|Mediterranean Garden Society|
The Southern California Branch of the MGS
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.