Exploring Los Angeles Gardens With The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Over the weekend, The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) enchanted garden lovers with exclusive access to some private estates throughout the city of Los Angeles. Garden Collage had the pleasure of roaming throughout a butterfly garden sanctuary, a holy chapel nestled in the Santa Monica mountains, and a groovy pad where a goat and pony nibbled on spiky green grass. All in the name of “teaching people to ‘read’ the landscape that surround them, to understand how changes affect these special places, and to become better stewards of our significant landscape heritage,” the TCLF website reads.

Attendees embarked on tours lead by the property owners— their knowledge and passion was abundant and more affecting than the rays of sun that beamed down on us as they spoke. Each dialogue centered the importance of engaging with the landscape around us— the fragrance, color, tiles, placement of cypress trees, the mirroring of buildings, the filleting of stone to form a riser leading your eyes up towards a fountain. These purposeful details add a crispness that effortlessly guides you throughout the space.

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Mission Hill Family Chapel

In 1999, Pamela Burton began designing what would in time become the Mission Hill Family Chapel in Agoura Hills, CA. An enormous and intentionally rustic-looking gate greets you as you drive up a winding path lined with a mortar-less stone wall. Next you arrive at a green parking lot with permeable surfaces (which is now a standard and sometimes a requirement in California) that was designed to save water; sycamore trees billow overhead. 38,000 plants covered this state-of-the-art space with an irrigation system designed to monitor water flow by shutting down and alerting the owner when there is a problem. The plant material, which acts as a fuel mod (reducing wildfire risk for the surrounding area) is low-use material, meaning that without water these native plants and flowers can still thrive. The same applies to the Bermuda Lawn, which can comfortably go dormant and turn yellow like the surrounding hillside. The blue agave (which acts as a barrier from the steep hillside next to the chapel) and prickly succulents also thrive with little water. As for the buildings, inspiration came from Junípero Serra, founder of the Spanish missions of California. Those wanting to check out the space can attend mass on Sunday at 12:30 PM at the Mission Hill Family Chapel (where you’ll find a beautiful hand-painted Wall of The Divine).

Butterfly House

This California-Mediterranean house, former home of architect, Buzz Yudell and architectural colorist, Tina Beebe, greets you with a lush olive grove leading you to the narrow house above. Around back a former writer for House & Garden has planted a citrus grove with a Meyer lemon tree, kumquat’s, and mandarinquats. A ping-pong court is stationed in the middle. Low branches hang overhead and soon you reach alcoves that the owner has created to bridge the gap between garden and home. She points to a sunburned camellia that she created a little tent for in order to nurse it back to health. Bright orange flowers are paired next to dark purple hues leading us down to the pool and monarch butterfly haven. Beneath untreated wooden chairs is a chrysalis (soon to yield butterflies). Somewhere between scratching mandarinquats and smelling the flowers, Pierce Brosnan appears to greet his good friend. Unfortunately he didn’t break out into song, but he did express his love for gardens as we sipped homemade lemonade with mint from the garden; just another day in Malibu.

Amalfi House

With earthy pebbles and fleshy succulents beneath his feet, Jay Griffith said his hellos to dialogue attendees. “Close the gate behind you, I have a goat and pony in the backyard,” he said with a signature straw hat atop his head. The home, built in 1933 for silent film star Billie Dove, is a one-acre site with 120-foot elevation overlooking Rustic Canyon. The front garden is inspired by the Court of the Myrtles in Seville, Spain, with steel planters nodding to the work of sculptor Richard Serra. Once everyone has convened in the backyard, Griffith cuts fruit for guests while sharing stories about working with Brad Pitt and Saudi royalty. He mused about how he fell in love with this house when it was for sale years ago, convincing clients that the space could be reborn. One day it clicked, and he realized this space was meant to be his home. Griffith did away with everything but the swimming pool in the backyard, and he created a pond with water lilies to maximize the breathtaking panoramic views. Amalfi Street is sought-after real estate in the Pacific Palisades, but many of the homes have been gutted. Griffith found a way to maintain the California Monterey colonial style while showcasing what he does best: designing an innovative oasis.

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