April 15th Payne Foundation Garden Tour

Juli and I had an unexpected schedule change that let us go on the Payne Foundation Garden Tour last Sunday. The Payne Foundation has made an effort to cluster the geographically dispersed (across the Greater LA area) gardens: Saturday's tour was more inland and Sunday's more coastal. Despite the clustering, getting from one garden to the next is still a bit of a chore and next year I may try the Mar Vista Garden Green Garden Showcase which appears walkable, at least in parts, though not expressly focused on native plants.

I tried to target the older, more established gardens on Sunday's tour, since I wanted a sense of how a native garden can mature. We stopped at a homeowner designed garden in Torrance first. There were a few things that I liked.

I liked the Carex Pansa lawn in the shade of  this Chinese Elm.  Foreground are flower stalks of  Heuchera (Coral Bells) 'Wendy', which proved to be the most popular Heuchera selection that I saw all day.  In fact, I can only remember one or two other selections.  Next year: Heuchera 'Wendy' backlash!
The other thing that our first stop had to inspire my native plant interests were these two Lavatera 'Purissima' (Purissima Tree Mallow) that were in pots.  They had a bonsai sort of look that I found appealing.  It seems that Lavatera 'Black Heart', a smaller hybrid, might also be good in a pot like this.

The Torrance house had plentiful use of non-native but water-conserving plants such as those shown below that I thought a striking combination.  Not that it wasn't delightful, but I had hoped to see more natives.

A stop later in the day showed good use of this Gilia tricolor. We liked its look here and at several other locations on the tour.

But again, the landscape combined native and non-native plants and I wished for more natives.  I'm so demanding! Here we can see a rather sprawling lavender cluster at the right of the path and bright green leaves of a jasmine all along the sidewalk.
Another house had a front yard in attractive, but studied disarray that contrasted with its smaller and rather architectural back yard, shown below. I liked the back yard better, but I think that was because the front yard's plants were not mature yet.  The owner changes up the short lived perennials frequently and one older Manzanita anchors the otherwise transient collection. In the back, I think the Palo Verde tree (I assume it's Cercidium floridum) was just the right choice to link the courtyard between the two buildings. In front I overheard the owner talking about using weed block fabric under his DG mulch. At a couple other houses I heard similar comments about using weed block fabric. There's a prevailing feeling I've had from the greater native plant community that "real native gardeners don't use weed block" and I believe it to be true, mostly because of my experience with some that a previous owner installed at my old house. How odd to hear its virtues extolled multiple times on this tour..

My favorite houses were located inland in a designated historical district that I was previously unaware of called Oxford Square near Crenshaw and Olympic.  I didn't take pictures of the most peaceful garden, but I did take photos of the most striking garden.  This garden comprised two houses side by side (same owner, one under renovation to become a rental with the main house planning to take a big chunk of the rental's back yard.  It'll be an even more wonderfuller yard when complete.)  The owner has landscaped the main house garden in what he described as "California Apocalyptica" - a term I could find nowhere else, but it's said to be what you might get when people disappear and only industrial and technological remnants remain among the returning natives (provided the weedy grasses and shit plants don't overwhelm and someone with well-developed garden sensibilities takes care of the place).  Pictures below are of this garden.

What I liked most about this garden was the way that plants intermingled with each other and with the garden structure, particularly in front where most of the industrial ephemera is sited.

1 comment:

  1. Garden tourist season! I like all the variety you found, even if it didn't use as many natives as you'd like. Our tour organizers down here requested folks to have at least 60% native plantings. My garden would fail that test so I didn't offer it. The lavatera in pots look great and have plenty of character. I'm trying out another mallow, a Malacothamnus fasciculatus, in a pot--looks good, sheds leaves like crazy. Maybe not quite the success of the lavateras you found.