Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It's a Wrap~ 25th Annual Southern California Spring Garden Show

"Spring unlocks the flowers to paint the laughing soul."
~ Bishop Reginald Heber

For 25 years,  South Coast Plaza has delighted gardeners and wanna-be gardeners with visions of springtime. 

Now is the season for miracles. A waist-high to a basketball player covey of quail, appear perfectly possible. 

The 20' tall birdbath floral centerpiece
Floral fantasies at center court made the ladies feel sprite and lovely as fairy tale princesses. The men, their gallant princes. There was nary a grump. Better: lots of cameras handed to strangers to record a happy memory .

Once upon a time, fields of beans grew on the flat land. Now a luxury mall, with the second highest sales per square foot on the West Coast, South Coast Plaza is a karmic setting for the spring garden tour season opener. 

This is an event for all budgets; even no budget. Attendance doesn't require a ticket or parking fee. Just a parking spot and a pair of walking shoes. 

Backyard Bees sells luscious products made by tiniest workers  
This year there were 75 vendors, including Backyard Bees. 4 days of free seminars and 11 gardens in competition. The official listing of who was there and how to contact is found here.  My notes, follow- 


Trends are leadership translated into reality. 

Gourd Hobbit House by Living Art of Bonsai
Miniaturization. Electronic components aren't alone. So are gardens elements. Fairy Gardens were planted in wagons, over boot tops, under bonsai and even inside birdcages. 

Succulents.  Simple capped posts with rain gutters planted with succulents- how cool a divider is this?

A pedestal birdbath is frosted in succulents. The silver creamer lighting up the deliciousness, just like a candle on a birthday cake.

Sustenance. This bowl reminded me of  Scottsdale designer David Michael Miller's explaining an interior image for Western Art and Architecture- his philosophy includes: every room requires something live to ground the scene.  

Some of the plants for sale were for their visual appeal alone, but not all.  There was allot of action at the herb table. I'm not the only one with with basil on the kitchen counter.

Color: if it is is in the rainbow-  choose what colors stir your heart, uplifts your spirit. 

Greenwood Gardens often sells at So Cal Hort Meetings. 
Geraniums, iris, orchids, roses, succulents- The major trend of the day: 

Diversity is in. 

John Schoustra, owner of Greenwood Gardens, helped me finagle my way onto a tag-along of the garden judges. Besides John, there was horticultural wizard Jay Rodriguez: author/ speaker Melinda Meyers. There was the beautiful  Johanna Silver, Associate Editor at Sunset Magazine and John Gidding, host of Curb Appeal.

John Gidding, photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Of the judges, John Gidding was definitely the most approached. He was absolutely charming to the fans asking his autograph. 

Melinda Meyers seriously comparing gardens to documents

(L-R) Patty Nelson and John Gidding review the judging forms

A pro-am event, Jay Rodriguez explained the gardens are judged on a 100 point weighted scale. The elements considered were theme interpretation, originality, design, accessories, quality of construction, finishing, plant material and correct labeling.

While they rounded the gardens, checking once, twice, three times for their impressions to be accurate and fair, I aimed my camera at some elements for making a better garden.

Design inspired by Thomas Church
Gardens need focal points. Some serious sculpture  dominates this scene.

Design by the Landscape Design Alumni Association of Saddleback College
Geometrically arranged succulents framed as living wall art is now mainstream.

A vignette from the "Garden of Self- Realization"
Garden ornamentation, ancient through modern  is au courant.

Mulches and ground cover- juxtaposing delicate lamium edge edging against bold pine cones- magic!

Front side of "Mt SAC: On a Mission" display garden

Our local San Gabriel Valley Community College, Mt. San Antonio College Horticulture Club  presented a wonderful Mission-inspired garden. The cap-post filled with succulents to thrill, fill and spill over the small space- this is one of the touches which garnered 3rd third place in the college competition.

A Japanese maple specialist's entry sprung from Ralph Waldo Emerson's words " Adopt the peace of nature: her secret is patience." 

The reincarnated high- recycled content replica slices of tree trunks as stepping stones- some equipped with planting pockets... 

The proprietress did not have the number of the person who bought the molds off the artist when he left the business- but you can contact Essence of the Tree  through their website to find out. 

The Rusted Rose looked to the Nixon Library Rose Garden for inspiration. "The First Lady's Garden" placed the roses named in honor of six first ladies, then carried the theme with other plant materials as well as decorative accessories found just up the road on the museum grounds in  Yorba Linda.

Seating. Shelving. Decorative elements. Greenery. Retailer The Plant Stand  detailed how the accoutrements of indoor living marry well to the outside landscape. 

Soothing repetition can be created by disparate elements. Here, a vertical slice of tree trunk made into a bench is tinted and polished- an agreeable companion to the roses at its side.

The first place college entry 
A finishing touch: wooden slats tinted to show off the plant material.  The spirit of rusticity is reinforced through random repeating of a limited choice of  vertical stain boards. Note the retaining wall band capping- a finishing touch which elevates the design. Kudos's to the Orange Coast College Horticulture Club for their 21st century interpretation of the 20th Century aesthetic and value of  sculptor/ gardener Isamu Noguchi. 

Vega Landscape  took second place in the professional competition with their gently swirling design. By limiting plant material, and laying the wooden pathway on the diagonal, they made a huge impression on a limited space. Note the uplit fountain at the end. Gardens should be enjoyable when the sun goes down.

Robert Irwin's use of multiple materials at the Getty Gardens inspired LandWorkshop, inc intricate weave of plant and building materials. Interesting from every angle, the judges voted this 3rd place in the professional category. 

Not pictured, the surfboard.

Back to Natives  highlighted the joys of a simple garden. A couple Adirondack chairs set on a deck with sand washing over- seating areas are de rigueur. 

Strollers through the mall paused in admiration of the tranquil beauty of the  The Garden Gallery  pond-dominated installation. Inspired by the Huntington Garden and Library Japanese Garden, it elements are replete with meaning . The event brochure explains "The use of old reclaimed wood in the design evokes age and stability, while the Koi in the pond provide interest, movement and good fortune." 

The 2nd place winner in College Category, an ode to California's seasons
The Landscape Design Alumni Association of Saddleback College  in their own words to the judges, "Few Regions of the world offer the year round outdoor lifestyle of Southern California" (This design) "brings this home by placing you inside, gazing outside to the four glorious California seasons. With a nod to the iconic California design of Thomas Church and an eye for the sustainability we present; 

"Golden fall, when the foothills shimmer. 

Silvery green winter, bringing life sustaining rains.

The exuberant colors and life of a Southern California spring, when the air is filled with hummingbird buzz. 

The seemingly endless summer of surf, sand and bloom." 

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all you do to make the world more beautiful.  


  1. What a rare treat to see all these many entry's....One more Beautiful than the next! I am very partial to Succulents, so it was GREAT to see so many...And I love different ones bunched together....This was a wonderful post Lydia.....So much living beauty under one roof, so to speak....!

  2. I can tell I'm going to have to come back to read your review in more detail! So much to see and explore and be inspired. Some friends have just taken up beekeeping. Be interesting to see what products they could make.

  3. Bess is very in):-

    You'll have to make the show next year.


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