

Built for the 1915 to 1916 Panama-California Exposition, the beautiful old structure contains a collection of more than 2000 permanent plants. Take a slow walk through it and you’ll discover ferns, palms, orchids and other tropical plants. You’ll hear the soothing bubble of water tumbling into small rocky pools. You’ll smell sweet fragrances and be touched by many colors. You’ll want to linger.

The Botanical Building is open to the public every day except Thursday, from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM. Admission is free!

People walk through the huge, lush botanical collection.
People walk through the huge, lush botanical collection.
Information and guest book near entrance to historic Botanical Building.
Information and guest book near entrance of historic Botanical Building.
Alfred D. Robinson used the lath house to display plants at 1915 Panama-California Exposition.
Alfred D. Robinson used building to display plants at 1915 Panama-California Exposition.
Hundreds of different plants and endless beauty.
Hundreds of different plants and endless beauty.
Visitors walk quietly through the cathedral-like space.
Visitors walk quietly through the tranquil, cathedral-like space.
Some people just sit on benches and absorb the tranquil atmosphere.
Some people just sit on benches and absorb the tranquil atmosphere.
A section of wall bright with colorful blooms.
A section of wall bright with colorful blooms.
A sample of the natural beauty found in this special place.
A sample of the natural beauty found in this special place.
Platycerium, commonly known as the Stag Horn Fern.
Platycerium, commonly known as the Stag Horn Fern.
Beautiful orchids and other plants on display in Balboa Park's Botanical Building.
Beautiful orchids and other plants on display in Balboa Park’s Botanical Building.
Botanical Building visitors near display of Easter lilies.
Botanical Building visitors near seasonal display of Easter lilies.
Lots of cheerful, colorful Hippeastrum hybrids.
Lots of cheerful, colorful Hippeastrum hybrids.
Bare carnivorous plant bog isn't yet in season.
The carnivorous plant bog!
Delicate beauty on display for anyone to see.
Delicate beauty on display for anyone to see.

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East Village’s SMARTS Farm, a cool urban garden!

A friendly greeting from the folks at downtown's SMARTS farm.
A friendly greeting from the folks at downtown’s SMARTS Farm.

This morning I headed out for a short walk along F Street in downtown San Diego’s East Village, with the intention of photographing some awesome murals and street art. As I was strolling along, my feet carried me into a super cool place I really hadn’t noticed before.

SMARTS Farm is an urban garden run by the nonprofit organization Humane Smarts. In addition to being a community garden, SMARTS Farm offers educational programs aimed at local kids. Children plant their own produce, watch it grow and learn about our environment. Photography classes are also offered!

How appropriate that I randomly discovered this cool place on Earth Day!

Happiness is working in a beautiful urban garden.
Happiness is working in a beautiful urban garden.
Lots of stuff to see, including some photo art.
Lots of stuff to see, including some photo art.
An educational community garden in the concrete jungle.
An educational community garden in the concrete jungle.
SMARTS farm is located on F Street in downtown San Diego.
SMARTS Farm is located on F Street in downtown San Diego’s East Village.
Children learn to love gardening and being outside.
Children learn to love gardening and being outside.
New beds where salsa ingredients will be grown.
New beds where salsa ingredients will be grown.
Lots of fun stuff to see!
Lots of fun stuff to see!
Look at this big old tub of color!
Look at this big old tub of color!
Grow, Cultivate, Learn, Share.
Grow, Cultivate, Learn, Share.

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Cool modified images of cacti in Balboa Park.

People take a walk through Balboa Park cactus garden.
People take a walk through Balboa Park’s amazing Desert Garden.

My walk through Balboa Park last weekend ended at the Desert Garden, located east of the Natural History Museum just across Park Boulevard. I was able to get some cool cacti pics before my camera’s batteries finally fizzled.

Here are some photos that I modified using good old GIMP.  It’s fun to goof around randomly and produce different effects!

While I recognized many different types of cactus, I sadly don’t know many names. Sorry about that.

Fuzzy cactus with red thingamajigs attached.
Fuzzy cactus with red thingamajigs attached.
I played with the brightness and contrast.
I played with the brightness and contrast.
Slightly altered pic of jagged cactus in Balboa Park.
Slightly altered pic of cool jagged cactus in Balboa Park.
I fiddled with contrast, darkness and color saturation.
I fiddled with contrast, darkness and color saturation.
Sunlight amplified on green cactus in Balboa Park.
Sunlight amplified on a green cactus in Balboa Park’s Desert Garden.
Barrel cactus photo with super high contrast applied.
Barrel cactus photo with super high contrast applied.

Here are even more modified cacti photos from late 2014!

Contrast increased on photo of a spiky cactus.
Contrast increased on photo of a spiky cactus.
Some fat barrel cacti in a large desert-like garden in Balboa Park.
Some fat barrel cacti in a large desert-like garden in Balboa Park.
A cool image I created by goofing around with various settings.
A cool image I created by goofing around with various settings.
This huge tangled cactus visible from Park Boulevard is the craziest thing I ever saw!
This huge tangled cactus visible from Park Boulevard is the craziest thing I ever saw!
Now I'm radically altering some pics.
Now I’m radically altering some pics.
Cool silhouette in Balboa Park's cactus garden.
Cool silhouette in a popular Balboa Park cactus garden.
I completely changed these colors just for fun!
I completely changed these colors just for fun!