Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Tour Six Local Private Gardens Sunday

Marlborough School’s Arden Garden is the lead garden for Garden Conservancy’s Open Days this Sunday.

Six local private gardens will be open to visitors on Sunday as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days 2018. All the gardens are located in Windsor Square and Fremont Place.

Marlborough School serves as the lead garden for Open Days, where visitors can purchase tickets and get maps with the addresses of the remaining gardens, two of which were featured in the Los Angeles Times last weekend.  Proceeds from the garden tour support the work of the Garden Conservancy of America, whose mission is to save and share outstanding American gardens for the education and inspiration of the public. Many of their gardens are National Historic Landmarks or on the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic photo of the original Marlborough School (photo courtesy of Marlborough School)

Starting at Marlborough School, visitors can see the historic school’s newest garden, completed in 2016 as part of the school’s Arden Project expansion. Founded in 1889, the school relocated to Hancock Park in 1916,  pre-dating much of the development of the surrounding neighborhoods.  In 1967-69, the original Greek Revival style school was demolished and a modern school of the future designed by William L. Pereira was built. During the construction, the trustees became dissatisfied with the landscape plan and turned to Ruth Shellhorn, a noted landscape architect credited with helping to shape Southern California’s iconic modernist aesthetic, to complete the project.

Ruth Shellhorn’s plan for the Marlborough School redesign completed in 1967 (photo courtesy of Marlborough School)

According to Shellhorn biographer Kelly Comras, “While shopping in a local nursery, one of the school’s trustees, Charles Munger, noticed that all the best trees were tagged and on hold for Ruth Shellhorn. He told his wife, Nancy, an alumna of the school and member of the building committee, and Shellhorn was promptly hired as executive landscape architect. This project was the first of many residential, campus, and park design commissions for the Mungers and their friends.”

Shellhorn’s design considered the residential neighborhood of early twentieth-century mansions by planting elm and magnolia trees along the border of the then four acre site. On the corner of Third Street and Rossmore Avenue, she planted a pair of Canary Island pine trees that remain on the site today. Many of the white-flowering evergreen pear trees are still there, including the espaliered pear trees along the perimeter wall. She used a palette of green and white, with lavender wisteria and violet trumpet vine, to honor the school colors, purple and white.

In 2006, Shellhorn returned to the campus following the opening of  Munger Hall,  a new classroom and visual arts center that replaced the former library with the atrium she designed. As part of that project, much of the campus grounds were re-designed,  removing the lawns and creating a more accessible single level to the campus.  At the time, Shellhorn, then in her nineties, visited the campus and was pleased with what she saw, according to Peter Chinnici, Marlborough School archivist and historian.

Marlborough School Library with atrium garden designed by Ruth Shellhorn (photo courtesy of Marlborough School)

The latest addition, completed in time for the 2016- 2017 school year and known as the Arden Project, expanded the athletic field, the construction of new swimming and aquatic center with a fitness and wellness facility, additional surface parking and a 5,500 square foot garden designed as a gathering space that can also be used as an outdoor classroom.

Arden Project garden space provides a gathering place for school events and just hanging out for students.

Six Private Gardens
The Los Angeles Open Days program is often on the westside of the city, but this year’s tour of gardens is concentrated in our neighborhood, with all the gardens within bicycling distance of each other. Two gardens are across the street from each other and two are on the same street in Fremont Place, making it very easy to cover all the gardens and still have time for lunch nearby on Larchmont Blvd. or La Brea Avenue.

Below are photos and descriptions written by the garden hosts of  the gardens that will be open on Sunday. More information can be found online at the Garden Conservancy.

Villa Abondaza in Windsor Square

Villa Abbondanza – Our garden was one of the first front-yard gardens in Windsor Square. We bought our 1920s Italianate-style house in 1986 and began renovations in 1989. We replaced a weedy front lawn with a garden. We ripped out dead rose bushes to make room for a swimming pool. We built high stucco walls to enclose the new pool and created a rear courtyard with an outdoor fireplace. The olive and guava trees, along with the hardscape and the climbing roses, are all that remain from experiments with a mostly native garden in the 1980s and a garden of roses and flowering perennials in the 1990s. Today, our low-maintenance garden is filled with AloeAgave, assorted other succulents, and Mediterranean perennials. The ground is covered in Yosemite pebbles. The rear courtyard garden is full of potted trees and shrubs with colorful foliage. There is a wall of vintage plant hangers filled with succulents. Blue-flowering Petrea volubiliscovers the walls. The new courtyard and the original loggia are paved in concrete tiles with slate accents.

The Chung Garden in Fremont Place

The Chung Garden – This Fremont Place garden is a treasure trove of rare and exotic plants. Precisely and artfully planted, the garden is a horticulturalist’s dream with unique varieties of roses, succulents, palms, and fruiting and flowering trees. The front garden is planted with a variety of fragrant plumerias intermixed with succulents and roses. Individual irrigation systems have been installed to provide the right amount of water for the various types of plants. Mrs. Chaney Chung and plant expert and designer Youn Kim have carefully replanted the entire property in miniature vignettes, with plants suited to each room of the garden, surrounding one of the most historic homes on Fremont Place. Built in 1924, the home was designed by Myron Hunt, a prominent architect of the era. The new garden, installed last year, provides a wonderful new setting for this architectural classic.

The Lombard-Simon Garden in Fremont Place

The Lombard-Simon Garden – We did the front garden soon after we bought this traditional 1937 house in the early 1990s. It is a shady grove of California live oaks, surrounded by majestic Italian cypresses. The path to the front door is flanked by boxwood parterres. A garden maze next to one side of the front door was designed for our oldest daughter, then three years old. The back garden is on two levels. In the far back, the lower (originally a paddle tennis court) became a play space surrounded by California sycamores and Podocarpus trees. Later we renovated the court space to become a sports court with basketball hoop. In 2004, after we added on to the back of the house, Judy Horton designed the gardens and courtyard on the upper level. She clad the two-story house with purple wisteria and yellow ‘Lady Banks’ roses, shaded the terrace with a Chinese elm, and filled the beds with Mediterranean shrubs. Four years ago, after the guesthouse was remodeled for elderly parents, Judy created gardens around the guesthouse and redid the motor court. The pool deck was redone to better fit in with our family’s love of cooking and gardening. One of our pool houses became an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven. All the plantings around the pool are edible: herbs, citrus in pots, vegetables in raised planters. Over the years, the garden has become the focus of family life and provided many hours of pure enjoyment.

The Kathleen Losey Garden in Windsor Square

The Kathleen Losey Garden – I moved into my home in November of 2012 and proceeded to do a major change of the landscape over a two-year period. The front was mostly decomposed granite, succulents, drought-tolerant plants, and a large pepper berry tree, all of which I removed. Of course, I kept the three wonderful Arbutus trees. I also transplanted the Ligustrum hedge from the lower yard and added more, to line the inside of the wall for privacy. On the walkway (where the Arbutus are), I planted a small hedge of ‘Little Ollie’ and filled in with lavender, geranium, and other smaller plants. Last year my daughter moved away, so I incorporated her large boxwoods in terra-cotta pots into the scheme. I wanted a “patch of grass,” so added the Marathon II lawn as you see it now. I also extended the small front patio by three feet, making it usable for hosting cocktails and watching my Standard Poodle and Pomeranian play at the end of the day. I also planted two climbing roses (CI. ‘Royal Sunset’ and ‘Dream Weaver’), which only seem to get better with each passing year. I transplanted small hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangeas, and ‘Iceberg’ roses from my previous garden and was fortunate that the boxwoods were able to be re-transplanted when the work was done. The vintage patio furniture is from my parents’ home in Altadena, and the “arbor seating bench” was brought over, again, from my previous garden.

Moving to the three-tiered back yard:
1. Upper Patio. I removed the huge, overgrown, and messy Eugenia tree, kept the Eugenia hedge, and planted apricot/orange roses, which were brought from my previous garden, as well as a few new ones (‘Carding Mill,’ ‘Pat Austin,’ ‘Brandy,’ and ‘About Face’). On the stairs, I added many succulents in pots. On the railing, the Stephanosis found its perfect spot; it is very abundant in the spring and summer. On the driveway, I filled two baker’s racks with succulents and herbs.
2. Middle Yard. I removed sparse grass and added pea gravel around the stones, trimmed back Podocarpus, and planted a ‘Little Ollie’ (Olea europaea) hedge and four Japanese maples. I built the rose arbor for the ‘Eden’ roses—spectacular in the spring! I transplanted from my previous garden the Snowball Viburnum and hydrangeas, and added propagated Plectranthus along the lower wall/studio. Under trees are propagated begonias. Just below the stair railing is a wonderful propagated and transplanted ‘Cat’s Whiskers,’ or Java Tea (Orthosiphon aristatus), along with jasmine.
3. Lower yard. Once an alley, this part of the garden took some real time and thought to figure out what would work. I immediately installed the creeping fig to cover the white-painted brick wall. I then added the ‘Snowcap’ Indian Hawthorn around the perimeter, more ‘Eden’ roses on the two trellises, and the four standard white crape myrtle trees. I had first planted grass, which did not do well because of the shade, and finally enclosed the perimeter with pea gravel and put artificial turf at this section’s center.

Losey will also have some of her artwork on display and for sale.

The Fischer Garden in Windsor Square

The Fischer Garden –  This Colonial Revival home in historic Windsor Square was designed by architects Hunt and Burns in 1915, with a library addition by Robert Farquhar. The property was recently redesigned to be more drought-tolerant by reducing expansive lawns and to accommodate both intimate and large-scale entertaining. It is divided into rooms tied together by patterned-brick and bluestone paving as well as boxwood hedges. An allée of Holly Oak trees occupies much of the front garden. The back garden includes pergolas, terraces, a fire pit area, rose and raised vegetable gardens, Japanese maples for shade, and a pool with cabana.

The Arden Garden in Windsor Square

The Arden Garden – Since its last appearance on Open Days in 2009, the Arden Garden has matured and undergone a few changes. Under the continuing guidance of landscape architect Joseph Marek, who designed the gardens in 2003, the plantings in the front garden have been pared down to green Pittosporum balls and Ligustrum shrubs with a few flourishes of color coming from drifts of lavender and ‘Golden Celebration’ roses. Privet cones at the front door and Italian cypress sentinels punctuate the architecture of this stately Windsor Square home. The King palms and olive tree in the back garden have reached majestic proportions, providing shade to the spa garden and to the kitchen terrace. The vines atop the pergola covering the living and dining spaces are laced out semiannually to provide welcome sun in winter and spring and cooling shade in the warmer months, which often stretch through the fall holidays. The small central lawn, or tapis vert, surrounded by a new hedge of Rhaphiolepis umbellata ‘Minor’, has been further reduced and is now a mere “throw rug.” It still serves however as a green counterpoint to the Sweetwater sandstone “floors” and pool coping and to the gravel paving throughout the garden. Please visit again or for the first time!

Los Angeles Open Days 2018
Start at Marlborough School
250 South Rossmore Avenue
Open Days visitors are invited to enter the school through the Third Street security kiosk into the parking lot.
Start your tour at the Marlborough School on Sunday, May 6 between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., where discounted tickets (6 for $35) and maps to all of the Los Angeles area gardens will be available. Enter at the security kiosk into the parking lot on West 3rd Street between South Rossmore Avenue and Arden Boulevard. Admission is free.


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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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