Another example of the type of story and the kind of writing that is too often lacking in the Times. Christy Hobart not only gives a sense of the people and the Getty over the past thirty odd years - but she also gives a sense of Los Angeles as a whole over the same thirty years. A few snips below - but just go read the whole article:
It was 1973, and eccentric billionaire Jean Paul Getty was planning an ambitious folly for his property in the Palisades: a precise replica of Villa dei Papiri, a grand home destroyed in Herculaneum in AD 79, that would house his collection of Greek and Roman antiquities.
He hired the architectural firm of Langdon Wilson to create the villa, and noted landscape architects Emmet Wemple and Denis Kurutz to design the 64 acres around it. The landscaping firm Moulder Brothers was to execute the installation, and 27-year-old foreman Richard Naranjo was to supervise.
With ancient Roman gardens as their guide, designers envisioned a Getty Villa that looked like it came from the Italian coast 2,000 years ago: an intimate inner courtyard with a reflecting pool; a formal outer peristyle garden with covered walkways, hedged paths and a long, rectangular pool; a walled garden; and an herb garden.
Every plant on the plan was chosen to be as faithful as possible to the Villa dei Papiri's. It was the job of Naranjo and his crew to track down and plant the flora, from the common (oleander, bay laurel and boxwood) to the unusual (Serbian bellflower, butcher's broom and medlar trees) — all under intense scrutiny.
J. Paul Getty wanted every detail executed precisely, says Stephen Garrett, a London architect at the time and Getty's liaison during the construction. "Not just the building, but the surroundings and the feeling," says Garrett, who went on to become J. Paul Getty Museum's first director. "Getty was extremely interested in the gardens."
Because the building already had been erected, Naranjo had to devise a way to get massive amounts of soil into the enclosed courtyards. The solution? A conveyor belt set up through a window. Grown trees were brought in that way too, as were about 3,500 boxwood plants. "I planted quite a few of those," Naranjo says with understatement.
Decades later, and after a nine-year closure for renovation, the villa is set to reopen Jan. 28. And the man who has overseen the planting, the pruning, the watering and the raking of J. Paul Getty's folly near Malibu is preparing for the next stage of his own life: retirement....