By Wendy Langhans
Here’s a thought experiment for you: it’s 750 A.U.C.  (50 BC) and you are a member of a powerful family, one of the “movers and shakers” of ancient Rome. How would you decorate your banquet room? You would want the room to serve as a symbol of your family’s wealth and power. But you’d also want it to be “artistic”, providing evidence of your family’s refined taste. And one more thing - it has to be usable year-round, since air conditioning wasn’t available in the first century BC.
You’ll probably do what family of Livia Drusilla, wife of Augustus Caesar, did around ~50 BC. You’ll build a villa on a hillside (don’t all mansions have a view?) with a subterranean dining room  (to moderate the temperature, especially during the hot summer months) and paint the walls to resemble a garden  (evidence of refined taste, wealth and power).
To see what I mean, check out Livia’s dining room in the Villa di Livia .
Now, fast forward about 2,000 years (to 1974 AD, to be precise). You’re one of the world’s richest men, and you want to build a gallery to house your collection of ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art. What do you do? Why, of course, you build a villa down the road from your home in Pacific Palisades, which is now known as the Getty Villa .
Note the painted wall and see how it resembles a fragment of wall from an ancient Roman villa.
Now, what do these two villas have in common (besides wealth, a view and painted walls)? Oleander . Yup, that common-place roadside plant that is found along California’s freeways. Oleander can be seen in the wall paintings at the Villa di Livia, as well as in the foreground of this photo of the garden at the Getty Villa.
Who knew that our plebeian oleander could be such an patrician plant?
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org  for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, November 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30.
Saturday mornings, November 12 & 26.
Saturday, November 19, 8-10 AM. Autumn in Bird Country. Towsley Canyon. We think autumn is one of the best times to be out and about in the park. The weather is idyllic, the colors are exceptional, and of course the birds are busy preparing for winter. Beginning birds are welcome. Binoculars optional. Meet at the front parking lot. For a map and directions, click here .
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Saturday, November 26, 8-10 AM. Where does all the water go? Whitney Canyon. Follow the trail, the water trail, that is, to learn more about our local watershed. If you are not sure why you should care, then come find out. We may just “wet” your appetite for more about this precious resource. Meet in the parking area at Whitney Canyon. For a map and directions, click here .
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The SCV Outdoor Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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