Groundskeeper Joshua Johnston and his Instagram of Robinson Gardens
Robinson Gardens is thrilled that its wonderful groundskeeper, Joshua Johnston, is taking spectacular photographs at Virginia Robinson Gardens and posting on Instagram @robinsongardens. “The inspiration behind my photography is to share the grandeur of the Gardens so that others may be encouraged to witness it in person,” states Josh. “The estate is an excellent resource for the public, and the collaboration between the family of Friends and County staff is awesome to witness.”
Born in Minneapolis, Josh majored in Forest Management with a background in Landscape Construction at Colorado State University. When the opportunity arose to be the caretaker at Robinson Gardens, he took the job, moving here almost two years ago. Among his many duties, Josh takes care of the vegetable garden for the Children’s Program, and he has raised and takes care of the hens in the “Poule Palace.” Josh also takes care of any emergency on the estate with the help of Superintendent Timothy Lindsay and the gardeners who have been at Robinson Gardens for 15 years.
Since Josh lives on the property, he is in a unique position to seize the perfect opportunity to take a great photograph. “The best time to take a picture is at the golden hour—after 5 pm when the light comes through the Italian Terrace Garden,” Josh observed, “There is so much beauty on this magnificent property that sometimes the gardeners stop what they are doing just to take it all in. Visitors to the garden have often commented that the statues seem to come to life when the sunlight radiates upon them!”
“In the background of whatever you’re taking a photograph of, there is always something beautiful, like the architecture or trees,” explained Josh–hence, the feeling of a grand estate, and a sense of something “eternal.” In his photos, Josh experiments with close-ups of the statues taken from different angles. He also adds an excellent description of the pictures he takes. In one photo, he explains the mythology behind the sculpture of Diana, the Goddess of the Hunt, and in another image of the night-blooming Organ Pipe Cactus, he explains how Arabella and Henry Huntington harvested a foot-long cutting from their famous garden in San Marino as a gift for Virginia. Many times, Josh finds relevant information in the Robinson Gardens book, Beverly Hills’ First Estate: The House and Gardens of Virginia and Harry Robinson, written by Timothy Lindsay, Marcella Ruble, and Evelyn Carlson.
Josh shares with us three photographs that he has taken at Robinson Gardens, and in his words he explains why they are his favorites:
“The cherub fountain, which was originally the first pool, is a favorite spot at the end of the day. The water from the fountain turns off around 5 pm, and the stillness of the water surface creates yet another reflecting pool,” Josh states. “If you daringly place the camera just above the surface, a beautiful mirror image of the fountain, crane sculptures, and Italian Cypress can be seen. It doubles this magnificent combination of organic & inorganic elements in the landscape. The sunlit cranes coincide with the prehistoric cycads and are timeless while the cypress trees and fountain bring out a more classical feel. If you go to the other side late in the day, the colors of the sunset can be captured as well.”
The next two photos were taken in the Italian Terrace Garden:
“This first image is a reflection of the Neptune statue on a lily pad puddle. I like the way the glassy smooth surface of water enhances the clarity of the sky and statue, while the colors of the lily pad serve as a perfect background. Neptune is the protector of all aquatic features and this 200+ year-old work of art is currently in the process of being restored. The statue is a favorite subject to take shots of.”
“The last image was taken in early March of 2015 around 5 pm looking west. There was a light fog setting onto the lower area of the Italian Terrace Garden, and the large coral tree was a silhouette for the sunlight to send its rays through. The moment of ethereal light only lasted a few minutes, and I look forward to the chance of witnessing something similar again.
In addition to the @robinsongardens Instagram, Josh created an Instagram devoted to Harry—Robinson Gardens’ resident cat, @harrythehipcat. He is named after Harry Robinson. “As he is a very photogenic cat,” Josh explains, “this Instagram is a very popular one.”
Working all day outdoors, and enjoying the evening outside, Josh hasn’t watched television since moving here. “It’s a very fulfilling life, and there’s always so much going on—it’s like a time capsule,” he enthused.
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the book where Josh gets some of his writing inspiration, you can find it here at: Beverly Hills’ First Estate: The House and Gardens of Virginia and Harry Robinson
Post by Linda Meadows
Friends of Robinson Gardens
Photos by Joshua Johnston
Groundskeeper, Robinson Gardens