A small Moorish garden of outstanding beauty.

The Casa del Rey Moro garden is a small gem in Balboa Park.
The Casa del Rey Moro garden is a small gem in Balboa Park.

In the 1920s, prominent San Diego architect Richard Requa visited Europe. During his extensive tour, he carefully observed a Moorish king’s garden in Ronda, Spain. A book that he later authored stated: “In my travels about the world, I had found three gardens of outstanding interest and beauty… The finest of these is in a small town in southern Spain called Ronda. Viewing it for the first time, there came instantly to mind the spontaneous exclamation, ‘I hope to die before I see anything more lovely.'”

Inspired by what he’d seen, Requa designed the Casa del Rey Moro garden (House of the Moorish King) for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego’s Balboa Park. In 1997 the garden and adjacent House of Hospitality were rededicated after a major renovation. The garden, today a popular wedding spot, includes a replica of the wishing well in the Guadalajara Museum of Gardens.

Balboa Park is an enormous place full of competing attractions. It’s strange how I always feel compelled to walk through the Casa del Rey Moro garden!

View from House of Hospitality balcony of The Prado restaurant's outdoor seating near the garden.
View from a House of Hospitality balcony of The Prado restaurant’s outdoor seating near the garden.
A wishing well frames two elegant, classic fountains.
A wishing well frames two elegant, classic fountains.
The garden is a reproduction of the Moorish gardens in Ronda, Spain.
Beautiful elements are reproduced from a Moorish garden in Ronda, Spain.
A close up photo of one picturesque fountain.
A close up photo of one picturesque fountain.
Visitors read about the history of the Casa del Rey Moro garden.
Visitors read about the interesting history of the Casa del Rey Moro garden.
In my travels about the world, I have found three gardens of outstanding interest and beauty...
“In my travels about the world, I have found three gardens of outstanding interest and beauty…”
One can see why this venue is extremely popular for weddings.
One can see why this venue is extremely popular for weddings.

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Cherry blossoms at Japanese Friendship Garden.

Beautiful cherry blossoms have opened at the Japanese Friendship Garden!
Beautiful cherry blossoms have opened at the Japanese Friendship Garden!

Because a big storm is on its way into Southern California, I got my weekend walk in this morning. I didn’t want to venture too far and get caught in the rain, so I decided to head up to Balboa Park to check out the cherry blossoms at the Japanese Friendship Garden!

Next weekend is the big, super popular Cherry Blossom Festival. I don’t like crowds generally, so my small adventure today was just perfect! Relatively few people were visiting the quiet Friendship Garden. I guess other folks, like me, were worried about getting caught in a chilly shower. Turns out most of my walk was in sunshine!

Not long ago the Japanese Friendship Garden occupied just a small narrow spot in Balboa Park, and visitors could see and enjoy everything with a very short visit. No longer! The spectacular expansion into the canyon and additional coming expansions promise to make this a truly world-class garden.

In addition to traditional Japanese garden features and the cherry blossoms, one can walk among many beautiful trees and down shady hillsides of flowers, which include azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas. Anyone with an interest in gardening must go see this incredible place!

A shout out to the friendly folks at the garden!

View of the Japanese Friendship Garden expansion in Balboa Park canyon.
View of the Japanese Friendship Garden expansion in Balboa Park canyon.

The above pic was taken from a viewing deck between the House of Hospitality and the Tea Pavilion. We’ll be heading down there in a bit!

Sign near entrance explains history of the garden. In 1915 a Japanese tea house was built at another location in Balboa Park for the Panama-California Exposition.
Sign near entrance explains history of the garden. In 1915 a Japanese tea house was built at another location in Balboa Park for the Panama-California Exposition.
Today's Japanese Tea Pavilion is next to the Friendship Garden and offers many choices of tea and great food.
Today’s Japanese Tea Pavilion is next to the Friendship Garden and offers many choices of tea and great food.

If you’ve ever been to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, you’ve surely seen the Japanese Tea Pavilion right next door. Next time you enjoy a concert, grab a bite here!

People enter Japanese Friendship Garden. The San-Kei-En entrance stone, gift from San Diego's sister city Yokohama, translates Three Scene Garden--Water, Pastoral and Mountain.
People enter Japanese Friendship Garden. The San-Kei-En entrance stone, gift from San Diego’s sister city Yokohama, translates Three Scene Garden–Water, Pastoral and Mountain.
Water gently drips from hollow bamboo, inviting meditation.
Water gently drips from hollow bamboo, inviting meditation.
Visitors check out thought-provoking historical and cultural displays in the Exhibit House.
Visitors check out thought-provoking historical and cultural displays in the Exhibit Hall.

The Exhibit Hall includes a room with benches that look out a big window at the Dry Stone Garden. The gravel is raked into simple patterns for meditation. I didn’t want to disturb people, so no photos of that.

Oribe-doro lantern. Exhibit House with views of Karesansui (Dry Stone Garden) in background.
Oribe-doro lantern. Exhibit Hall with views of Karesansui (Dry Stone Garden) in background.
The amazing Koi Pond is a favorite spot to relax and feel alive.
The amazing Koi Pond is a favorite spot to relax and feel alive.
The koi are colorful and curious. They seemed interested in my camera!
The koi are colorful and curious. They seemed interested in my camera!
People stroll slowly along a tranquil path in one of San Diego's most beautiful gardens.
People stroll along a tranquil path in one of San Diego’s most beautiful gardens.
Stepping stones lead toward the Activity Room, where various Japan-related clubs meet.
Stepping stones lead toward the Activity Room, where various Japan-related clubs meet.
Looking down at a path that leads into canyon. New construction is a large pavilion that will open later this year.
Looking down at a path that leads into canyon. New construction is a large pavilion that will open later this year.
A special Bonsai Exhibit area.
A special Bonsai Exhibit area.
Perfectly pruned bonsai includes a bright red bougainvillea!
Perfectly pruned bonsai includes a bright red bougainvillea!
That bright tree in the distance is a pink trumpet tree.
That bright tree in the distance is a pink trumpet tree.
Light of Friendship.
Light of Friendship.
Walking down a path through a scene of carefully maintained beauty.
Walking down a path through a scene of carefully maintained beauty.
The Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate leads into the canyon, where the Japanese Cherry trees await. That's another pink trumpet tree!
The Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate leads into the canyon, where the Japanese Cherry trees await. That’s another pink trumpet tree!
Former San Diego mayor Charles Dail created the Sister City Association with Yokohama.
Former San Diego mayor Charles Dail created the Sister City Association with Yokohama.
Visitors head down a fairly easy hiking trail to see the cherry blossoms and other flowers.
Visitors head down an easy hiking trail to see cherry blossoms and other flowers.
Another look at the large canyon pavilion buildings, which will be finished soon.
Another look at the large canyon pavilion buildings, which will be finished soon.
Here are some cherry blossoms! Many are blooming, even though it isn't spring quite yet!
Here are some cherry blossoms! Many are blooming, even though it isn’t spring quite yet!
A sparkling man-made river runs through the canyon bottom, surrounded by a gorgeous landscape.
A sparkling man-made river runs through the canyon bottom, surrounded by a gorgeous landscape.
A waterfall and gurgling, bubbling water put me in a thoughtful mood.
A waterfall and gurgling, bubbling water put me in a thoughtful mood.
A patient gardener tends to one of the many shrubs and plants in the garden.
A steady-handed expert gardener tends to one of the many shrubs and plants in the garden.  I envy him!
Delicate pink cherry blossoms hover over lush green grass.
Delicate pink cherry blossoms hover over lush green grass.
Gauzy pink blooms seem so new and promising.
Gauzy pink blooms seem so new and promising.
One last photo of the new pavilion under construction. Looks inviting!
One last photo of the new pavilion under construction. Looks inviting!
There are about 160 ornamental cherry trees in this grove. I think I'll be going here more often!
There are about 160 ornamental cherry trees in this grove. I think I’ll be going here more often!
The Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego's Balboa Park is a place of beauty.
The Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego’s Balboa Park is a place of beauty.

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A garden and poem at New Children’s Museum.

New Children's Museum Garden Project beside Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.
The New Children’s Museum Garden Project beside Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.

I can’t stand being cooped up inside, especially on Christmas, so around noon I went out for a short walk around a sunny but very quiet downtown San Diego. I didn’t intend to blog about anything, but here I am posting a few pics anyway. That’s because I was impressed by the beauty of a very small spot along a popular walkway.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade runs along a portion of Harbor Drive, and it passes San Diego’s fun New Children’s Museum. In addition to a playground right next to the pathway, there’s a very small urban garden. The museum’s Garden Project is a demonstration area that allows children to explore a few plants and the basics of gardening. Some art is incorporated into the space, and a surprising poem!

Small garden plot beside children's play area contains flowers and a few edible plants.
Small garden plot beside children’s play area contains flowers and a few edible plants.
Kids can explore gardening and learn with their own hands about our environment.
Kids can explore gardening and learn with their own hands about our environment.
Bicycle wheels and a couple scarecrows add to the fun in the Garden Project.
Bicycle wheels and a couple of scarecrows add to the fun in the Garden Project.
A few vegetables in plots enjoy the downtown San Diego sunshine!
A few vegetables in plots enjoy the downtown San Diego sunshine!
A whimsical poem is inscribed on a long wall enclosing the small garden.
A whimsical poem is inscribed on a long wall enclosing the small garden.

I should’ve photographed this entire poem, but I assumed at the time that it could be found on the internet. I was wrong! The poem seems like a fun, playful bit of writing, and I can’t make heads or tails of it looking at my few photos. Oh, well. I’ll leave it to you to reconstruct the verses I’ve selected!

I did figure out that the poem was written by Quincy Thomas Troupe, Jr., who used to be a professor at the University of California, San Diego, just up the coast in La Jolla. He is known for his biography of Miles Davis, the legendary jazz musician. Quincy also helped to write The Pursuit of Happyness, a true story which was adapted into the popular film starring Will Smith. (I love that movie!)

The poem bounds along with crazy, almost nonsensical words.
The poem bounds along with crazy, almost nonsensical words.
Hopping frogs seem to be important characters in this silly poem.
Hopping frogs seem to be important characters in this silly poem.
The poetry was written by local San Diego author Quincy Troupe.
The poetry was written by local San Diego author Quincy Troupe.
A beautiful sight greets pedestrians strolling down Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.
A beautiful sight greets pedestrians strolling down Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.

Here are two photos I took the following spring of flowers in the garden:

Perfect beauty.
Perfect beauty.
Bursts of color.
Bursts of color.

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Founders of Balboa Park linger in Sefton Plaza.

Kate Sessions, the Mother of Balboa Park, holds a pine cone by the grass.
Kate Sessions, the Mother of Balboa Park, holds a pine cone by the grass.

Balboa Park is bursting with cool sights wherever you go. If you’ve ever driven or walked along El Prado a short distance west of the Cabrillo Bridge, you’ve probably seen some slightly larger than life sculptures of people standing on either side of the street. Sefton Plaza, located at the intersection of El Prado and Balboa Drive, is the location of these four bronze sculptures.

On the south side stands a representation of horticulturist Kate Sessions holding a trowel and pine cone. Often called the Mother of Balboa Park, she was instrumental in creating the park’s many lush gardens and groves of trees. The sculpture stands among a variety of beautiful plants including species she introduced in the early years of the park.

The three lifelike sculptures on the north side of Sefton Plaza, an area called Founder’s Plaza, represent Ephraim Morse, Alonzo Horton and George Marston. These three were the visionaries who orginally conceived Balboa Park, then worked tirelessly to create it.

Ephraim Morse, an early settler and promoter of San Diego, and Alonzo Horton, a land speculator responsible for downtown San Diego’s current location, proposed in 1868 that the new city park occupy 1,400 acres. The sheer size of the park was simply amazing, considering San Diego at the time had a mere 2,300 residents! George Marston, often called the Father of Balboa Park, was a prominent department store owner who personally funded the park’s design. To turn the grand vision into reality, he hired the former superintendent of New York City’s Central Park, Samuel B. Parsons Jr. The park’s construction began in 1903 at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Date Street. (Just a three minute walk from where I live! I love it!)

The four wonderfully realistic bronze sculptures were created by local artist Ruth Hayward. She intentionally made them about 10% larger than life, so they’d appear slightly imposing.

Balboa Park, which began as a grand idea in the minds of just a few people, today is the nation’s largest urban cultural park!

During her life, Kate Sessions created gardens and landscapes for all to enjoy.
During her life, Kate Sessions created gardens and landscapes for all to enjoy.
Bronze sculpture stands on footpath between Cabrillo Bridge and Sixth Avenue.
Kate Sessions lingers on footpath between Cabrillo Bridge and Sixth Avenue.
More pine cones fill a shallow box at Kate Sessions' booted feet.
More pine cones fill a shallow box at Kate Sessions’ booted feet.
Lifelike sculptures of Ephraim Morse and Alonzo Horton in Founder's Plaza.
Lifelike sculptures of Ephraim Morse and Alonzo Horton in Founder’s Plaza.
Two of Balboa Park's early advocates survey their awesome creation.
Two of Balboa Park’s early advocates survey their awesome creation.
Founders Plaza gifted to the James Dayton North Family 1868.
Founders Plaza gifted to the James Dayton North Family 1868.
Near Morse and Horton, George Marston sits on a wall, enjoying the surrounding beauty.
Near Morse and Horton, George Marston sits on a wall, enjoying the surrounding beauty.
George Marston is remembered today as the Father of Balboa Park.
George Marston is remembered today as the Father of Balboa Park.
Bronze sculpture sits comfortably next to its hat by a small pool of water.
Bronze sculpture sits comfortably next to its hat by a small pool of water.

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Sunlit beauty in Balboa Park’s Alcazar Garden.

Visitors walk through Balboa Park's Alcazar Garden on a summer day.
Visitors walk through Balboa Park’s Alcazar Garden on a summer day.

There are many gardens in San Diego’s vast Balboa Park. One of the best known–and one of my favorites–is the Alcazar Garden.

Located on the south side of El Prado between the Museum of Man and the Mingei Museum, a visit to the spacious garden is like walking through an elegant painting of towers, arches and sunlit flowers. Thousands of blooming annuals, long green hedges and colorfully tiled fountains make this the perfect place to slow down and absorb the quiet beauty. A shady pergola is ideal for rest and reflection. The Alcazar Garden is so named because it was created to resemble the formal gardens of Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain.

Yellow blooms beneath an elegant museum tower.
Yellow blooms beneath museum tower.  The Spanish Colonial architecture adds elegance.
Moorish tiles on a fountain, colorful benches and an archway.
Moorish tiles on a fountain, colorful benches and an archway.
The California Tower and palm trees rise into blue sky.
The California Tower and palm trees rise into blue sky.
The formal garden can sometimes appear a bit ragged.
The formal garden can sometimes appear a bit ragged.
The garden is not easily seen from El Prado, but many people find and enjoy it.
The garden is not easily seen from El Prado, but many people find and enjoy it.
Rotary Club plaque reveals that the garden underwent a restoration.
Rotary Club plaque reveals that the garden underwent a restoration.
A picture I took while sitting in the cool, shady pergola at the west end.
A picture I took while sitting in the cool, shady pergola at the west end.

Here are two pics I took the following spring…

Beautiful flowers in Balboa Park.
Beautiful flowers in Balboa Park.
Sunshine sprouting from the Earth.
Sunshine sprouting from the Earth.

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Beautiful garden of Balboa Park’s Marston House.

Flowers and bench by historic Marston House.
Flowers and bench by historic Marston House.

The historic Marston House is nestled among some trees in the seldom-visited northwest corner of Balboa Park. The house museum and its beautiful gardens are truly one of San Diego’s hidden gems.

I strolled about the grounds recently and took a few photos. Roaming about the gardens is free; to take a guided tour of the house’s interior one must pay a small entrance fee.

The house, in the Arts and Crafts architectural style, was built in 1905 by George W. Marston, a wealthy philanthropist who owned a prominent department store. He was also founder of the San Diego Historical Society, and was instrumental in preserving the site of the original San Diego Presidio.

The Marston House was designed by the internationally famous architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill. Its five acres of lawns and formal gardens have become a very popular wedding location.

Marston House Museum and Gardens in a corner of Balboa Park.
Marston House Museum and Gardens in a corner of Balboa Park.
Arts and Crafts style house was built in 1905.
Arts and Crafts style house was built in 1905.
This beautiful garden is a popular wedding location.
This beautiful garden is a popular wedding location.
Looking from hedge pathway toward Marston House.
Looking from hedge pathway toward Marston House.
Small fountain at end of garden.
Small fountain at end of garden.
Outdoor archway and oven are part of the delightful scenery.
Outdoor archway and oven are part of the delightful scenery.
A pic of the lath greenhouse interior.
A pic of the lath greenhouse interior.
The Marston House is a San Diego hidden gem.
The Marston House is a San Diego hidden gem.

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Mother’s Day at Balboa Park’s rose garden.

View of Balboa Park rose garden from nearby bridge.
View of Balboa Park rose garden from nearby bridge.

Mom passed away some years ago. She loved roses. This blog post is dedicated to every precious mom on Mother’s Day.

I took these photos today at Balboa Park’s three-acre Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden. It’s located across Park Boulevard from the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and features about 1,600 roses of more than 130 varieties. People love to stroll through the lush award-winning displays. Many mothers and families were present today!

Hundreds of roses surround a large, shady gazebo.
Hundreds of roses surround a large, shady gazebo.
Path near the edge of rose garden's gazebo.
Path near the edge of rose garden’s gazebo.
Plaque on one gazebo bench with romantic sentiment.
Plaque on one gazebo bench with romantic sentiment.
A fountain among the roses.
A fountain among the roses.
Mother's Day at the Balboa Park rose garden.
Looking across colorful blooms toward entrance.
Looking north toward main entrance near Park Boulevard bridge.
Families enjoy a world-class rose garden on Mother’s Day.
Looking over white roses at the Natural History Museum.
Looking over white roses at the Natural History Museum.
Dedicated to the memory of Inez Grant Parker.
Garden is dedicated to the memory of Inez Grant Parker.
Simply beautiful.
Simply beautiful.

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