Garden Tour (aka CAT BJ)

October 12th, 2010

If there is a rainbow flower pinwheel and a welcome sign with tiny unreadable type, you must be in for a treat. A Hemet style treat.

Where to begin…

Saturday was incredibly hot and dry and I thought to myself, “Self, why don’t we go check out the local Water Wise Garden Tour and talk to some folks about xeriscaping. That sounds like a sexy good time!” In hindsight, that was probably a pretty crappy idea (and not sexy in the least).

The Garden Tour began with a professional landscaper’s “Asian” inspired home. If I hear Asian Inspired one more time, I swear, flames, flames on the side of my face. I digress. So, there was a koi pond and a path to nowhere, and a gazebo, and a pool that had seen better days, and bamboo to keep it Asian, and little statues, and a slide and fish. I did like the mounding grass…

I feel that Tim Gunn would assess like this: there was a whole lot of look happening here.

Overall it made me pretty uncomfortable and felt sort of schizophrenic in terms of design.

Here is the front yard with a weird huge rock-scape thing. If I was in an artist’s studio, I would possibly say that their work looked over-worked, felt forced and was a bit stiff. I do like the icy green bushy ground cover though…

Through the orchards and over the hills, to rural Hemet I go.

Next stop on the tour was…ummm…an “imposing yet welcoming Santa Fe-style home (with) charming decorative objects”.

Uh oh.

If the penis style mailbox was any sort of clue, I was certainly in for a treat.

Imposing and welcoming!

Charming decorative skull!

Wagon wheels? Pot belly stove? Boy howdy. The ADT sign doesn’t feel as charming though. I think they need a more rustic version.

Don’t fret. They have the required covered wagon and American flag.

They also have a CAT BJ license plate. A prominently displayed CAT BJ license plate. Why? I’m guessing for the charm.

Majestic and inspiring.

I’m thinking Tim Gunn would say that it’s verging on costume and maybe getting a little “themed”. Otherwise, make it work CAT BJ. Nice variety of cacti and succulents…

Number three.

By this point I was losing hope. Another professional landscapers home, oh great. But the driveway wasn’t terrible. Nice Palo Verde and Agave with some Ocotillo. The adobe walls are a bit much, but hey, lets take a look.

OK, the landscaping isn’t that interesting and I’m not sure how a whole bunch of lawn is water wise, but look at that brick and those windows. Certainly the first interesting house I’ve seen.

This was the first landscape that was actually comfortable to walk around in. A number of mature Sycamore trees and Wisteria gave ample shade to help reduce the temperature. I kind of loved the architecture of the place – the textured crumbly brick and the big windows and doors, even that crazy terracotta tile patio. This style home is usually not my cup of tea, but it was the first home in Hemet in a long time that I could actually see myself fixing up and enjoying.

I spoke to some of the guides and they said it was the original farmers house that overlooked a huge grapefruit orchard spread below in the valley. I guess it’s one of the earlier homes built in Hemet (when there was still a lot of farms).

The orchard is long gone, but some of the original architectural details remain. The decorative choices (like all those suns) are a little Santa Fe cheese-ball, but I think with a quick edit and some small adjustments it could be an incredible cottage type rustic rambler.

While I was there I just sort of wanted to sit and hang out. The exterior was actually really welcoming instead that sort of forced faux-welcoming overwrought thing that can happen.

I like the flagstone and the oversize windows. This place had a lot of charm and so much potential.

This pencil cactus was as old as I am. I’m kind of in love with pencil cactus right now.

Last one. I knew it might be a mess when I saw the words “small” and “mobile home” in the tour literature.

It did not disappoint, or it did disappoint. I don’t know, pick one.

I wish they could have picked a better marker than those stupid pinwheels. Look at all that space on your sign, USE BIGGER TYPE and less clip art. I am driving by with your crappy map and I can barely see your poorly designed signs (these were also the street signs leading the way and impossible to see).

I walked in the back yard and saw sad dusty plants with hoses thrown everywhere, PVC piping over empty cinder block beds and then just sort of died on the inside. People are coming for a tour! Put away your hoses.

Why did I drive over here.

Ah yes. A dry riverbed.

I am not into the dry riverbed landscape motif. I just don’t get it, it always looks silly to me. You are in an urban environment crowded by other homes, not nestled next to a forest or open landscape with an actual creek. Your fake riverbed does not fool me, it goes nowhere and does nothing. It is weird and forced and awkward.


I’m done crapping on my town and neighbors very noble attempts to showcase water wise landscaping solutions to inspire folks to tear up their lawns and use drought tolerant desert friendly plants. I think its a great idea, I just think the execution was lacking. I’m acutely aware that I’m a snob and a jerk, but I really wanted to be inspired and learn about some new plants or at least check out some innovative ideas while spending a large chunk of my Saturday in the searing heat. The whole tour just wasn’t very visitor oriented. I usually walked around lost and the volunteers ran out of all the plant lists and paperwork so no one knew anything or could answer questions. I applaud people for trying to beautify their homes and inspire others since so many exteriors in this town are in such terrible shape (including my own landscaping – trust me – I know), but come on, all of these were “professional” landscapers homes. Really?? I feel pretty underwhelmed…

I did get one good thing out of it, besides the thrill of real estate voyeurism. Whenever I need to turn that frown upside down, I’ll just remember the elegance of CAT BJ.

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  1. Tonia on 10/12/2010:

    You’re making me want a pencil cactus, and I don’t get the whole dry river things either. It’s a waste of rocks. It was a great tour overall. OH and I thought the pinwheels were cute 🙂

  2. Suzy8track on 10/12/2010:

    Fun tour! Thanks for making me fall in love with the pencil cactus…gonna have to get my hands on one soon.

  3. Bunny @86n' It on 10/12/2010:

    There is only one thing that could have made these worse: a kelly green spray-painted gravel “lawn”. Apparently, that’s only a Tucson thing to do.

  4. FURIOUS on 10/12/2010:

    CAT BJ is awesome! Thought you’d also discuss the gigantic phallic gourd hanging in the foreground of that same shot!?! Especially after the mailbox comment. Hey, what’s the ETA on your landscaping project?

  5. S@sha on 10/12/2010:

    Well, I’d just like to point out that a landscaper is just someone who installs landscapes. They may or may not have any design training, and most landscapers do not. As someone with a degree in landscape architecture, I’m not disparaging landscapers, they generally have a lot of in-the-field knowledge about how to properly install things and what plants will actually thrive in given conditions, but they almost always choose the easiest thing to install/keep alive, rather than the most beautiful. You could equate it to builders of tract homes vs. architects.

  6. Husband on 10/12/2010:

    I just ordered my Oregon CAT BJ plate, couldn’t believe it was available.

  7. PKS on 10/12/2010:

    Public radio here in the IE had a specialist on California native planting who was pleading with Californians to stop planting Mexican feather grass. It’s not native. Apparently it is super invasive and is ending up in foothill and mountain habitats in SoCal…something to think about as you plan your landscape…

  8. THE BRICK HOUSE on 10/12/2010:

    Yeah, I know. It’s not quite on the invasive list but it will be.

    I’ve been looking into alternatives…but I just love it so…and the alternatives kind of suck. Purple Three Awn. Lame.

  9. Dan on 10/12/2010:

    1. Pencil Cactus, SIGN ME UP. Surriously, where do I get my hands on one in NY? I also saw Martha Stewart on Oprah and she had a very tiny wispy spruce thing, which I could also get into.
    2. “Majestic and Inspiring” made me lol, twice.
    3. 10,000 extra points for the Clue reference and link.

  10. Meghan on 10/12/2010:

    I really can’t get enough penis shaped mailboxes or Madeleine Kahn, so thank you! Your “snob and jerk”ery were just what I needed this morning.

  11. Alex on 10/12/2010:

    Frankly, anyone who makes a reference to the best film EVER (that’s Clue, by the way), goes up in my estimation an awful long way.

  12. THE BRICK HOUSE on 10/12/2010:

    Clue is the shit!

  13. marisa on 10/12/2010:

    lord. have mercy…

  14. elisabeth on 10/12/2010:

    too funny – really!!!

  15. Lucy on 10/12/2010:

    seriously, seriously funny….and spot on!

  16. diane on 10/12/2010:

    I just had to laugh when I read ‘penis shaped mailbox.’

    That about says it all.

    I really did like the bamboo lined porch overhang on the 3rd house featured. Very nice.

  17. Cary on 10/13/2010:

    the kelly green “lock rock” lawn was big when i lived there. all you need is a leaf blower (my favorite sound in the world) and some paint to maintain your yard!

  18. jeannette on 10/13/2010:

    this is just epic, like a joan didion essay.
    penis post box. ohhhhhhhh.
    and while i actually do live here in new mexico, i have to tell you that ramada moderne looks very very strange out there in the desert.

  19. Nicole on 10/13/2010:

    I’m with furious, why aren’t we discussing the gigantic testicles next to CAT BJ? Is that genius photo composition or WHAT!

  20. susie on 10/13/2010:

    GREAT tour…thanks for the laughs!

    I have 2 gigantic pencil cactus (more like trees at this point) in my backyard. They’re over 16′ tall and have 10″ diameter trunks. I keep having to hack off limbs to keep it in control….come on by for a 2-4 ft piece!

  21. Laura on 10/13/2010:

    You should name the new puppy Cat BJ. Call it BJ for short.

  22. Jill on 10/13/2010:

    The gourd beside cat bj looks just like the penis sculpture used to beat the old cat lady to death in clockwork orange. Ironically, she’s forced to bj it to death. Hmmm…what a sick trip.

  23. Modernsauce on 10/13/2010:

    I could make another ‘cat bj’ joke but instead I’m going to high five you for the Clue reference. Now I feel a little less weird when I say it and no one knows what I’m talking about.

  24. Erik on 10/14/2010:

    Nothing spells class like a CAT BJ

  25. Erika - 2byDesign on 10/14/2010:

    I’m a fan of the wagon wheel/garden gnome myself. Speaking of all things horrid, I recently went on a mid-century modern home tour that featured an array of children’s toys in the backyard (which I almost killed myself on btw), a wasted homeowner, and an, ahem, super stinky bathroom. Thank you.

  26. Suzanne on 10/14/2010:

    maybe its just the people I hang out with, but BJ for me has always been short for blow job. What does it mean over there??

  27. Tamoto on 10/14/2010:

    oh no. those are landscapers homes? BAD. The wild animal park has a couple acres dedicated to low water plants and they have some amazing specimens.also no matter how crowded the park is the plant part is always empty and peaceful. The whole park is actually filled with amazing plants, and a few animals too if your into that stuff.

  28. Christina on 10/14/2010:

    I don’t even remember how I clicked over here, but you had me at “flames, flames on the side of my face.”
    And I am confused, did the last house volunteer to be on the save water tour? I would have thought they would have picked up the garden hoses?

  29. jessica o'brien on 10/16/2010:

    love that you took us along for the tour! and remember, professional doesn’t mean they’re good. only that someone has paid them at some point to do that 😉

  30. Tami on 10/17/2010:

    Great commentary. Is pencil cactus an Ephedra? It’s beautiful.

  31. modernhaus on 10/18/2010:

    Penis, or middle finger mailbox? One may never know…
    Ah, the inscrutible ways of the Hemet-dwellers…

  32. modernhaus on 10/18/2010:

    Oh, and Jeannette…since you managed to reference Joan Didion and Ramada Moderne, I love you.

  33. Lucy on 10/18/2010:

    Morgan I’m kinda worried, no posts in nearly a week! Are you okay?

    Am I okay? Not really! I have come to rely on your daily posts!

  34. Pam on 10/18/2010:

    Also been wondering if you and la familia are ok. I hope so.

  35. Matthew Reader on 10/19/2010:

    Sorry your home tour was so disappointing! You should have come over to the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation home tour…they did a 1920’s Spanish Colonial Villa…was a great house…there are five more tours this season, come over!


  36. marisa on 10/20/2010:

    your explanation of this whole tour made me laugh. the one house/patio with the pencil cactus was definitely the best looking of them…

  37. Rebecca on 11/03/2010:

    HAHAHA! I went on this tour too and wondered why I wasted my day…except I went very early, so I did get the plant lists and grabbed the volunteers to explain what the plants were. I’m in the same boat as you…bought our house a year ago and trying to redesign and wanted a water wise yard in my neighborhood of tons of green grass!!

    Just to give a little more entertaining info–the riverbed house (Willeys) was designed by the man who owns and landscaped the house with all the suns that you kind of liked (Frahms). The owner of the riverbed house said it cost $6,000 to design and install that. Holy cow! Nice pictures, thanks for the memories…

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