For years I’ve heard about master woodworker Sam Maloof and his home and gardens just up the hill from where I live. And as is so often true with attractions in one’s hometown, I just never went to visit the place. It was time I did so.
I chose a perfect autumn day with a blue skies streaked with clouds, clouds being a rarity for southern California. The air had been chilly in the morning and I was overdressed by the time arrived a little after noon. Thank goodness the garden wasn’t so large that I would expire from sun exhaustion.
Why did I go in the afternoon? The grounds are only open for a few hours Thursday and Saturday afternoons. That may be one reason why I never went; I just never bothered to fit it into my schedule. I saw several people waiting around the visitor center when I arrived. They were a group who would be touring the Maloof home and workshop. There is a charge for that tour and reservations are recommended. The garden, and parking, is free.
I picked up a map and stared wandering. It’s a lovely spot on six acres of land situated at the top of Alta Loma, an area in northern Rancho Cucamonga. It rests right up against the San Gabriel Mountains. The garden specializes in native and Mediterranean plants that are suited to the California climate and is divided into eight separate areas. The paths that crisscross the garden are packed earth but quite level. There are several benches strategically spaced along the way so one can stop and just enjoy the birdsong. These also come in handy if one needs a rest. Alta Loma is built on the mountainside and there is the inevitable slight climb from the lower part of the garden to the upper.
As I was saying, it was a peaceful day; I had the place to myself. I did think I heard some rustling in the bushes but dismissed it as the wind. Later was I was leaving I saw a sign saying the garden was a certified natural wildlife habitat because it provides animals with food, water, places to hide, and shelter to raise offspring. Perhaps those noises weren’t my imagination.
Most of the plants were dry, perhaps because of the drought or in anticipation of winter. Some trees had color but not many. Gold was the predominant autumn color. The garden was filled with drought resistant plants and prickly things. It was also dotted with sculptures, some serious and others playful.
Fruit trees must have been part of the original plan because there were old lemon trees. There were also avocado trees. Tall eucalyptus lined the eastern border, keeping the rest of the hillside and valley at bay.
The spirit of the place is restful and artistic. The homes, both the older residence that is now a museum and the new private residence, blend with the hillside. Their blue roofs echo the sky.
On the premises is an education center filled with local art. Simply marvelous things made of glass, ceramics, fiber, and metal. This building is not large and can be covered completely in an hour or less. It all depends on how much time you wish to spend at each piece. For a quiet afternoon of contemplation I can certainly recommend the Maloof Gardens.