Friday, September 21, 2018

Getting a peek at Newport Beach gardens

I worked in the Newport Beach area of Orange County for several years more than a decade ago and still visit the area periodically, most often to visit Roger's Gardens, one of my favorite garden centers, but also to visit friends.  However, I've never had an opportunity to take a good peek at gardens in Newport Beach so, when blogger friend Denise of A Growing Obsession alerted Hoover Boo of A Piece of Eden and me to a tour sponsored by the Southern California chapter of the Mediterranean Garden Society, I jumped at the chance to join in.  Our tour took us to six different venues, ending with a talk at Roger's Gardens.

For those of you unfamiliar with California's real estate market I should mention that, even in an state known for ridiculously expensive home prices, Newport Beach is pricey.  The closer to the ocean, the higher the price and, generally speaking, the smaller the lot size.  We probably shouldn't have been surprised that many of the garden spaces we visited were tiny.  Our first stop was a perfect example of the use of a garden as a room.  As a space to entertain, it was wonderful but the space to garden was scanty.

There was lots of seating space for gathering and dining.  A grilling station and bar area was off to the right of the dining table and there was another table and chairs around the other corner of the house.

These raised beds were the only true garden space.  My former garden in Redondo Beach was similar in overall size but, other than a wooden bench, it offered no seating.  I planted nearly every inch, leaving just a narrow path to move between beds.


Our next stop was the Environmental Nature Center, a five-acre parcel dedicated to providing the community, especially children, with exposure to nature.  I'd never heard of it, much less paid a visit.  After a long, hot summer following an unusually dry winter, the outside area looked tired but there were still spots of color.

This Isomeris arborea (aka bladderpod) and the noID aster were found in the butterfly enclosure

There were a number of tables like this under the trees, great for picnicking and educational activities

The indoor nature displays were wonderful.  This one featured a coyote and a skunk (stuffed of course).


Our third stop was another private garden, only a bit larger than the first.

Although this area is at the front of the property, the picket fence separating it from the street made it feel private.  The focal point is a large but shallow fountain, which included ceramic koi fish.

A nice Tillandsia wreath decorated one wall

The back of the house featured a clear view of the beach and seating to allow one to check out the view

Like the emerald green grass lining the beach in the prior photo, the grass between the paving stones here is artificial.  It may be the one and only example of fake grass I've seen that I've liked.  It not only looked good enough that I had to touch it to verify it wasn't real but its use in shady narrow spaces like this between paving stones was perfect.


Our next stop was Sherman Gardens, a public garden I've visited several times, most recently this past June.  It's only 2 acres but, unlike the first gardens we visited, it's packed with interesting plants.

This is the view from the back entrance, showing the fountain planted with seasonal annuals including Celosia 'Intenz'

After the subdued spaces we'd visited that morning, all this color was a sheer joy.  The plants in front are a Gomphrena mix.

If I remember correctly, this area is referred to as the Mediterranean Garden, featuring plants suitable to California's coastal area.  The lath (shade) house behind it is what inspired construction of my own lath house.

We had to have a quick look inside the tropical conservatory of course

We had lunch on the patio off the Cactus and Succulent Garden.  The Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta' in the photo on the left is blooming!  It's a huge plant and monocarpic so I'm wondering what they're going to do with that area when it's gone.

A gorgeous noID passionflower growing on a humongous vine (left) and a noID Medinilla (right)

And here's the garden's famous otter, dutifully attending to his pond, which is currently sporting blooming waterlilies 


After lunch at Sherman Gardens, we headed for a nearby private garden.  Not far from Pacific Coast Highway, it was also on a small lot.

I photographed the main area of the garden from the upper deck

This speaks of the challenge of gardening in tight spaces.  There were roses and tomatoes in half-barrel containers next to the street too.


The last private garden was by far the largest.  It was broken up into 3 distinct areas.

The front garden outside the walls was the best example of a Mediterranean garden we saw that day in my view

Other than green, there wasn't much color in this street-side space, however.  Part of that was due to the the fact that it's late summer (not the time I'd ever want to schedule a tour of my own garden!).  There were large Echiums, which would have bloomed earlier in the year but I think there was an opportunity here for more silver foliage, or variegated succulents - or flowering Grevilleas!

Beyond the walls surrounding the garden,we stepped down past terraced beds and a pool to approach the front of the house

There was a fountain with waterlilies near the front entry

and comfortable seating areas on both sides of the doorway

The back garden is a very formal area featuring box hedges.  This photo was taken from the upper deck of the house, more clearly revealing the ocean in the distance.  The view was great but, once again, I couldn't help wishing that there was some color in those back garden beds.


One of the tour participants at this last stop was kind enough to let me photograph her earrings, decorated with real succulents.

Shirley, who has a landscape business, Unique Garden Environments, made the earring herself using tiny bits of succulents


We returned to the Newport Beach Civic Center to pick up our cars.  If I'd arrived on time when the tour started, I'd have had an opportunity to explore the Center's expansive succulent garden but I didn't have time for that either upon arrival or prior to our departure for Roger's Gardens.  As it took me awhile to find a parking spot in the garden center's jammed lots, I didn't have time to take photos there either.  I enjoyed Ron Vanderhoff's talk entitled "The Other Side of the Fence" about what natural environments can teach us when designing our own garden spaces, although I had to duck out a little early there and still had no time for photos.

Garden tours are often a mixed bag but there's always an opportunity to learn something and I enjoyed spending time with Denise and Hoover Boo.  (You can find Denise's post on the tour here.)  I don't expect I'll ever be a gardener who sacrifices the collection of interesting plants for entertaining space but I can nonetheless appreciate why others want to use the restricted space available to them for that purpose.  To each his/her own!

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy the last day of summer and the first day of fall!  For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, happy spring!


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

28 comments:

  1. I don’t think any of those gardens made me gasp and think how much I’d like to see them, Kris. All a bit manicured for me, although doubtlessly expensive. I think the homeowners all have gardeners to meticulously rake and cut hedges and keep everything neat! I agree about that artificial grass though...it must be because it’s in such small amounts around the pavers and so carefully applied that it looks quite natural.

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    1. No, none of the gardens were gasp-worthy in my estimation either, Jane, unless the viewer is impressed by ocean views I guess. Every one of these garden was indeed meticulously groomed, which I can't say for mine at the moment.

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  2. Kris, I remember the cute otter from a previous post, I'd love to have one like it in my pond.The water lilies reminded me of how much I want to see mine blooming, spring started today here, nice warm day not very hot as last year I hope this mild weather lasts. Have a nice weekend!

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  3. So glad you're doing the tour soup to nuts! And the second-to-last photo of the formal garden from the second story reminded me again of the excellent cookies available up there as well as the view!

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  4. Excellent examples of great uses of garden spaces! I really like the pond and the other water features. There's something to be said for small garden spaces--a gardener has to get so creative! Your photos are so nicely composed, too. :)

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  5. I admire gardens as tidy and formal as the last one but don't think I'd be happy living in such a space. Plus I can't talk my garden crew (the firm of me, myself, and I) into doing such things. They're a cantankerous group often shirking their garden duties to go plant shopping or sit in front of the T.V. There seems to be a trend of building huge houses on tiny lots with little or no garden space. Sad.

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    1. It is sad but then housing is in increasingly short supply, developers are focused on their bottom line, and cities seem to take less responsibility for urban planning than I, for one, would like to see.

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  6. My knee jerk reaction was that these smaller gardens did not seem Medit at all and why did MGS include these on the tour ? But I started to consider the formal Italian gardens with their clipped hedges and evergreen structure-gravel,retaining walls, looming architecture. It all seemed to make sense. These types of gardens have historical significance and inspire garden design to this day.

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    1. The green frameworks created by box, cypress and the like made me think of Mediterranean gardens too, Kathy. What was missing for me was a sense of joy and personal involvement. It may be unfair but I can't imagine many of these homeowners puttering around in these garden spaces - entertaining definitely, gardening not really.

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  7. Even though the gardens were short on “gardens” it’s still fun to poke around other people’s space, right? Thanks for taking us along!

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    1. Just spending time with Denise and HB was fun, Loree. And Sherman Gardens is always a joy to visit.

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  8. I can see why you need an outside sitting and entertaining area if you live in a warm climate but for true gardeners, plants always take precedence over people. Also, I am not a fan of formality, I love exuberance.But a tropical conservatory? Now you're talking. Yes please.

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    1. I'm not fond of formal garden spaces in general either, although splashes of color and flowers spilling over hedge borders can be very attractive. Sherman Gardens' conservatory - and all its other garden areas - is wonderful, compact as it may be.

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  9. I agree: garden tours are a mixed bag. But no matter what, it is always fascinating to see how others handle space (or lack thereof) and to come away with new ideas. There is always something to learn. I certainly would have been tempted to jump into that lovely pool! I will be in London for a few weeks coming up where autumn has really appeared today; will be quite a change!

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    1. I bet London is wonderful in the early autumn, Libby. I hope you get a chance to tour some of the local gardens.

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  10. I loved the gomphrena mix - nothing like a good annual garden of flashy colors. As most of my beds are perennials, I miss out on a lot fun annuals.
    Seeing the small garden spaces in the land of millionaires, I'm happy I chose to live in a rural area with acres of land. I'm land rich! :)

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    1. There are all different kinds of wealth, it's true, Eliza. Monetary wealth ranks low on my list too, at least as long as we can cover our basic needs.

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  11. Great post! Comments spot-on, too. Best part was hanging out with you and Denise (and the plants at Sherman Gardens).

    I could not find a parking space at Roger's so I just went home. Couldn't deal with the hubbub.

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    1. I saw you driving out of Roger's back lot as I was driving in. I was ready to bag the talk too and had called my husband to say I was on the way home when a spot opened up right in front of me. It was a good talk but I left early as it got started late.

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  12. These gardens are nice. They just don't seem very personal. Not a lot of personality. I like to visit all sorts of gardens. They make me go home and make sure I don't do some of the things that they do. ha...

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    1. I agree, Lisa. For the most part, the private gardens felt like "landscaper-grade" products rather than anything speaking of a homeowner's passion.

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  13. I have to agree with Lisa that the gardens lack the personal touch. I am less of a fan of color so all the green in the last one was OK with me and I loved that knot garden, though it must take a ton of water to keep it looking like that. And I did love the seating area with the chair cushions picking up color from the ceramic art. But, like you, I could never have more entertaining space than garden space. Once you are hooked on plants you will never give up that space!

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    1. It's interesting that you comment about the furnishings on the patio, Linda - that vignette showed the color and personality I'd liked to have seen in all those private gardens.

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  14. I concede the need for entertaining space ... but that sort of 'garden' makes me wonder why people don't choose an apartment with a balcony.
    And leave the garden space to someone who wants it?

    Your view Kris is way more inviting than watching volleyball on the beach. Ick!

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