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Exotic plants are abundant at UCR's Botanic Gardens

Note: The following write-up by us on UCR's Botanic Gardens first appeared on


Nestled within 40 hilly acres on the eastern edge of the University of California at Riverside campus, the UCR Botanic Gardens is one of the Inland region's best-kept secrets.

Main entrance

Alder Canyon

Spring blossoms

Aloe - Eastern Africa

Arizona Barrel Cactus

Busy bee

Friendly finds

Picturesque scenery

With four miles of self-guided walking paths and over 3,500 plant species from around the world, the park contains a diverse mix of plants and scenery. Its semi-rugged slopes help create localized microclimates, partly explaining the ability to maintain a wide range of plants allowing for year-round blooming (with April usually being the most colorful).

Once inside the gardens, visitors can decide among various paved and unpaved paths winding their way among the arroyos, trees and foliage. As you stroll around the grounds, one can't help but feel they've escaped the hustle and bustle of daily life. Scattered about the paths and trails are numerous secluded spots and park benches, each offering up opportunities for inner contemplation and picturesque scenery. Several built structures add to the scenic park-like grounds, including several bridges, gazebos, arbors and even a small pond.

The garden's plant variety also attracts various forms of wildlife, with over 200 species of birds - from hummingbirds, mockingbirds, wrens and woodpeckers to ravens, hawks, crows, jays and herons - having been recorded. The occasional rare bird, such as the turkey vulture and golden eagle, has also been spotted. Also abundant are various insects, spiders, lizards and even snakes (with lizards being the most common creature spotted). During the morning and evening hours can be seen the usual mammals - squirrels, gophers, rats, rabbits, skunks and even the occasional bobcat.

Since most of the key features are easily viewed from the paved paths (which are wheelchair accessible), we suggest a clockwise direction beginning with the Deserts and Cactus sections. From there you can make your way through the Rose, Iris and Herb gardens before ending with a leisurely stroll through Alder Canyon as you head back toward the main entrance. For those more adventurous, several unpaved paths found along the way will get you closer to the action, particularly if photographing, as well as steer you to quaint secluded areas.

Among the Botanic Garden's highlights are the eccentric forms and blossoms found in the Desert and Cactus sections. Indeed the most curious portion of the park, the area contains several exotic-looking succulents, including various species of aloe and cacti.

Another favorite is the Rose Garden, which contains over 300 selections - including miniatures - that blossom with color and fragrance during the springtime. For enthusiasts, the Botanic Gardens offers a free rose pruning demonstration, usually held each January.

One of the most unique sections of the park is the Herb Garden, where culinary and medicinal plants often fill the air with their distinct aromas. Nearby is the Geodesic Dome Lath house. Inside the redwood-built structure are several shade plants, ferns and exotic palms.
Probably the most-visited area of the park is the Alder Canyon section. Situated near the entrance, the park-like area features a grassy area with several benches and wooden bridges shaded by tall trees. Farther back, the pathway squeezes into a small arroyo flanked with pines, ficus, cypress and even palms and bamboo.

From Alder Canyon, those who wish to venture off the paved area will find several dirt paths leading up into more secluded spots as well as the Botanic Garden's way-back areas. Relatively easy to reach are the Celebration of Life Memorial and Bobcat Rocks areas. Farther back are found the Sierra Foothills (chaparral, foothill pine, mountain mahogany, California buckeye) and Australia sections (eucalyptus, bottlebrushes, acacias).

But the Botanic Gardens is more than just a horticultural exhibition. Twice each year (Spring and Fall), volunteers prep and host the Inland region's largest botanical plant and seed sale at the gardens. Nearly 10,000 plants and more than 600 varieties are available for purchase at very reasonable prices (with many under $10). The 2012 Spring Plant Sale takes place this weekend (March 31-April 1). Proceeds from the widely-attended event help fund continuing maintenance.

In May, the gardens host "Primavera in the Gardens," a wine and food tasting event. Approaching its 14th year, the fundraiser usually attracts hundreds of attendees with food and drinks provided by various local entities. Past participants have included Cafe Sevilla, Mario's Place, Simple Simon's, Smokey Canyon BBQ as well as Callaway Vineyard & Winery, Falkner Winery, Galleano, Joseph Filippi Winery & Vineyard. Also on hand have been beers from Hangar 24 Craft Brewery and Inland Empire Brewery. This year's event will be held Sunday May 20, 2012. Reservations are suggested ($60 reserved or $70 day of event).

Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., UCR's Botanic Gardens are open to everyone, with the primary portions being wheelchair accessible. Self-guided tours take anywhere from 1-4 hours. Bikes, pets and smoking are not allowed and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations for school tours are also available. The gardens are closed on New Year's Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

To reach the gardens, enter UC Riverside at Campus Drive off either University Avenue or Canyon Crest Drive. Follow Campus Drive easterly around to Botanic Gardens Drive located near Parking Lot 10. Continue past Lot 10, turning right and following Botanic Gardens Drive until you reach the main entrance. Entry into the gardens is free. However, a small $4 donation is requested and a short-term parking permit ($1 for 4 hours) is required and can be purchased just inside the gate.


Out & About - 12/2/2011

University of California at Riverside

A short visit to UC Riverside on Friday afforded us some time to take a few photos.

Initially established at the base of Mount Rubidoux in downtown Riverside in 1907, the seeds for present-day UCR began when the Citrus Experiment Station -- forerunner to UCR -- relocated a few miles east to the base of Box Springs Mountain in 1918.

In 1948, the University of California Regents voted to fund planning and designs for the formation of a liberal arts college in Riverside. In 1954, the new campus -- dubbed the "Swarthmore of the West" -- began accepting students. In 1959, its mission was expanded and UCR was declared a general campus of the UC system. In 1960, the University's Graduate Division was established.

In October 1966, UCR's signature "bell tower" was dedicated*. The 161-foot tower -- one of only five true carillons in California -- was designed by the noted architectural firm of A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons (one* | two*). The tower's 48 chromatically-tuned bells* located at the top were cast by Paccard Foundry of France.

Today, UCR hosts nearly 20,000 students in a park-like setting spread over 1,200 acres in northeastern Riverside.


Carillon Tower
and Rivera Library
Pierce Hall and
Science Labs

Sproul Hall
The "HUB"
Carillon Tower

* Courtesy of UC Riverside

Sources: UC Riverside

Photos: Riverside's citrus legacy


Two weeks back, we featured an item on the recent unveiling of a downtown statue honoring Riverside citrus pioneer Eliza L. Tibbets.

In the early 1870s, Eliza secured two small navel orange trees from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for test planting in Riverside. Originating as a mutation in Bahia, Brazil, these navel trees took well to Riverside's semi-arid climate, producing a sweet, succulent and seedless navel orange. California -- and in particular, Inland Southern California -- would never be the same.

The unveiling of the statue prompted us to dig through our image bank for photos associated with Riverside's citrus legacy. Of course, it also forced us to go out and take some new photos for items we didn't already have (and update some we did).

Though certainly not a complete collection of images related to Riverside's citrus past (nor does it include images from other local citrus-rich communities, namely Redlands, Corona and Upland), we feel the gallery still manages to show the wide-reaching importance the navel orange played in shaping both Riverside's landscape and its history -- a history that was dramatically changed with the arrival of two seemingly inconspicuous navel orange trees in 1873.

Photo Gallery: Riverside's Citrus Legacy


Sources: "A Colony For California" (Tom Patterson), "Pursuing Eden - Matthew Gage: His Challenges, Conquests and Calamities" (Joan H. Hall), "A Citrus Legacy" (Joan H. Hall), "Adobes, Bungalows, and Mansions of Riverside, California Revisited" (Esther H. Klotz, Joan H. Hall), City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Public Library

March 2011
499 Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs
Chase Bank (originally Coachella Valley Savings & Loan #3)

Coachella Valley Savings & Loan
Palm Springs

Central Library

303 Building
San Bernardino

Provident Bank


Wesley United Methodist Church

Rivera Library
UC Riverside

A recent trip to Palm Springs reminded us of that city's sizable collection of mid-century modern architecture, including the former Coachella Valley Savings & Loan building pictured above. Designed by E. Stewart Williams, the building is an excellent example of modern bank design from the 1960s.

We'll explore some of these desert gems at a later date. But the two-day visit also reminded us of a number of modern gems closer to home as well, a few of which we will share now.

The building that probably best resembles the style of the one pictured above is Riverside's main library (aka, Central Library). Located on Mission Inn Avenue in downtown Riverside, the building's striking appearance stands out among its Spanish-influenced neighbors. As such, it has suffered from harsh criticism through most of its existence. And though better appreciated these days by younger generations, the structure is currently in danger of being demolished to make way for what's expected to be a new library building. (For what it's worth, we actually admire the current library building.)

As with the Coachella Valley Savings & Loan, the Riverside library's "floating" walkway, large overhang, symmetrical "screens" and rigid, box-like appearance are all trademarks of mid-century modern architecture. Both buildings are in the vein of the New Formalism style of modern architecture, which was popular for public, institutional and financial buildings during the 1960s.

Elsewhere, one of the Inland region's best mid-century office buildings can be found in downtown San Bernardino. Built for the State of California in 1966, the 303 Building housed state offices for over 30 years until a new building opened a few blocks away in 1998.

In 2007, after sitting vacant for several years, the building reopened following a $25 million renovation by the County of San Bernardino. The refurbishment included removal of asbestos and lead paint, but the building's exterior retained its mid-century designs, including the slender vertical screens.

Another local gem is Provident Bank in downtown Redlands. Designed by Riverside architect Clinton Marr, the building's tall, rigid walls project strength and security -- an architectural trait sought by banks during the mid-century era. Its undulating, rippled roofline adds a futuristic touch to the structure.

Though certainly not as prevalent as in Palm Springs, the local region does have its fair share of modern residences, with the majority of these found in Redlands and Riverside.

The region also has a number of mid-century churches, including the fanciful chapel at Wesley United Methodist Church located on Arlington Avenue in Riverside. Another Clinton Marr design, the 1959/60 hat-box looking chapel was built using "a thin shell form finished in gunited concrete."

Finally, one of the best collections of local modern architecture can be found at UC Riverside, where several buildings were constructed during the 1950s and 1960s. Of particular interest are the Rivera Library, Olmsted Hall and University Theater buildings, each unified via the use of an archway motif.

Also noteworthy at UCR is the 161-foot-tall Carillon Tower. Designed by the firm of A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons -- one of America's best-known modern architectural firms -- the 48-bell carillon was officially dedicated in October 1966.

We hope to explore these and others modern gems in more detail in the coming months. As usual, be sure to use the comment section to tell us of your own favorite modern building(s) scattered about Inland Southern California (particularly those hidden gems we may not know about).

Photos: (coming soon)

Sources: UC Riverside, Clinton Marr & Associates (1964 booklet), The Press-Enterprise, City of Riverside

UCR's Culver Center of the Arts opens

Oct. 2010
UCR Culver Center of the Arts

Architectural rendering

Project info

Rouse's / Chapman Building***
(close-up view of awning)

Rouse's Dept. Store
RCC yearbook

This past week marked the opening of UC Riverside's Barbara & Art Culver Center of the Arts, adding another major arts facility to downtown.

Located adjacent to the existing UCR/CMP (California Museum of Photography), the Culver Center expands UCR's ARTSblock presence on the main street pedestrian mall. In addition to hosting its own arts programs, including dance, music and film, the three-level Culver Center is also the new home for the university's Sweeney Art Galley. It also houses -- via seismically safe storage cases -- the CMP's world-renown Keystone-Mast collection of stereoscopic glass negatives.

The center resides within the former Rouse's department store*, which dates to 1895 as the Chapman Building, one of the oldest on the downtown mall. The current configuration actually takes in two sections, 3834 and 3850 Main Street. According to city permits, the latter (and smaller portion) was built in 1917.

Various renovations and refurbishments have been made to the building over the years, including some exterior upgrades in the early- to mid-1950s (metal canopy and touches of stonework). But the most extensive makeover came around 1925 (though some reports indicate 1924 or 1927), when Rouse's expanded onto the second floor. Noted architect G. Stanley Wilson added a grand staircase inside and re-faced the exterior facade with Spanish-influenced tiles, bas-relief and iron work, much of which remains today.

Known for high-end clothing, the original Rouse's lasted until 1957 before being leased out (in name) to other interests. By 1964, just two years before the opening of the pedestrian mall, the store had closed. With a few exceptions, including Casual Gourmet Restaurant, Spanky's Cafe and The Tamale Factory, the building has remained mostly vacant since.

Old images highlight the building's central atrium, which has been restored**. The new center also has a spot for a yet-to-be filled indoor-outdoor cafe, which would be a nice addition to this portion of the pedestrian mall.

The Culver Center follows the recent opening of the Fox Performing Arts Center and adds to the city's growing collection of arts-related facilities and institutions, including among others, the California-Riverside Ballet of Arts, Riverside Art Museum, Riverside Metropolitan Museum, Mission Inn Museum, Riverside Community Arts Association, Performance Riverside, Division Nine Gallery and The People's Gallery.

Another planned downtown arts facility -- Riverside Community College's "Henry W. and Alice Edna Coil School for the Arts" -- is tentatively scheduled for a 2014 opening.






* 1953 RCC yearbook
** Courtesy of UCR
*** 1906 RFD souvenir booklet
Sources: The Press-Enterprise, UCR, City of Riverside

Local colleges receive high marks


Four area colleges -- including three in Riverside -- received high marks in the latest college rankings from U.S. News & World Report.

Carillon Tower - UC Riverside

California Baptist University

UC Riverside, California Baptist University, La Sierra University, all located in Riverside, and the University of Redlands, were each ranked within their respective categories, including:

  • UC Riverside -- 86th in "Best National Universities" and 9th in "Up-and-Coming Schools"
  • Univ. of Redlands -- 8th "Best Universities -- Master's (West)" and 2nd "Great Schools, Great Prices, Universities -- Master's"
  • California Baptist Univ. -- 41st in "Best Universities -- Master's (West)"
  • La Sierra Univ. -- 1st in "Racial Diversity, Universities -- Master's (West)"

For UCR, the "Up-and-Coming" ranking validates what many on campus already know, but yet hasn't quite translated into off-campus circles. For example, the newly-appointed dean of UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Thomas Baldwin, told the following to The Press-Enterprise:

"I came and took a look and I met the faculty and I said, 'Holy camoly!' Man! This place is much, much stronger than it is perceived outside," he said.

"Perceptions trail reality by at least 10 years and I think this university is just about to burst onto the national radar screen as being a very, very good place to go to school. I think you're going to see a lot happen over the next five years."
Riverside Press-Enterprise - Aug. 22, 2008

Indeed, the ranking should come as no real surprise to those close to UCR, as the campus has consistently ranked among the top universities nationwide over the past decade in receiving Fellows from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the most distinguished honors in the scientific community. In several recent years, UCR has received the most appointments, beating out such stalwarts as MIT, Princeton, Yale, Harvard and UC Berkeley.

"This is a welcome confirmation of what faculty, students, staff and alumni know about the University of California, Riverside," said UCR's new chancellor, Timothy P. White. "It speaks to the quality of the people that we have and the programs that are established and being established. This is not a surprise. It's long overdue. The credit goes to those who worked hard in the past to get the university to where it is today."
UCR Newsroom - Aug. 22, 2008



Final approval was given this past week by the University of California for what will become the state's sixth UC medical school. Set to open in 2012 at UC Riverside, the new school will be the first public medical school established in California in over 40 years and will build upon the current UCR/UCLA Thomas Haider Program in Biomedical Sciences established at UCR in 1974.

UC Riverside

Approval of the school comes during the first week in office for new UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White, who is taking the reigns from acting chancellor Robert D. Grey. White says searching for a "highly regarded pioneer in the medical field" to lead the medical school will begin immediately.

Formerly the president of University of Idaho, White was hired in May by the UC Board of Regents to replace France A. Cordova, who became president at Purdue University last July. Cordova was instrumental in launching the initial planning for UCR's medical school in 2003.

The program will use existing facilities upon opening in 2012 with construction of a new medical school complex planned to begin in 2010. The complex will be located on 40 acres at the northeast corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Chicago Avenue at the western edge of the UCR campus. Completion and occupancy of the new complex is expected by 2015.



UCR moves up in rankings


Rising seven spots from last year, the University of California at Riverside continues its upward climb in the latest rankings of the nation's top higher-learning institutions as compiled by Washington Monthly. The #15 ranking is another indication that UCR -- and the UC system in general -- remains one of the top public educational institutions in the nation.

UC Riverside

But this is not your typical college rankings. No, it's not the usual rankings based upon money, popularity or prestige alone, but one that includes tangible results, particularly in terms of social mobility and community service:

Unlike other college guides, such as U.S. News and World Report, this guide asks not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country. It's a guide for all Americans who are concerned about our institutions of higher learning. Are our colleges making good use of our tax dollars? Are they producing graduates who can keep our nation competitive in a changing world? Are they, in short, doing well by doing good? This is the guide that tells you.

Washington Monthly

The Washington Monthly list ranks 242 national universities according to three primary categories:

  • performance as an engine of social mobility
  • fostering scientific and humanistic research
  • promoting an ethic of service to country

As such, 8 of 10 schools in the UC system are ranked, including 3 in the top 5: UCLA (2), Berkeley (3) and UC San Diego (4).

While 2 others rank in the top 15: UC Davis (8) and UC Riverside (15).

UC Santa Barabara (36), UC Irvine (49) and UC Santa Cruz (76) round out the UC rankings.

Locally, other large schools ranked as follows: USC (24), Pepperdine (56), University of San Diego (97), Caltech (141), San Diego State (145) and University of La Verne (186).

Texas A&M ranked first. But many other well-known national colleges didn't fare so well: Texas Tech (217), DePaul (150), Wake Forest (122), Arizona State (113), Boston College (109), Rice (103), Auburn (86), Princeton (78), BYU (68), Purdue (46), Vanderbilt (39) and Duke (29).

Two highly-regarded Ivy League schools -- Yale and Harvard -- were listed at 38th and 27th respectively.

Also of note were the rankings of a few local liberal arts schools: Claremont McKenna College (6), Pomona College (46) and Harvey Mudd College (65).



Citrus king


This year marks the 100th anniversary for UC Riverside's Citrus Experiment Station, which began as a tiny outpost at the foot of Mt. Rubidoux in 1907. Over the years, the station has grown in both scope and acclaim:


UCR's unique citrus collection
Los Angeles Times
UC Riverside scientists have developed some best-selling fruits, including the Oroblanco grapefruit-pummelo hybrid, with its surprisingly sweet taste, and the tangy Gold Nugget mandarin.

But many of the university's contributions have been more utilitarian, such as finding ways to eliminate bothersome bugs without pesticides.

The 400-acre station is now called the Citrus Research Center and Agricultural Experiment Station to reflect its expanded mission, which now includes research on asparagus and other vegetables.

Los Angeles Times

Established by the State of California during the region's citrus heyday, the research station planted the seeds for present-day UCR, which began accepting students in 1954 and officially became a general campus of the world-renown UC system in 1959.

Even with the transformation into a full-fledge UC campus, the research center today retains its vital role in citrus and plant research. It also houses one of the most diverse citrus collections in the world:

"When you're there, you feel like you're taking a trip around the world. She's got stuff from Morocco in one row, then in another row she's got Spain and Egypt ... stuff that no one else in the United States has."

Brein Clements, chef-owner of Restaurant Omakase, downtown Riverside
Los Angeles Times


Sources: UC Riverside, Los Angeles Times

UC Riverside given high marks


California's UC campuses, including UC Riverside, each earned high marks in a recent college guide issued by Washington Monthly.

Carillon Tower - UC Riverside

Promoted as a counter-list of sorts to the one produced by U.S. News and World Report -- which weighs heavily toward private institutions -- the Washington Monthly list ranks 245 national universities according to three primary categories:

  • performance as an engine of social mobility
  • fostering scientific and humanistic research
  • promoting an ethic of service to country

In other words, are the schools doing what they're intended to be doing -- producing quality, well-rounded students and future leaders as opposed to simply chasing research/alumni dollars (which invaribly favor private institutions)?

Overall, the UC system is given high marks and has 4 schools ranked in the top 10: UC Berkeley (2), UCLA (4), UC San Diego (6) and UC Davis (10). While UC Riverside (22), UC Santa Barbara (57), UC Santa Cruz (68), UC Irvine (72) round out the UC campuses:

UC schools continue to rule... By our yardstick, University of California, Berkeley is about the best thing for America we can find. It's good by all of our measurements. The same goes for the rest of the schools in the UC system, four of which make our top 10, the rest of which make our top 80.

Washington Monthly

The No. 22 ranking for UC Riverside places it ahead of many highly-regarded colleges and universities, including Duke (23), Harvard (28), USC (33), Princeton (43), Pepperdine (78) and Emory (96).

The high ranking shouldn't be much of a surprise as UCR has consistently out-ranked many national universities the past 10+ years with regards to the number of faculty named fellows of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

As a side note, 3 local schools also rank high on the Liberal Arts list: Claremont McKenna College (10), Pomona College (15) and Harvey Mudd College (17).


UCR unveils med school proposal


After years of consideration, UC Riverside unveiled plans earlier this week for what could become the sixth UC medical school in California -- and the first since 1967 (UC Irvine).

The proposal, which now goes before the UC Regents later this year for approval, is envisioned as a major step in closing the gap in both the lack of adequate medical educational facilities statewide as well as the shortage of physicians in one of the nation's fastest-growing regions:

UCR's Carillon Bell Tower

"UCR hopes to take a leadership role in addressing the critical need for more physicians in our state and especially in Inland Southern California," UCR Chancellor France C�rdova said in a statement.

The Press-Enterprise

Currently, UCR teams up with UCLA's medical school in offering degrees via a cooperative agreement between the two campuses. The new UCR medical school is designed to build upon -- and eventually wean from -- that joint partnership, with the first class of graduates planned for 2016.

The road to approval will by no means be easy, and even faces competition from a similar proposal expected this year from fledgling UC Merced. And although the demand and need for a UC medical school within Inland Southern California is clearly apparent, UCR officials will need strong commitment -- politically and financially -- from the region's communities to ensure the proposal's approval and ultimate success.

Moreover, the establishment of a medical school would go a long way in strengthening the area's fast-rising economy, not too mention would be a nice feather in the cap for a region often overlooked in such state matters. But let there be no mistake, a medical school at UCR would be as beneficial to California as a whole as it would for the Inland region. And thus, the UC Regents and politicians in Sacramento would be wise to approve the establishment of such in the state's second most-populous metropolitan region.


UCR/CMP: Riverside in Pictures


A great photographic exhibit is currently on display at the UC Riverside/California Museum of Photography in downtown Riverside. The exhibit - Riverside in Pictures - takes a look at the changes in Riverside's landscape over the past 100+ years via historic and archival photos.

Among the various works used are some black & whites from none other than Ansel Adams himself. In addition, a collection of new photos were taken of various historical places by students from the CMPs "Upward Bound" program to demonstrate the city's transformation in a "Then & Now" type juxtaposition.

The exhibit runs through January 25, 2004.

The Musuem is located near City Hall on the Main Street Pedestrian Mall in downtown Riverside. Admission is free. The museum's address and phone are: 3824 Main Street / 909.784.FOTO

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