Mediterranean Garden Society

» Home
» About
» Membership
» Journal
» Sparoza Garden
» Branches
» AGMs
» MGS Forum
» Seed Exchange
» Donations
» MGS Excursions
» Information
» Members' Gardens
» Book Reviews
» News & Views
» Contact
» Search

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  

Past Events   2016    2015    2014    2012    Older

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.
All content (c) copyrighted by source or author, not to be reproduced without authorization.

website designed and maintained by Hereford Web Design