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Southern California The 2017 AGM

by Alisdair Aird and Helena Wiesner
photographs by Alisdair Aird

Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No. 91, January 2018

Alisdair and Helena write: “What a dazzling display of California’s mediterranean gardening riches was laid on for us by Shelley Harter and her enthusiastic organising team! Including the pre- and post-tours, they packed into our week no fe.wer than 34 gardens ...
... we’ll whisk you through a lightning tour of the gardens, just one sentence for each instead of the hour or more we spent there ..”

Susan Van Atta's garden in Santa Barbara, the highly energy-efficient and fire-resistant house designed by her husband Ken melting into the hillside landscape and looking out to sea, the garden and roof garden entirely mediterranean and largely native - full of beautiful touches, too

Drought-resistant plants in Alice Keck Park, a Santa Barbara public park where we saw humming birds and monarch butterflies enjoying them; it has a great range of species, including 37 different palms

In Santa Barbara we passed this lovely honey-scented agave flower, by the sidewalk in the residential neighbourhood of La Cumbre

Part of noted Californian landscaper Isabelle Greene's own Santa Barbara garden, intensely personal and on a very human scale

A very Mediterranean look under the brilliant Southern California skies, in Sue McKinley's 2-acre Montecito garden in Santa Barbara, replanted with staunchly waterwise plants after long years of drought killed even the lavenders; beyond the bridge and the clipped hedges that's a cool arbour of white bougainvillea

Aloe thraskii silhouetted against the sunset over the Pacific Ocean from the Santa Barbara garden of Darrell and Bert Banta, who treated us to a sundown drink

Andalucia comes to California, in the extensive Montecito garden of Casa del Herrero in Santa Barbara, built in 1925 to the Spanish Colonial Revival design by George Washington Smith

A dramatic assembly of cactuses and succulents in Bill Burke and Nancy Bell Coe's Santa Barbara garden in California - it was over 40°C while we were there

The home of Jeff Chemnick in Santa Barbara, Southern California, where he grows a great range of succulents to perfection in his garden/nursery; the Pachypodium lamerei on the left is sweetly scented

Massed boulders seen through the carefully pruned boughs of a native wild oak in Lillian Lovelace's peaceful woodland garden in Santa Barbara, Southern California; the red-berried shrub is a toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), a tough drought-adapted evergreen, sometimes called California holly, which gave Hollywood its name

Over the last 12 years local residents have created this Arlington Garden, an impressive "guerilla garden" in a planning-blighted empty lot in Pasadena, California, with easy-care plantings, play spaces, and lots of shady seating, among the few surviving trees such as this fine old Schinus molle the "Californian pepper tree" (it actually comes from South America)

Plane trees rising from clipped box "boxes" as in some ancient Mediterranean gardens, and some of the hundred roses, in Ann and Peter Murphy's garden at The Wentworth House in Pasadena, where they have replaced 10,000 sq ft of lawn with low-maintenance plants; the "grass" between the terrace slabs is - almost undetectably - artificial

One of many inviting corners in the charming garden of Martha and John Bell's George Washington Smith home in Pasadena, Southern California

It could be Tuscany, but it's actually the view from the garden of Mollie Munger and Steve English's Italian Revival home in Pasadena, South California; below the balcony a dry arroyo area is being planted with native shrubs and perennials under olives and the local oaks (Quercus agrifolia)

Sitting Cheetah, a 1996 sculpture by Gwynn Murrill, beautifully complemented by the trunks of Corymbia citriodora and other plantings designed by Nancy Goslee Power, at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Southern California

Tiffany lamps come on as the sun starts going down, in Phaedra and Mark Ledbetter's garden in Pasadena, Southern California

Classic grace in the garden of Suzanne Rheinstein's beautiful Pasadena home

A carefully pruned grapefruit frames the entrance to one of the small "rooms" in Lauren Gabor and Scott Goldstein's garden in Pasadena, Southern California; the groundcover is a felty-leafed peppermint geranium, and improving their hard clay since 1995 they have many rare plants including unusual Californian trees

Agave spikes spearing colour into a courtyard planted with other succulents in Justine and Robert Bloomingdale's Pasadena home, visited by Mediterranean Garden Society members from around the world during this year's annual meeting, in Southern California

A fine large-leafed Arbutus x reyorum 'Marina' in Beth and Ken Karmin's Pasadena garden. Grown widely in California, this complex hybrid quickly forms a large tree; it originated as a single specimen in the Strybing Arboretum, of uncertain ancestry but probably brought from Europe for a 1915 World's Fair in San Francisco

After years of drought a variety of lawn substitutes now feature in many South California gardens, such as this Dymondia margaretae used in paving cracks as well as larger areas in Susan and Victor Schaff's garden in Carpinteria

A grand old native oak (Quercus agrifolia) shading a terrace at Brooke and Steve Giannetti's homestead in Ojai

Students enjoying one of the attractively landscaped traditional courtyards of Scripps College in Claremont, Southern California

Free-form landscaping deliberately aiming to "dismantle enclosures - entangle into community" at Pitzer College in Claremont, in tune with the heady radical 1960s when Pitzer was founded; perhaps not so enticing for students to stroll through or sit around in

One of the terraces in Peggy and Bob Perry's Claremont garden, where Mediterranean Garden Society members from around the world enjoyed refreshments on the final post-tour evening of their 2017 AGM in Southern California

Southern California memories
Apart from the warm hospitality and the sheer variety of the many gardens we saw, one of our own most abiding personal memories of the Mediterranean Garden Society's Southern California AGM this year is of the sharp silhouettes of the omnipresent agaves, coupled with all those graceful and slender palms swaying against a brilliant blue sky. Agaves and towering palms in the Pasadena garden of Martha and John Bell.

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