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Shelley Harter

Virginia Paca

Christine Moore

Barbara Paul

Alison Terry

Marie McDuffie

Carol Bornstein
George Brumder
Mike Evans
Jim Folsom
David Fross
Isabelle Greene
Gary Jones
Bart O'Brien
Pamela Palmer
Bob Perry
Nancy Goslee Power
Chris Rosmini
Lili Singer
Jan Smithen

Nicholas Staddon
Nan Sterman
John Tikotsky



The Southern California Branch of the MGS  

Forthcoming events

2017 Annual General Meeting hosted by the Southern California Branch
Monday 23 to Thursday 26 October - Optional pre-AGM trip to Santa Barbara
Begins Monday evening, concluding in Pasadena mid-afternoon on Thursday. Includes visits to Lotusland, Casa del Herrero, a nursery, private and public gardens.

Thursday 26 to Sunday 29 October - Annual General Meeting
Opens with a Welcome Reception in Pasadena on Thursday evening, includes the formal business meeting (General Assembly) at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens on Sunday morning, October 29, and concludes with a Farewell Dinner on Sunday evening. In between, we shall spend a day visiting private gardens in and around Pasadena and another full day visiting the Natural History Museum, The Getty Center and Westside private gardens in Los Angeles.

Monday 30 October - Optional one-day post-AGM tour to Claremont
Includes visits to special gardens in and around Claremont.

Past Events

November 2016
2016 Annual Meeting and Tour of the Getty Center Gardens

There was a large turnout for the Annual Meeting and tour of the Getty Center’s Central Garden. We discussed general business and offered a highlight of upcoming events for 2017, including the Annual General Meeting to be held in Los Angeles.

Brian Houck, manager of grounds and gardens for both the Getty Center and the Getty Villa, led our group on a tour from the Museum Courtyard down the west stairs through the Central Garden. His encyclopedic knowledge of the garden offered insight into the construction and maintenance of this landscape gem rarely given out to the general public. For instance, he told us the fountains were turned off for two years because of drought restrictions and they found that 10,000 gallons of water were lost each day in evaporation. He did say that the Central Garden is treated as a sculpture so it is exempt from the restrictions. He said that four years ago they applied one million gallons of water in three months for maintaining the health of the oaks on the 700 acres surrounding the Getty, something they haven’t done since. Planned attrition of some of the oaks was built into the plan.

An architect explains Richard Meier’s architecture
and Robert Irwin’s plan for the garden

Dappled shade down the sycamore pathway

Brian and our docent Pam (an architect) recounted how Richard Meier’s garden grid system matches up with the architecture and that Robert Irwin’s garden plays off the grid system as a natural counterpoint. Nowhere is the dichotomy of the two sensibilities more apparent than in the garden’s various sycamore trees. Meier’s courtyard trees are pollarded and tightly controlled, where Irwin’s Central Garden trees are left to branch naturally and develop their characteristic quirky structure. Meier’s sycamores have their bark shaved as well, so energy is put into growing leaves the size of dinner plates. Irwin, an Abstract Impressionist painter before he moved into the world of site works, saw the garden as a sculpture, where he would communicate ideas and emotions through art. He wanted the visitor to look down upon the garden and see it as a painting, then descend the steps (past the amphora-shaped rill termination known affectionately as the urinal) and be in and a part of the painting. This painting is heavily manipulated to give the desired effect. Case in point: Every fourth sycamore leaf is removed to give dappled shade to the visitor and garden below.

Looking at Richard Meier’s use of Italian travertine

The zigzag path leading down to the Central Garden intentionally makes the visitor stop, turn and look at the architecture and the garden space. It slows the visitor down, providing unique built-in COR-TEN and wood benches to examine the plantings and architectural details. Brian told us how Robert Irwin would describe his vision to gardener Jim Duggan in terms of the qualities he was looking for in a plant - glossy, fuzzy, smooth, red, etc. - and Jim would find plants to match his vision. Irwin and Duggan would wait a year and then revisit each plant choice to make sure it met their expectations.

The stream with boulders placed for the desired sound

Irwin planned the garden to appeal to all senses: auditory (stream), scent, sight, and touch. Irwin “tuned” the stream during construction by adding, subtracting, and moving boulders to get the desired effect.

The Cactus Garden overlooking the view of Los Angeles

After descending to the Central Garden, Brian described how one side of the garden is vegetable-focused and more natural, while the opposite side is focused on specimen plantings. Irwin’s signature is hidden behind the last stone installed on the project.

Beautiful sunsets at the Getty Center

We all concluded the tour feeling that we had gained insight into the intense maintenance required by a landscape of that magnitude and significance, and into the inner workings of two intense and passionate artists: Richard Meier and Robert Irwin.

May 2016
Annual plant exchange and lunch

The Southern California Branch’s first plant exchange took place Saturday, May 21, 2016 in Pasadena. The sun was bright, the wind warm, the guests smiling and La Casita was the perfect setting for a wonderful lunch. Gardeners found each other in a discussion that went on for several hours, and one realized that gardening is an obsession that must be indulged.

So as our MGS Co-Branch Chair, Virginia Paca, said, it was quite wonderful. With an amazing variety of plants for the exchange everyone went home with something they really liked. Advisory Board Members Bob Perry and his wife Peggy, and Nicholas Staddon came with lots of great cuttings, and many others brought some real gems. The potluck buffet was just perfect and so casual in La Casita del Arroyo.

The setting, La Casita del Arroyo (The little house on the Arroyo), in Pasadena, was built as a community meeting house in 1933 as a work project during the Great Depression. The lovely house and surrounding mediterranean-landscaped garden were mainly constructed of natural materials from the Arroyo and recycled materials from the velodrome built for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. In 1988, landscape architects Isabel Greene and Yosh Befu designed and installed a low-water demonstration garden promoting plants suitable for a mediterranean climate and a water-saving irrigation system. ( See more about La Casita del Arroyo here.)

MGS Southern California board members

People congregated inside and out for the first hour, then they helped themselves to a lovely potluck lunch inside La Casita. Everyone then did a little more plant picking outside afterwards. The plants left over were dropped off at the plant area at the Pasadena Jackie Robinson Center, and everyone felt good about that. 

The group was an ideal size as each person had a chance to speak and the conversation was easy to follow with commentary and observations from everyone. Each guest had an opportunity to get to know each other a little more, where they lived, and what their garden was like. We heard each other talk about the motives and impulses that cause us to have a garden, whether it be a collection of pots on a porch or an acre of foliage. A mystery plant was also presented and the Perrys identified it as a Calycanthus occidentalis, spice bush, with a chestnut-colored bloom and subtle spice-like scent.

The plant table

Lots of people talked about noticing birds and wildlife in the garden, such as the gardeners from Claremont, the impact of the drought as experienced on hillside slopes in West Los Angeles, the antique rose collection at the Banning Museum, or removal of lawns and their replacements in San Marino.

MGS members and friends

There was a resounding YES, to having the MGS plant exchange repeated annually. And with that in mind, the date for next year’s plant exchange and potluck lunch will be announced as soon as scheduling is complete.

March 2016
Downtown Los Angeles Garden Walk

The MGS Southern California Branch toured and celebrated the mediterranean gardens in the heart of downtown Los Angeles’s public spaces.

California is in the midst of a four-year drought, cyclical in nature, which has impacted the choices we make in our public and private spaces. The downtown gardens we visited reflect these changes, emphasizing water-conserving gardens, the use of amazing drought-tolerant native and Mediterranean flora and are a roadmap to where we must go as our ecosystem changes.

Walt Disney Concert Hall Garden

Our first garden tour was the rooftop garden of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, known as the Blue Ribbon Garden, designed by Melinda Taylor. Our extremely knowledgeable and engaging guide was Julia Newton, who continues her involvement in the smallest State Park (nearly an acre in size) through routine maintenance. Julia described how the intention of the design was to create a cool microclimate where trees and shrubs would bloom throughout the philharmonic season. Subtropical trees such as Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia blakeana), Tipuana tipu, Erythrina, Tabebuia, Dombeya, Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) - some of which were salvaged from other sites - form the structure and canopy for the repeating textures and patterns of the shrubs and perennials below: Pittosporum, Justicia, Rhaphiolepis, Plectranthus, Strobilanthes, Dianella and Ruellia, among others. Julia told us that Melinda Taylor likes to repeat different species within the same genus, so there is an underlying familiarity between plants, tying the design together. She also uses deciduous trees in the planting design, where their structure can be appreciated against the undulating architectural planes of the Concert Hall.

Julie Newton explains the use of trees and shrubs to bloom throughout
the philharmonic season at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

At the center of the garden is an intimate fountain designed by Frank Gehry and this is known as “A Rose for Lilly”. It is a tribute to Lillian Disney, who provided the initial donation for the Disney Concert Hall. She loved both Royal Delft porcelain vases and roses. The fountain forms a centerpiece within the sinuous paths throughout the garden. Knowing that the entire garden root structure is encompassed within five feet of depth gives even more appreciation for the technical challenges of the project and the dedication of the designers and staff who maintain it for the public’s pleasure.

Lilian Disney’s Rose Fountain

Our next tour was Grand Park, a vibrant outdoor community gathering place that extends from the Music Center to City Hall. Mark Rios of Rios Clementi Hale Studios, the landscape architecture firm who designed the park, led our tour with fascinating insights into the development and building of this new urban park. The park is a true expression of the multi-culturally diverse population surrounding it, where over 100 languages are spoken. This diversity is expressed in many ways, one of which is botanical gardens that represent where people come from. Plants are grouped together in six floristic kingdoms north and south of the equator, each with its own distinct fragrance to engage people through the deliberate and exaggerated sense of smell. There are many layers of engagement in the park so visitors can find something new each time they visit. Plants are arranged in large massings (minimum 100 to 200 of each variety) so the composition is easily comprehensible. The planting plan is strictly adhered to, so if a plant fails, it is replaced exactly in kind so the intention of the design is not lost.

Mark Rios explains the planning process and construction of Grand Park

The furniture is a joyous pink, which research pinpointed as the most prevalent color of cultures around the equator, and this gives the park its distinctive look. Thirty percent of the furniture in the park is fixed and 70 percent is moveable, which Mark Rio said is critical to giving park visitors the flexibility they want for social engagement. A huge dining table at the community terrace is where the community “breaks bread together”, illustrating the design concepts of collage, tapestry, and intersections between cultures.

Pink furniture that is moveable for social engagement

The park planning process involved 75 community meetings over two years. Construction took another two and a half years and was very complex, involving limited soil on top of parking garages under the site. The park is highly programmed by the Music Center and one of the requirements was that the space be flexible and easy to host various events. To that end, there are 24 media hydrants throughout the park where hi-tech audio and visual equipment can access power.

Fountains to engage families

The park has a strong visual and physical axis connecting Grand Avenue at the Music Center down through steps and sloped walks to City Hall. The upper fountain, Willis Fountain, was remodeled to make it more energy-efficient, and a lower fountain was added to engage families. There is a grand event lawn and a smaller performance lawn. Throughout the park there are references to the history of the area, such as olive trees being planted at Olive Street. Grand Park has been so intelligently designed and programmed from the macro level in terms of use and flow, but also at the micro or human level, where the fragrance of a particular plant can transport someone back to their homeland. This new park is not only a work of art from a visual point of view, but celebrates the many cultures of Los Angeles.

Grand Park’s Performance Lawn

After this inspiring tour, the group walked down to the Grand Central Market for lunch. “Grand Central Market, a downtown landmark since 1917, brings together the cuisines and cultures of LA.” A fitting conclusion to our DTLA tour.

November 2015
Huntington Gardens

After our annual Southern California MGS meeting with our Board of Advisors (where it was noted that the amount of talent and knowledge amassed in one room was astounding), we hosted a tour of the new California Garden at the Huntington Gardens. Introduced by Jim Folsom, director of the Botanical Gardens, and led by Scott Kleinrock, landscape design and planning coordinator, we learned how the entire entry and visitor interface was re-imagined into a landscape that paid tribute to its cultural origins, and reflected the shifting regional emphasis from temperate-garden references to mediterranean-garden references in the use of water and plant material.

Scott Kleinrock leading our group tour of
The Huntington’s new California Garden

The vision and perseverance it took to design and build the new 6.5-acre Frances and Sidney Brody California Garden with its packed program and code requirements is commendable. Scott describes the garden as an evolving experiment focusing on which plants thrive through the long, hot, humid summers in San Marino.

Some plants are risks and some are garden stalwarts, such as the Podocarpus trees, four of which were boxed and moved from the Mausoleum to the ticket area. The trees are planted within a grid of sonotubes with perforated pipes connected under the patio to provide a healthy planting medium of adequate air and water under the structural soil. In the renovation of the parking lot, 50 large trees were boxed and moved and all eucalyptus were removed.

The planting design is a plant-community-based approach, where plantings were tied together in coherent communities with lots of workhorse grasses weaving together the slower growing plants.

Pepper trees and tough grasses planted adjacent to the parking lot

Arriving out of the mountains into the garden, visitors enter the Huntington among Valencia and Washington navel orange groves, which have been retained for their importance to the cultural landscape. California pepper trees (Schinus molle), important historically on ranches for their tough, fast, and reliable shade, are termed “adapted” trees, and they are the right choices for this location, according to Scott. 72” box California peppers were planted adjacent to the parking area, with swaths of Carex divulsa underneath. This Carex is almost identical to Carex tumulicola and it is bulletproof - good with root competition and tolerates full sun to full shade. There are no separate tree valves or deep-watering tubes, as the intention is for the trees to have adequate irrigation from the micro-rotator-overhead irrigation, chosen for its ease of maintenance and because they have found that animals chew through drip irrigation hose.
Oranges are harvested by Food Forward, a non-profit organization that rescues fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste, and cover crops are grown in between the orange trees. Based on advice from Mike Evans from Tree of Life Nursery, plants are watered once every three weeks. This coming spring plants will be watered once a month. The establishment period is roughly a year. The MP Rotators run on three consecutive days for cycle-and-soak approach.

Gathering spaces for visitors and docent-led groups

Newly planted Pasadena oaks (Quercus engelmannii) will one day reach their full size

A long alley of fruitless olives (Olea europea ‘Wilsonii’) leads to the Education and Visitor Center’s formal entrance. On both sides of the alley are dwarf myrtle-hedged rooms with plantings from various mediterranean-climate regions throughout the world, demonstrating their attributes to the visitors. Some Texas sages, such as Salvia greggii, are used in place of California-native sages as their ability to take both drought and summer moisture makes them easier to establish. Some interesting plants to note include: Acacia baileyana var. purpurea, Grevillea ‘Moonlight’, Leonotis menthifolia (L. ocymifolia var. ocymifolia,) Verbascum olympicum, Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’, Encelia, Rhamnus, and Salvia clevelandii ‘Whirly Blue’. Pots, which are watered once a week, have primarily Australian plants, such as Acacia cognata ‘Mini Cog’.

Many various mediterranean-climate plants demonstrate their attributes

Visitors will appreciate the fact that many drought-tolerant plants are labeled

At the end of the olive-lined alley is the Celebration Garden, anchored by a beautiful linear rill fountain in the spirit of Mediterranean gardens. The fountain steps down a gentle slope, surrounded by low plantings arranged in small ‘pointillistic’ spots of color and texture. Instead of large masses, this planting design showcases individual plants that are repeated throughout the entire area, such as Festuca mairei, Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast’, Lavandula canariensis, dwarf red kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos sp.), Aeonium, Callistemon ‘Little John’, Santolina neapolitana ‘Lemon Queen’, and Scaevola, punctuated by large pots with restios.

Individual plants line the linear rill

Adjacent to one building is an area that doubles as a fire lane, planted in ‘no mow’ sod, a mixture of native California fescues available in sod form. Scott says they water this sod 3 times a week because it is set on sand and gravel. A similar cool-season sod would be watered five times a week in these conditions, so given the fire lane constraints, this is a fairly drought-resistant solution. Scott’s observations are that this no-mow native sod, with its wave-like structure, likes some western shade and benefits from having some wildflower seed tossed in for extra color.

The “no-mow” sod doubles as a fire lane

The Oak Woodland and picnic area provides a “looser” experience for kids, with Artemisia, Ceanothus ‘Concha’, Muhlenbergia rigens, Symphyotrichum chilense (syn. Aster chiloensis), and asclepias for butterfly habitat. Scott says the quintessential California-native plants that every school should have include: an oak, white sage (Salvia apiana), black sage (Salvia mellifera), California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), Eriogonum fasciculatum, salvias and Lyonothamnus.

Children’s picnic area

The Huntington California Garden exemplifies a contemporary interpretation of a classic Mediterranean garden, where the visitor can appreciate California native plants and comparable water-use plants from Mediterranean regions up close and in thoughtfully planned and beautifully executed garden designs. Reduced water use in the landscape is a major goal of this garden, but it doesn’t sacrifice beauty to attain this goal: it highlights the long history of Mediterranean gardens to which southern California can look for inspiration.

Refreshments and a social gathering followed the tour

May 2015
Arlington Garden

The Southern California Branch members and guests enjoyed a morning tour of Arlington Gardens in Pasadena, California and a talk. Mayita Dinos, the designer of the garden, focused on the wildflower garden.

Arlington Garden is the only dedicated public garden in Pasadena. The garden was designed by Mayita, who studied under Jan Smithen – MGS SoCal Branch Advisory Board Member and author of Sun Drenched Gardens, the Mediterranean Style.

Arlington Garden was once a neglected weed lot and long ago part of Pasadena’s Millionaire Row with a 50-room mansion on it. Now the City of Pasadena leases the approximately three acres of land from Caltrans. The idea of the garden was conceived by Betty and Charles McKenney, who live next door to it.

The garden was designed like a residential property with many “rooms” for multiple uses, some large and some small. The higher section has mediterranean plants from all over the world. The lower section has a California mediterranean garden and incorporates local history with an orange grove. There are exotic plants from the mansion days that still remain, such as the Cherokee roses along Arlington Drive. After 12 years, the site has grown from four mature trees and seven palms into a waterwise garden of 325 trees and thousands of plants that do well in our mediterranean climate.

Mayita Dinos explaining the wildflower garden

As we toured the wildflower/meadow garden, Mayita spoke about the concept of succession in a garden and how it is difficult for some wildflowers to flourish because other wild plants or weeds will try to dominate. Weeds live their life in the fast lane, growing quickly and spreading their seeds widely. Mayita advises that soil preparation is the key: mulch, mulch, mulch! If planting a meadow, plant twice as much and close together to discourage weeds. Pulling weeds is much better than using chemical products as they disturb the biology of the soil. Buffalo grass, Buchloe dactyloides (syn. Bouteloua dactyloides) ‘UC Verde’ grows by the meadow garden and was started  from plugs.

Curb Cuts – a way to bring rainwater into the garden

Gathering wildflower seeds

After Mayita’s talk we gathered wildflower seeds: Gilia capitata, Clarkia amoena,Peritoma arborea, (syn. Isomeris arborea), Glandularia lilacina (syn. Verbena lilacina), Papaver somniferum and Phacelia tanacetifolia. Betty McKinney and Arlington Garden’s native-plant expert, Thomas Juhasz, were on hand to answer questions. Following our plant discoveries, we had a picnic lunch.

MGS members enjoying a picnic lunch at Arlington Garden

Please see Arlington Garden’s website for excellent information on the plant communities and individual plants established at Arlington Garden. The website also includes many plant photos and 360-degree panoramic views.

April 2015
Dry and succulent mediterranean gardens in Fallbrook, California

The Southern California Branch of the MGS spent an enjoyable day touring gardens in Fallbrook, north San Diego County, on Saturday, April 11. Organized by board member Barbara Paul, the tour started at Patrick Anderson’s inspiring two-acre ‘Dry Jungle’ garden, which he started from scratch 27 years ago. Patrick maintains the entire garden himself, none of which is irrigated. The entry is the only portion of the garden that was designed on paper prior to installation; everything else is what Patrick terms ‘casual’ design, where the plantings evolve and change over time. The property occupies a gentle hillside where there are meandering paths leading up to in situ artwork, views of the rolling countryside, and a magnificent pavilion complete with colorful Bauer pots. Patrick amended all the soil on site with decomposed granite and topsoil, where specimens such as Euphorbia ammak, Dasylirion, Aloe ‘Hercules’, Strelitzia juncea (narrow-leafed bird of paradise) and Furcraea macdougalii mix with Leucadendron, Argentine mesquite (Prosopis alba), eucalyptus and 400 different aloes. We missed the January flush of aloe blooms, but the garden captured our imagination through its inventive mixture of plants, colorful walls and artwork, and sensitivity to its site, topography, and microclimate.

Patrick accompanied us as guide to our next garden, where we experienced the hospitality and graciousness of our hosts. At just under four acres, this garden embraces mediterranean plants and classical mediterranean design, as well as adding whimsy with two separate labyrinths. The owner herself has been the driving force behind the garden’s vision for 30 years. As her husband says, ‘The dry stream riverbed is my ‘74” Porsche’ - he willingly sacrificed a classic car so they could import boulders and cobbles to control and infiltrate storm water run-off. We started our tour around the property at a succulent garden designed by Scott Spencer, APLD, where Melaleuca incana mixed with Grevillea, Banksia, Euphorbia rigida, and numerous agaves, aloes and smaller succulents. From there we toured Margie’s orchid greenhouse: an orchid lover’s dream. We walked under a cool pergola running the width of the slope, stopping to admire the carefully constructed vistas and viewpoints, towards the labyrinths. From these inventive spaces, we traveled back uphill towards the rose garden, dry riverbed, and pool area. Every space was creatively laid out and lovingly attended to.

Patrick Anderson

At our third and final garden, the owner opened his home and property for us to see his own artwork and artwork he acquired in trade for his dental services over the years. Particularly moving was the artwork relating to the disastrous 2007 fires that claimed many homes in that immediate area. In 1980, immediately after purchasing the property, the owner realigned the front entry drive for more interest and privacy. He hired Scott Spencer to design an outdoor sculpture garden with individual alcoves for each piece of art. The artwork is surrounded by succulents, grasses, shrubs and trees from mediterranean regions around the world, including Callistemon, Agave tequilana, Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’, blue fescue, Melaleuca incana, etc. The garden incorporates a labyrinth of a more figurative sort than those in the previous garden. Gold gravel and black, cut stone in a flat plane draw your eye towards the sculpture of twisted, burned metal in the center, a poignant memory of the fire’s devastating power.

The tasty lunchtime meal of salad and sandwiches as well as the ending refreshments of fresh fruit, iced tea, crackers and cheese, and cookies, satisfied, as did the delightful conversation with garden enthusiasts and writers who came on the tour.

Text by Shelley Harter

November 2014
Advisory Board / Guest Meeting
Annual Branch Meeting and Talk by Nicholas Staddon ‘’Transforming California Landscapes’

We met for an afternoon at La Casita del Arroyo, which is Pasadena’s historic community meeting house, water demonstration garden, and butterfly sanctuary perched on the east edge of the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, CA. La Casita’s building was designed in 1932 by Myron Hunt. The water demonstration garden was designed in 1986 by Yosh Befu and Isabelle Greene. Isabelle Green is a noted landscape architect and a member of our Advisory Board. You can learn more about La Casita at

The MGS Southern California Branch Member’s Annual Meeting began at 1pm. Local MGS members and friends gathered for a brief meeting to elect the Southern California Branch board of directors and officers for 2015. Virginia Paca (Branch Co-Chair) thanked Advisory Board members present for supporting our efforts to promote sustainable, water-conserving gardening in harmony with our mediterranean climate.

MGS Southern California Board and Advisory Board members

Shelley Harter (Branch Co-Chair) shared photos from the MGS’ recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Southern France, where participants visited many extraordinary public and private gardens, such as Nicole de Vesian’s La Louve, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, and Serre de la Madone. Shelley mentioned plans for next year’s AGM, which will be in Italy on the island of Ischia (October 21-25, 2015), with an optional pre-tour based in Naples and an optional post-tour based in Rome.

Nicholas Staddon, Director of New Plant Introductions at Monrovia Growers, gave a talk and showcased some of Monrovia’s most dramatic and exciting new plants, including some soon to be introduced and some still in development. Plants like the Aloe hybrid with the trademark Super Red, Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Pink Storm’, quince, and the Punica granatum ‘Smith’ variety of pomegranate patented under the name Angel Red are now available in garden centers. Following Nicholas’ informative and fun presentation, we raffled off the plants he brought with him. Did you know that you can order Monrovia plants ( online and have them shipped to your favorite nursery?

Nicholas Staddon of Monrovia Growers
visits with MGS members after his program

The meeting concluded with refreshments and conversation under La Casita’s native oaks on a beautiful autumn afternoon.

May 2014
Removing your lawn: Inspiration and reality - Talk and tour

The Southern California Branch of the MGS hosted an event on the 17th May 2014 entitled ‘Removing your lawn: Inspiration and reality’ at Terry Design, Inc., a landscape architectural studio in Orange County. Barbara Paul and Alison Terry, Board members of the Southern California Branch and landscape designer and landscape architect, respectively, showed examples of “before” and “after” transformations, where lawn was removed and replaced with colorful and imaginative mediterranean plantings and hardscape elements, allowing homeowners to envision how they could turn their horticultural lawn deserts into gardens filled with texture, scent and color, and food/habitat for native birds and insects. Barbara and Alison’s experience in the field offered insight into the realities of removing lawn, illustrating the multitude of factors that determine the level of success you will have based on time of year, timeline for completing the project, type of lawn, level of maintenance, and willingness to use herbicides.

After the slide show and open forum, we travelled to two local gardens where front yard lawns were removed and replaced with mediterranean plantings, illustrating how much more beautiful and satisfying these gardens are than lawn. One homeowner enthusiastically recounted to MGS visitors how she obtained National Wildlife Certification for her garden and how much she and her neighbours love the new look. The overall message of this event was it’s worth it to put the effort into removing your lawn and replacing it with mediterranean plantings and functional hardscape or paths to increase your enjoyment of your property, entice beneficial insects and birds for pollination, reduce overall water use and runoff, and make your plantings feel part of the mediterranean planting community. By being smart and informed about the process of removing your lawn, you can embark upon your project without succumbing to many of the pitfalls that discourage gardeners from attempting this transformation.

Lawn was replaced with Salvia spathacea, Tagetes lemmonii, Aloe striata, Bougainvillea 'Purple Queen',
sea lavender, Dymondia, Cistus salviifolius 'Prostratus', and Aeonium decorum 'Sunburst'

After removing the lawn, Heuchera 'Santa Ana Cardinal', Dymondia, Senecio serpens, Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii, Dianella revoluta 'Baby Bliss', Pallenis maritima (syn. Asteriscus maritimus) and Salvia greggii 'Furman's Red' were added to existing phormiums and pygmy date palms to create a drought-tolerant landscape. Architectural concrete bands border infiltration areas in low areas for water collection

March 2014
Two-day Tour of Gardens – Santa Barbara and Ojai

All three MGS California Branches hosted a garden experience to Santa Barbara and Ojai, California. On Friday, our tour visited the extraordinary and historic Lotusland house and garden. We had lunch and a visit to San Marcos Growers, where Randy Baldwin gave us a tour of the nursery. That afternoon, we went to a private waterwise garden designed by landscape architect Lane Goodkind. Afterwards we were treated to a talk and tour of the Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens by Grant Castleberg, the landscape architect who in the 1970s worked with Elizabeth Kellam de Forest in planning the garden, and has recently replaced the beds with drought-tolerant plants.

Lotusland’s many fountains

Enjoying the Santa Barbara view to the Pacific Ocean

On Saturday morning we went to Ojai and visited the Taft Garden guided by Mr. Taft and Laurence Nicklin to see the Australian and South American planted gardens. After lunch at the Taft Garden, we visited three private gardens – all using a large selection of Australian and South African plants that, fortunately for us, we were able to see in bloom. We concluded our day with refreshments at Jo O’Connell’s remarkable Australian plant nursery.

The Ojai Valley with plants in bloom

Leucadendron discolor – a South African Plant

Leucospermum cordifolium – a South African Plant

October 2013
Tour of Sam Maloof’s House, Studio and Garden

On October 12th, MGS members and guests were treated to a private tour of the unique house and gardens of furniture designer Sam Maloof in Alta Loma, California. In 1995, Sam Maloof was the first craftsman to receive a MacArthur fellowship. His sensuous, hand-crafted furniture is found in many museums, including a permanent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the offices of several presidents. Sam and Alfreda’s sprawling, hand-built residence and wood shop originated in a grove of mature lemon trees and expanded from the 1940s until it needed to be moved out of the path of a freeway expansion in 1990.

A six-acre site was found nearby which included a lemon orchard, which helped to re-create the original environment. Many of the trees from the original property were moved to the new location, preserving the same relationship to the house and studios. The landscaping today consists of waterwise California native plants and compatible plants from other mediterranean-climate zones around the world. Sam Maloof, who died in 2009, and his wife Beverly were personally involved in the planning and the design of the new gardens, and they reflect the vision of an artist. The garden is a world apart, filled with benches, sculpture and views of the house and wood shops under the backdrop of the rugged San Gabriel mountains.

The Maloof Foundation provides the public with a glimpse into the private life of one of California’s most celebrated craftsmen. His reverence for wood, arts and crafts and the beauty of the mediterranean climate is woven seamlessly through the house, wood shops and the gardens.

A Gate - one of the many Sam Maloof handcrafted-features of his home

A tour of Beverly’s waterwise garden

Leslie Codina’s and other artists’ sculptures throughout garden

MGS members enjoying the morning

September 2013
A visit to the Nature Garden at the Natural History Museum, Los Angeles County

The Southern California Branch of the MGS enjoyed a warm, sunny day in the new Mia Lehrer + Associates designed Nature Garden at the Natural History Museum, September 8th. This wonderful tour was led by Carol Bornstein, the director of the garden and renowned California native plant expert, author, and garden designer, and Richard Hayden, the head gardener. The 60+ attendees were given a glimpse inside the making of this extraordinary three and a half-acre garden, which was designed to create a natural habitat to attract birds, butterflies, insects, and other urban wildlife for educational programs and enjoyment of nature in an urban setting.

Guests convene under the floss silk trees for light refreshments before the tour

We met under the shade of the floss silk trees (Ceiba speciosa), included in the planting design to provide food for local parakeets. Walking along the decomposed granite paths at the perimeter of the park, Carol and Richard explained how certain design elements, such as the chain link baffles, create habitat for urban animals and provide a visual link to the built environment outside the fence. The living wall, built from long, angled pieces of stone and recycled concrete and looking like tectonic plates emerging from the earth’s crust, provided crevices for spiders, snails, and lizards. Beautiful succulents also thrived in the shady, free-draining slots between stones.

California fuchsias and agaves fit into the crevices of the living wall

Families with children of all ages were encouraged to attend because the garden offers education and inspiration for adults and children alike. The hands-on ‘Get Dirty Zone’ with its raised rammed earth planters topped with waves of Carex pansa, showed how pill bugs are our friends, how to make compost, and a cutaway section of the raised planter illustrated soil strata. The vegetable garden in particular was fun for kids, including free-form custom planters for container gardening and vegetables grouped for a “pizza garden”. Another learning opportunity was the unique “listening tree”, where an amplification system taps into the tree’s xylem tubes and one can hear the tree drinking water.

Artfully designed compost bins are educational tools in the ‘Get Dirty Zone’

A budding MGS enthusiast weathering
the heat in the willow teepee

Two contrasting water features are metaphors for the Los Angeles River; the architectural waterfall represents its channelization and the naturalistic pond represents the harnessed LA River. The dry streambed demonstrates how during the hot summer months, the river recedes below ground and becomes invisible. We relaxed a bit on the bird-watching pavilion, sitting on the modern styled ipe wood and stainless steel benches, where Carol and Richard showed us the operable bird viewing windows and discussed habitat and food available in the trees surrounding the pond, in particular the arbutus and oak.

As typical with Mia Lehrer + Associates’ work, the design is clearly laid out, uses innovative hardscaping materials, and - of particular interest for plant enthusiasts like our group - creates unexpected and inspirational plant pairings. Some memorable pairings included a Baccharis hedge surrounding a massing of pineapple sage, and Agave americana ‘Mediopicta’ with cascades of free-flowering Epilobium (syn. Zauschneria). The garden had a mix of California natives and plants from other mediterranean regions, making it a perfect outing for our group to learn about the additional urban wildlife attributes of these plants we love. Visionary plant veterans John Greenlee and Nancy Goslee Power attended the tour as well, attracted by the inside knowledge offered by our guides.

Baccharis hedge surrounding a massing of pineapple sage

Carol Bornstein sitting on one of the many sculptural benches and explaining how
they had to modify the plantings once the public experienced the garden

Rebar-tree trellis canopy over the decomposed
granite walkways to the Edible Garden

Overview of the Edible Garden showing whimsical trellises in the
foreground and shade sails in the background

March 2013
Screening of Women in the Dirt Film - Descanso Gardens, La Canada Flintridge

We had a full house of members and guests and we were greeted with boxes of popcorn to view the screening of the film Women in the Dirt. The film highlights the work of seven award-winning women who have made their mark in the field: Cheryl Barton, Andrea Cochran, Isabelle Greene, Mia Lehrer, Lauren Melendrez, Pamela Palmer and Katherine Spitz. Our guests said they were inspired by the women who created these sustainable–artistic landscapes.

Pamela Palmer, who was featured in the film, led a very informative question and answer session after the screening.

Landscape Architect Pamela Palmer telling us
about the making of the film and her projects

Most of the attendees came early to enjoy the beautiful spring day at Descanso Gardens and to view the camellias on display at the Camellia Society Show.

One of the many camellias blooming at Descanso Gardens

At Descanso Gardens, a woven hedge growing from
x adstringens 'Hopa' (ornamental crab apple)

November 2012
Tour of Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach and Annual Branch Meeting

MGS members enjoyed a glorious afternoon at Rancho Los Alamitos in Long Beach beginning with a lecture, Spanish Influence on California Gardens, by author and previous MGS president Katherine Greenberg, which was followed by tours of the gardens, homestead, and a new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified visitors’ center. At Rancho Los Alamitos we were able to see elements of traditional Spanish gardens – patios for outdoor living, pools and fountains, and the integration of interior and exterior spaces.

This important historic site curates the gardens and homestead of the Bixby family from the early 20th century, providing a tranquil hilltop island in the middle of metropolitan Los Angeles County. What makes the rancho even more interesting is the new visitor center which integrates the site into the larger historical context of the area, including native Americans, Spanish missionaries and land grant recipients. Executive Director, Pamela Seager, went out of her way to give our group the VIP treatment with tours tailored to MGS members’ interests, personally making sure every detail was in place. Thank you Pamela!

From its early days the ranch covered 300,000 acres as part of a land grant deeded to Manuel Nieto in 1790. In 1842, the ranch was acquired by Abel Stearns with only a four-room adobe house used for ranch hands. In 1882, John Bixby acquired the ranch and lived there with his wife Susan and children. Susan Bixby was a keen garden enthusiast and began developing the gardens.

In 1906, son Fred and Florence Bixby’s family moved into the old ranch house. Florence, with the help of talented landscape designers such as the Olmstead Brothers (successors to their famous father, Frederick Law Olmstead), Florence Yoch, Paul Howard, and Henry Hertrich, developed a series of eleven distinct garden spaces around the adobe house to provide for outdoor living. These areas include patio gardens, a walled “Secret Garden”, a geranium walk, a jacaranda walk, a desert garden, a cut flower garden, a rose garden, a “Friendly” garden (filled will cuttings from friends), and a California native garden.
The adobe house museum is filled with a fascinating collection of several generations of Bixby family possessions and provides a glimpse into Southern California rancho life in the 1930s. The interior rooms display the art and furniture as it was used by family, and modifications to the original adobe homestead have been left undisturbed, leaving one with the feeling of a real family life story.
If you are planning a visit to Rancho Los Alamitos, please allow enough time, as there is much to see and learn about the early days of California.

We very much want to thank Katherine Greenberg for her informative talk to the MGS members. Be sure to check out Katherine’s recent edition of the book Growing California Native Plants,a practical and informative hands-on native plant reference guide for growing California natives (reviewed in TMG 70, October 2012).

Katherine Greenberg

A century-old Moreton Bay fig tree planted by Susan Bixby in front of the porch

Walking through the opuntia wall. William Hertich, garden curator from the
Henry Huntington estate, helped Florence Bixby design her cactus garden.

Rancho’s docent, Big Ed, explaining about
Florence Bixby’s water container to hold her cut flowers

The Rose Garden designed by Florence Yoch

June 2012
Tour of the Getty Villa Gardens in Malibu

Glorious sunshine and sparkling ocean vistas greeted the over 48 participants who attended a tour of the mediterranean gardens of the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu, California. Landscape architect Matt Randolph, who led the tour, was involved in both the original and updated landscape designs for the property. He provided a fascinating history of the evolution of the Villa Museum and gardens, whose current design is based on the ancient Roman villa, Villa dei Papyri, that was covered in ash during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The excavation of preserved artifacts provided information not only on the residence, but also on plant materials and garden design. Matt discussed how a palate of historically accurate plant species were used in the areas closest to the villa, and then merged into a wider plant base of mediterranean plants utilizing species native to the nearby Santa Monica Mountains.
The Villa’s seamless connection of interior and exterior spaces filled with fountains and colonnades provided an inspired example of gracious living in a mediterranean climate. Refreshments followed.

Virginia Paca 

Getty Villa East Garden with Matt Randolph at MSG Southern California event on June 23

Getty Villa Inner Peristylium with bronze statues

Outer Peristylium at Getty Villa with MSG Southern California branch members

Main Peristylium at Getty Villa looking towards Santa Monica Mountains

Herb Garden at Getty Villa with lavender and pruned bay

May 2012
Visit to “Camino de Robles”

Board members as well as board advisory members and guests enjoyed Ed and Madeleine Landry’s house and garden for a special tour of their hundred-acre plus property overlooking Simi Valley. In 2002, the Landrys hosted the Southern California Branch Annual Meeting. This revisit was an opportunity to see the development of the Landry property featuring California oaks and native plants, and also to hear the story of the outcome of the 2003 fire. Refreshments followed.

Gorgeous Southern California landscape above Simi Valley

Natural boulder waterfall

Gathering place under the majestic oaks

Two founding board members of the Southern California Branch,
Christine Moore and George Brumder, enjoying the garden

May 2012
Grow: A Garden Festival. LA Arboretum, Arcadia, CA

The Southern California Branch had an exhibit at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden’s festival – GROW: A Garden Festival. We had 85 visitors to our booth. Thank you to all those who attended our exhibit and also to the volunteers who staffed the table.

Kathleen Bescoby and Erica Rulofs staffing our MGS table

At the LA Arboretum’s GROW: A Garden Festival - Agave vilmoriniana in bloom

February 2012
California New Water Regulations and Visit to Fullerton Arboretum
Pam Berstler of G3, The Green Gardens Group, and Chad Blais, Water Quality Specialist of the City of Fullerton, presented a program on how to use water efficiently in our landscapes. Pam engaged us with an understanding of California’s Water Regulation AB1881. while Chad spoke from his practical and hands-on experience of reducing water use for residents and commercial properties within the City of Fullerton.

Greg Pongetti, Native Plan Curator at the Fullerton Arboretum, gave us a tour of the drought-tolerant gardens: Pavilion Garden, California Native Garden, Channel Island Garden, California Meadow, Chili Garden, and the Mediterranean Basin Garden. We were fortunate to tour the arboretum when many of our California native plants were in bloom, Glossularia speciosa (syn. Ribes speciosum), Mimulus aurantiacus, Lupinus succulentus, Nemophila insignis var. menziesii, Rhus lentii, white flowering Ceanothus spinosus and many more. We returned to the pavilion for refreshments.

The Pavilion Garden at the Fullerton Arboretum

Senecio serpens and Lantana montevidensi

Greg Pongetti, Native Plant Curator, giving us a tour of the Fullerton Arboretum

Rhus lentii

September 2011
Sustainable Urban Agriculture Program - Huntington Ranch, San Marino
Scott Kleinrock, Project Coordinator for the Huntington Ranch, gave us a talk and tour of the Ranch, which is part demonstration garden, part outdoor classroom, and part research lab to study and explore sustainable urban agriculture. Scott explained the new sustainable features relating to urban agriculture at the Ranch, pruned fruit trees, growing vegetables in containers, plants to grow for beneficial insects, type of irrigation that is used and more.

At the Huntington Botanical Center’s Audiovisual Lab, Tom Spellman, Southwestern Sales Manager of Dave Wilson Nursery and noted fruit growing lecturer, gave a presentation about growing fruit for antioxidants. Lunch followed. Be sure to look at Dave Wilson’s Nursery website for details on 'Backyard Orchard Growing'.

Scott Kleinrock at the Huntington Ranch

May 2011
Reducing Your Lawn/ Replacing with Mediterranean Plants – Private Garden in Arcadia
This event took take place in a private garden in Arcadia redesigned by landscape designer Judy Horton with mediterranean plants and gravel to eliminate vast areas of lawn. Bart O’Brien, Director of Special Projects for Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, presented his latest book that he co-authored, Reimagining the California Lawn: Water-conserving Plants, Practices, and Designs by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien. Bart discussed ideas for lawn replacements – greenswards, meadows, carpet and tapestry gardens, including his favorite Californian native and mediterranean plants. He spoke about the best way to eliminate or 'shrink' a lawn.

Judy Horton told how she redesigned the garden by reducing the size of the lawn and replanting with mediterranean climate plants - fig, olive and citrus trees, iris, lavender and tapestry panels of low-growing mediterranean flowers, herbs and succulents. Tours of the garden were given by Bart and Judy, refreshments followed.


After removing the lawn

June 2010
Book signing & garden walk with Bob Perry - Arlington Garden, Pasadena
Noted horticulturist, professor, author and Southern California MGS Advisory Board member Bob Perry presented his latest book Landscape Plants for California Gardens. We strolled through the garden as Bob discussed plants and offered ideas for sustainable garden practices. Refreshments and a social interlude followed.

September / October 2009
Gardening Under Mediterranean Skies VII: Lessons in Sustainable Gardening - Santa Barbara

Repeated over two weekends by popular demand, this Pacific Horticulture symposium co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and the MGS explored the challenges and delights of coastal California's mediterranean climate and showcased the wide range of garden possibilities in a low-water environment, including talks by Carol Bornstein, Pamela Berstler and Owen Dell and visits to Lotusland and gardens designed by Lynn Woodbury, Van Atta Associates and Isabelle Greene.

May 2009
An Afternoon with Nicholas Staddon - Monrovia Growers, Azusa, California

Nicholas Staddon, Monrovia’s Director of New Plant Introductions gave a talk entitled 'Monrovia’s Best and Newest Plants for Our Mediterranean-climate Gardens'. Then there was a walk in the garden and a visit to Monrovia’s Garden Center Display with Nicholas, followed by refreshments and a social interlude, after which we drew lots for choice Monrovia plants.
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