|Mediterranean Garden Society|
The Southern California Branch of the MGS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
September / October 2009