The theme of this year’s LA Garden Show, “A Festival of Flavors,” is timely and delectable. The show is produced by the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Arcadia (just east of Pasadena), a 127-acre destination with a diverse plant collection, inspiring display gardens and natural habitat-inspired landscapes. The three-day flower show runs through Sunday, May 3rd. The event’s honorary chairs are Clara and Jacob Maarse of the famous Pasadena rose nursery and florist, and Rosalind Creasy, garden writer and pioneer in edible landscaping.
Most of the flower shows I’ve participated in have been indoor shows, so when I arrived last night to attend the preview gala, I was reminded of how alluring an open-air flower show can be. There’s nothing like the sky overhead, the sounds of screeching peacocks that wander the Arboretum grounds, the fragrances and textures of plants from every continent — and the conviviality of friendships — to put me in a perfect festive mood.
Upon entering the Arboretum, we first stopped off at the “marketplace” of plant vendors, garden artists and purveyors of cool stuff, which occupies the lower lawn adjacent to Baldwin Lake. The collection of white tents, topped with jaunty flags, put a smile on my face. I felt as if I was in Europe rather than Los Angeles. The two hours allotted to previewing the sales area was barely enough – but no worry, because I’ll be back there on Sunday to do some more damage to the checkbook (That’s after my 11 a.m. “Garden Chat” ).
As I strolled along the grassy pathways between each tent, poked my head inside several to check out the offerings, and chatted with fellow party-goers, I said to myself: These are my people!
I was surrounded by kindred spirits who love gardens, plants, ornamentation, vintage finds, and more.
A couple of highlights included visiting with Libby Simon of Libby’s Vintage Home & Garden and her friend Nancie Piser, fellow collectors of salvage, old linens, elderly gardening books, retro dishes and glassware, anything tin, rusted or galvanized, and more!
Oh, and Libby also specializes in unusual cactuses – I came home with a nifty specimen (Euphorbia handiensis) that I quickly re-potted in a turquoise-glazed pot for my garden.
My friend Paula Panich and I had a few acquisitive moments, inspired by all the unique finds these two women featured in their tent. I came home with an old garden spray-nozzle and some awesome vintage books, including an almost-mint 1932 edition of The Fragrant Path: A book about sweet scented flowers and leaves, By Louise Beebe Wilder (perfect for a friend’s upcoming birthday). Here’s what Miss Beebe Wilder writes in her opening lines:
A garden full of sweet odours is a garden full of charm, a most precious kind of charm not to be implanted by mere skill in horticulture or power of purse, and which is beyond explaining. It is born of sensitive and very personal preferences yet its appeal is almost universal.
Here is a map of The Arboretum and the Garden Show features:
Inspired, my eyes drifted over to the next tent over, which was filled with lively ceramic spires pleasing to the visual senses. Leslie Codina, a local Los Angeles area artist, creates whimsical stacked towers of color, pattern and form. The 5- to 7-foot-tall sculptural creations are formed first in Leslie’s imagination as she “interprets the shapes and colors of nature into her garden sculpture.”
Leslie renders individual elements in clay, then shapes, curves, twists, carves and rolls the medium into fantastical armitures, balls, finials and wing-like shapes.
Firing and glazing steps follow, featuring a mix-and-match palette of lime, plum, apricot, red, orange, blue, aqua and lavender.
I first learned of Leslie from photographer pal Gene Sasse, who has done much of the photography that appears on her web site. He urged me to seek Leslie out – and boy am I glad I finally did.
Leslie has just donated a grouping of four 8- to 12-foot tall sculptures as a permanent installation at the Arboretum. The collection appears in the “Garden for All Seasons” display, which represents each phase of the year.
After shopping and browsing, several of us moved to the “Designer Lawn” area of the Arboretum, where the cocktail reception was underway.
The displays, created by talented area landscape firms and individuals, brings together the idea of ”edible” and “ornamental” worlds co-existing in the garden. Here are a few of the innovative ideas showcased:
“Punctuation in the Garden: A Gallery of Edible Container Gardens,” created by the local members of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD):
I’ve admired and been privileged to write about the design work of several APLD members, both in the Washington State chapter and now in the California chapter. The group of a dozen folks who created eye-catching edible focal points has come up with some pretty fun interpretations of an “edible container.”