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

La Piacente, One of Five Local Gardens Open Saturday for Garden Conservancy Open Days

Stanley Gabor in La Piacente in St. Andrews Square, one of five local gardens open this Saturday for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days.


In just three short years, Stanley and Marilyn Gabor transformed their backyard into a peaceful oasis in the charming bungalow neighborhood of St. Andrews Square. “La Piacente” was created from “zippo,” Stanley told us when we visited last weekend as he was getting the garden ready to be open to visitors this Saturday.


Four mature trees form the structure of the garden.


The Gabors moved to Los Angeles three years ago to live closer to family. Daughter Liz and her husband live just two doors away, and daughter Lauren and her family live nearby in Windsor Square. The Gabors are a gardening family, and La Piacente, Italian for “the pleasant,” is a family collaboration with plants and ideas from each other’s gardens, shared among the two generations of gardening Gabors with guidance from garden designer Cheryl Lerner.


Stanley Gabor worked with garden designer Cheryl Lerner to create a peaceful oasis.


Using four mature trees in the otherwise barren backyard, Lerner helped the Gabors create three small gardens, a eucalyptus garden, a pine garden and a cypress garden, all connected by a flagstone path made from recycled stone elements that were on the site. Lerner told us she was guided by Stanley’s desire to have a West Coast water-wise garden with some familiar East Coast plants mixed in. He wanted a mix of greens and deep reds to catch the late afternoon sunlight in the garden.

“I wanted plants we had in our garden in Baltimore like heucheras, nandina and hellebores, along with California plants like cypress and lavender,” explained Gabor. “I wanted a bi-coastal garden!”


Marylin Gabor can see the colorful raised beds from the porch off the kitchen.


The house, a craftsman bungalow built in 1912, features a small wooden garage with an attached former chicken coop that has been converted into an artist’s studio for Lauren. Behind the garage is sunny patio filled with raised beds for vegetables and colorful seasonal flowers that can be seen from the back porch. There’s also a shade garden off the porch, filled with East Coast shade-loving plants like hydrangeas and several camellias relocated from other Garbor family gardens.

“The garden is an amalgam of the familiar and newly found,” according to the Garden Conservancy website. We’d add that it’s also a delightful oasis of color packed into a city backyard.

La Piacente is one of five local gardens that will be open for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program in Los Angeles. Two weeks ago we wrote about Open Days in Pasadena.

“Every year I try to find gardens that are big and some that are small, some done with professional designers others done by homeowners themselves,” explained Jospeh Marek, a landscape architect and member of the board of the Garden Conservancy, who has been selecting gardens for Open Days for more than a decade. The Open Days program started in Los Angeles in 2003 with local garden designer Judy Horton, a former partner of Cheryl Lerner’s, who selected the gardens until she passed the baton to Marek 13 years ago.

This year the garden types include a native garden, El Chaparro, in Windsor Square, created 27 years ago by Lauren Gabor and Scott Goldstein. Across the street is a bonus front garden, Arroyo Seco,  which is largely hidden from the street and features mostly native plants including some edibles.

June Street in Hancock Park is a more formal garden, designed more than 20 years ago by Lin Johnson, featuring proteas, irises, hibiscus, Japanese maples, boxwoods, creeping juniper and California natives.

The McCadden Place garden was designed by Marek for clients who wanted to create contemporary elements to complement their historic Tudor style home, designed by noted LA architect Gerard Colcord. Marek was called in to complete the garden after a new guesthouse, dining terrace, and swimming pool were done by Ascher Davis Architects in New York and Pat Benner in Los Angeles.

“We used a Kurapia, a ground cover that requires approximately one-third to one-half the amount of water required by a traditional lawn,” said Marek. “It gives the look of  lawn but it’s a leafy plant instead of a blade of grass.”


Marek used Kurapia to create the effect of a lawn. Kurapia is a ground cover that was developed in Japan as a water wise alternative to lawn. (photo from Joseph Marek)


“This year we have a range of garden sizes and styles,” said Marek. “The LA gardens are smaller in scale than the Pasadena gardens but they are more manageable in terms of maintenance and much more attainable.  The Open Days are intended to be fun and inspirational. We hope everyone can find at least one idea they can take home and do themselves, whether it’s planting a new favorite plant, or taking out your lawn and planting natives.”

Five gardens all located very close together is the perfect garden tour.  If you’re looking for design inspiration or simply a fun way to while away a few hours this weekend, add Open Days to your weekend plans.

Admission to the gardens for Garden Conservancy members is $5 per person; General admission $10. Children 12 and under free. Visit the Garden Conservancy website for information and tickets.


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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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