Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Mum’s the Word: The La Jolla Secret Garden Tour, Part One

Calandrinia spectabilis 'Rock Purslane'

It’s time again for the La Jolla Secret Garden Tour, and this year, we got to attend as guests.

Last year, we were exhibitors. More than 250 people streamed through our place to explore our fruit trees, cacti, passion flower vines, air plants, carnivorous plants, Ryan’s furniture, et cetera. But the thing about being outdoor exhibitionists (ahem) is that you can’t venture out to see your fellow participants, because you’re hosting. So this year we were excited to spend an afternoon exploring six private gardens — in six wildly varying styles — otherwise hidden away in our charming beach town.

The tour was presented by the La Jolla Historical Society. It took place earlier this month, and highlights included a Moroccan-style courtyard where lanterns hung below a succulent-carpeted incline, a century-year-old rose garden surrounding a Craftsman, hanks of backyard bougainvillea and an impressive stretch of rock purslane blooms with an ocean view. Did we mention the actual human garden gnome at the elementary school?

And afterward, we drank wine.

Today we bring you the first house on the tour! Join us as we nose about the roses…

(Stay tuned for parts two through six, coming soon.)

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Step one: Apply sun protection in hat form.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

The tours are self-guided. Participants are given a map with addresses at check-in.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Woodwinds added even more energy to the landscape.

House #1: Sprawling, sloped, where East Coast flair meets a very Pacific POV

Fun fact — during the 1950s and early ‘60s, this part of town was considered “far out in the country,” complete with stables and bridle trails. And according to the guide booklet, “a consequence of that development today is that many lots along the drive remain large with consequential spreading landscapes.”

This 1.21-acre lot is generous for sure, but it’s also welcoming (and it wasn’t just the musicians playing Baroque music) and bursting with plant life — in the backyard in particular. After passing under the shade of pines and melaleuca trees and blossoming beds of dahlias in the front, guests experience pure plant theater in the back: graded terraces built into a canyon with spectacular views of the Pacific. Overlooking the ribbon of water is a steep meadow of rock purslane (tall and blossoming in hot pinkish purple), carpet roses, Persian carpet (yes, the name of an actual plant), and clouds of climbers that create Insta-vignettes against the architecture. Painted ceramic garden figures kept things playful. One glazed Spanish planter caused us to shift of paradigms completely.

True to its California location, the house itself is ranch-style, but the brick terracing and Cape Cod-style siding and window details reminded us of our beloved East Coast digs.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Striking against the on-again-off-again blue sky is the purple-leafed ‘After Dark’ peppermint willow tree, Agonis flexuosa.

Dahlia galore and yellow variegated agapanthus.

At the front of the house: Dahlias galore and yellow variegated agapanthus.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Behind the house, Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’ was planted to an interesting effect…

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

…The plants transitioned from mostly green to mostly deep wine as you moved across the brick terrace.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Persian carpet (Drosanthemum floribundum) covers a south-facing slope.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Outdoor room with a view. (Plus shadows and chevrons.)

 

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Brick on bougainvillea.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

The ceramics on display made us step back from our clean lines/solid colors mindset. The plants actually kind of match the patterning here, which is very cool — the neon tips of crassula and sedum succulents (and the aloe towering above) take a kaleidoscopic planter into a whole new dimension, a leap from inanimate to animate.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

The steep canyon presents an opportunity for agaves, grasses and rock purslane.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

In all its lanky glory: Calandrinia spectabilis, or rock purslane.

Calandrinia spectabilis (rock purslane)

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Rock purslane is a succulent native to Chile, with poppy-like flowers that appear in spring.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Agave attenuata (foxtail agave) smooths out a blossomy flurry.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

On our way up the hill we ran into Heath Fox, director of the La Jolla Historical Society! Hard to believe it’s been a year since we hosted him at our place.

 

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Petunias and roses curve together to create a rainbow feeling.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

And that wasn’t it! There were still more gardens along the other side of the house on our way out.

 

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

We dream of growing a plumeria this big.

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla, May 2015 - Garden Number 1 - The Horticult Photo Tour