Mum’s the Word: Welcoming the ‘Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla’ to Our Home

Photos by Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit

The secret’s out! Last Saturday we, along with our newly fern-ified yard, were delighted to be included in the La Jolla Historical Society’s Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla. For years and years we’ve wanted to take the tour ourselves, which is, per the website, “a rare invitation to the public to stroll behind the garden gates of some of La Jolla’s loveliest, secluded gardens, normally concealed from view by strategic growth of mature trees, vines or foliage.” Every spring, we would see flyers at our nearby coffee shops and think, “We need to go to this!” But something would always crop up.

If only we knew that someday we’d be among the destinations. Earlier this year, the very lovely, very discerning members of the society got in touch, and after several visits and much consideration, our garden was selected to be one of the seven stops on the tour. Due to our garden’s smaller size, the committee featured our garden as a “Platinum Tour Bonus Garden.”

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

We brought in a medium-size ‘Safari Sunset’ protea shrub from Green Gardens nursery. We love the structure and color of the leaves against the cinder block sculptures.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

We moved our two classic wishbone chairs beneath the guava tree to create a new coffee corner.

It was time to put our ongoing garden projects into high gear — how could we really make this place sing in just three months’ time? As you can imagine, the preps got intense. But that’s Ryan’s MO: go big or go home. Or rather, Go big INSIDE your home. He installed the abovementioned staghorn ferns, and we planted some new flora, including proteas and dahlias from Green Gardens, and, from City Farmers Nursery, tillandsias/air plants, Hylocereus (dragonfruit), and a Costa Rican butterfly vine to climb our TerraTrellis.

Ryan also built outdoor cedar walls for our “fireside room,” a midcentury solution to the ungainly reed fencing we keep banging on about. Within days, he also constructed two new modular chairs to complete a sectional for that area. On Friday, the day before the tour, I picked up some cut flowers (snapdragons, freesia, Queen Anne’s lace and peonies the size of duckpin balls) to arrange in Victorian-inspired tussie-mussies.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

Ryan designed and built two new sectional fireside chairs (near left) to complete the seating area in the fireside room. Also new in this area is the cedar fencing and the papyrus habitat, both of which we will be covering in future posts.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

To evoke a true sense of “how we live,” we put out table settings and left our TRX workout gear attached to the guava tree.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

Our front yard, AKA outdoor living room.

Ammo can herb garden wall - Ryan Benoit Design

Ryan’s ammo can herb wall was looking extra fresh.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

The outdoor shower installed inside a collection of carnivorous pitcher plants.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

Above, the Tillandsia brachycaulos was just starting to bud. Visitors got a preview of Ryan’s top-secret acrylic air plant habitats. (Big reveal coming soon!)

Carnivore terrarium

Guests also got a sneak-peek at the new carnivore habitats that Ryan is working on.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

Near our garden’s entrance, visitors were greeted by the first of three Victorian-inspired tussie-mussies throughout the garden.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

The meaning of this bouquet of pineapple, freesia and lemon thyme? Roughly, “Welcome friends, let’s party.”

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

And then there were…these peonies. Here we’ve stuck them in vintage vases; their out-of-this-world pink pops against the avocado of our picnic table.

And yes, I went full "florcore" with this tropically printed suit from Asos.

And yes, I went full “florcore” with this tropically printed suit from Asos.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

Per the tour’s concept, we had to keep everything sub rosa before the big day. It was not easy keeping mum!

But then Saturday arrived. After a week of scorching temps, the day was mild and breezy. The tour included self-guided guests who stopped by on their own, in addition to seven buses (!) full of guests who arrived at regular intervals — over 250 garden-lovers in total. The day was wonderful — the guests were enthusiastic about Ryan’s furniture and landscaping, including our outdoor kitchen and fireside room, his succulent tables, cage fans/pendant lights, outdoor shower, and ammo can herb wall. We also discussed our vintage finds (’60s Preway fireplace and egg chair from Craigslist), vertical shade garden and our collections of tillandsias and nepenthes pitcher plants.

Guitarist Dusty Brough filled the space with his dreamy flamenco-rooted, jazz- and folk-influenced music.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

Ryan speaks to guests about the seven-year history of our garden.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

Ryan demonstrates the pull-down of our outdoor movie theater screen. We both repeated this move many, many times.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

Guests toured our L-shaped garden.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

Ryan discusses the construction of the living wall behind the guava tree.

Dusty Brough

Dusty Brough filled the space with his flamenco-rooted, jazz- and folk-influenced music.

The wildly fragrant peonies stuck in vintage green vases were also a hit. The bees went bonkers for these flowers, which opened as the day went on, petals ruffling in the breeze.

La Jolla Historical Society volunteers were there to also answer questions about plants. Ditto a rep from the Master Gardener Association of San Diego County, whose website and hotline we will surely be hitting up the next time we need guidance with drooping plants or need some CSI into mysterious chomp-marks.

bees and peonies

Can you smell the peonies from here? The bees are all in these flowers’ business.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - Zonia Button

One of the savvy volunteers, Zonia Button. The scarf around her hat is actually her husband’s Hermès scarf!

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

The LJ Historical Society’s executive director, Heath Fox (center, standing), made a special visit.

All the encouragement and questions and suggestions were incredibly inspiring. (Even as we silently fretted about the cobwebs we forgot/didn’t have time to clear away.) We’d hoped to check out the other houses on the tour, many of which we heard were spectacularly inventive, but there’s always next year.

Thank you to the La Jolla Historical Society for including us among so many fine spaces, thank you to the cheerful volunteers, and thank you to our lively and inquisitive guests. Check out more photos from that very active day, below…

—TH

This loosestrife, a Lysimachia hybrid called 'Midnight Sun,' is an EXCELLENT shade plant. Dig the yellow blooms!

This loosestrife, a Lysimachia hybrid called ‘Midnight Sun,’ is an EXCELLENT shade plant. Dig the yellow blooms!

Prayer plant, from the Maranta genus.

The prayer plant, from the Maranta genus, is also shade- and indoors-friendly.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

Before shots!

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

In this tussie-mussie, snapdragons mean graciousness, and the orange tree leaves signify generosity.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

Danish modern magazine rack

This Danish modern magazine rack, a find from Dazzles in Palm Springs, is a favorite object at our place.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

Our DIY gold headvase has hydrangea on the brain.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

Myrtle + Queen Anne’s lace = “Love is a sanctuary.”

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

We swapped roles for much of the day; I snapped photos of Ryan leading groups through our garden.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

We were thrilled to meet a few guests who had read and remembered the story about our garden in the New York Times last August.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

O hai! It’s always so rare and sweet when the two hosts can grab a portrait together.

air plant and bottle opener

The end of the day called for a cold one. Here a Tillandsia juncea is nestled above the bottle opener drilled into an outdoor partition.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour

After the tour we also uncorked some bubbly to celebrate. Here on this vintage three-tier rolling cart, provided by the Society on behalf of Laura McDonald of Eloquence Design, the glasses almost look too good to drink. Almost.

La Jolla Secret Garden Tour - The Horticult Garden - Ryan Benoit

After months of prep, our newly pruned passiflora basks in the afterglow of a successful, whirlwind tour.

 

  • ehansen298

    Great post. Great garden. You were a welcome addition to this year’s Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla.

    • Thanks! We were honored to be included among such fine company.