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