Pacific Palisades Garden Tour Inspires Landscape Ideas

By Libby Motika and Laurie Rosenthal
Photos by Lesly Hall Photography

The annual Pacific Palisades Garden Tour, set for noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 22, promises a variety of landscape ideas that showcase the bounty of plants that thrive in our Mediterranean climate.

Some of the gardens focus on the picturesque, where plants provide a structured garden with color all year long. Other gardens match landscape and hardscape to create comfortable living environments for recreation.

The seven gardens on the tour include six private residences and the Palisades Native Plant Garden and Xeriscape in Temescal Canyon.

Presale tickets ($30) are available online (visit: or at the following locations: 1.) Gift Garden Antiques in Pacific Palisades, 2.) Merrihew’s Sunset Nursery in Santa Monica and 3.) Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery in West L.A.

On tour day, there will be home-baked cookies for sale and filtered water for tour guests.

Highlights of the gardens located in Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica and Brentwood follow.


Resting on one of the smaller lots in Brentwood Park is perhaps the most charming home in the entire neighborhood. 

The residence, close to Allenford, is a peaceful oasis just blocks away from Paul Revere Charter Middle School.

The homeowners, native Angelenos who met at Hamilton High School, have lived there for 30 years, and before that, they spent many years in the Palisades.

Landscaper Diane Kennedy worked with the couple to transform the space, so that from inside parts of the house, both the front and back gardens are visible.

Storybook home in Brentwood Park.

The long backyard, which was once all brick, features a salt pool with man-made rock, waterfall, ferns and a stone walkway. Lots of greenery makes the area extremely private.

Huge deodar cedars and redwoods, as well as a 40- year-old lime tree that was expected to die long ago, add to the lush feeling of the front yard. A koi pond, camellias, colorful flowers and a brick walkway all add up to a garden filled with little surprises throughout.

What was once real grass is now artificial turf, and a winding path is made up of stones and pebbles. A seating area is situated on top of rocks, placed around a large tree to keep its roots dry. A bench is made out of a large stone slab with smaller stone legs.

The garden shed is filled with fairy supplies and is where one of the homeowners makes small fairy gardens, which are scattered throughout the property.

Brentwood Park was subdivided in 1909. The house is about 100 years old, and some of the trees are about the same age.


For years the homeowner looked out her front window at the Tuscan house across the street, secretly wishing it was hers.

She finally got her wish, three years ago, when her dream house came on the market. Her fondness for Tuscany had grown over several trips to the area, including culinary journeys.

During the remodeling months, the homeowner with the help of the original architect, John Anthony Lewis, designed the garden areas, and added an Italianate tower and an extra pantry.

The house occupies a corner lot, planted with compatible Mediterranean materials, including a pair of cypresses that flank the front door. But the main attraction is the backyard, which had previously been taken up by a tennis court.

A Tuscan garden offers a peaceful place for contemplation.

The vast yard, maintained and replanted by Armando Rodriguez, is divided into areas. The focal point in the center of this garden is a fountain, surrounded by concrete pavers (sourced from the city of Los Angeles) highlighted by black pebbles in the interstices. The homeowner brought the three-tiered fountain from her former house. 

She turned the former ping-pong court into an outdoor room, accented with a Tuscan tiled wall. An iron settee is softened with indigo blue cushions.

Decomposed granite paths lead the visitor through islands of plantings, chosen for texture, height and fragrance, including a rose garden. Olive trees anchor the huge backyard along with Brazilian peppers and more cypress. A swimming pool is located off to one side, allowing for shade and privacy.

The homeowner maintains an orchard with a variety of edibles, including Meyer lemons, blood oranges, Arctic nectarines and figs. She also keeps a chicken coop and an herb garden. 

The secret garden located in the side yard is home to a plant called White Water, a sentimental favorite, brought years ago from Stockholm, where the homeowner’s father could see it from his living room window.


Garden Designer Gabriela Yariv has created a landscape to fit this modified Craftsman house, using a broad palette of California natives that emphasize color and texture.

A pair of olive trees flank the front entrance. Clumped bushes and grasses in a spectrum of greens provide color and texture.

A winding path adds interest for the visitor and a lure to see what will unfold in the back- yard. Along the way, on the south side of the house, the herb garden features rosemary, mint, sage and thyme.

Low seating around a fire pit provides a view looking over Potrero Canyon.

The backyard sweeps laterally across the entire house, which overlooks Potrero Canyon. At the south end of the garden, a blue-green acacia stenophylla with its weeping branches and foliage waves in the breeze. A swimming pool hugs the canyon side, with a large expanse of lawn separating it from the house. A bay laurel hedge hides the pool equipment. The north side is planted with a number of citrus trees including lemons and oranges.

Shrubs range in the blue-grey hues, including olive punctuated by the piecing blue ceanothus. The landscaper has also used the blue oat grass, whose graceful fountains of silver-blue blades form neat ornamental clumps that combine well with other grasses.

The backyard offers an inviting space for quiet conversations around the fire pit or for family barbecues under the covered veranda.

Yariv has designed an exciting landscape exemplifying an expansive knowledge of plants not only from California, but also from Australia and South Africa. 


Taking advantage of L.A. city’s lawn rebate, landscaper Mimi Kahn created a low-lying garden hugging an attractive path of chocolate flagstone pavers.

Two large trees (beech and magnolia) delineate the front yard, holdovers from the original garden. Bushes ranging from blue-green senecio and a pittosporum ground cover, to aeonium, a saucer-plant succulent, and westringia weave around the path, blooming, one or another, at various times year-round.

While the garden has been refreshed with an assortment of plants, Kahn was not doctrinaire. The homeowner’s camellias have found a place of honor silhouetted against the house’s white haft-timber façade. The larger one, camellia japonica, known as common camellia or Japanese camellia, is called “the rose of winter” for obvious reasons. The smaller camellia, the sasanqua, is valued in gardens for its handsome glossy green foliage and fragrant single flowers that can range in color from white to deep pink and are produced extremely early in the season.

An attractive lawn makeover was done on Las Casas.

The handsome blue ceramic pot offers a point of  interest along the garden path. A flare of sword-shaped Tasmanian wax lily sprouts from the top like an Indian headdress.

Sandstone boulders grow out from the foliage, adding to the naturalistic feel of the garden.

Set back from the street and shielded by a hedge, the garden creates a quiet mood for the visitor. A comfort- able wicker sofa is stationed with a view of the garden, for those who wish to pause. 

The backyard is dominated by a fascinating citrus tree, with four different fruits grafted on it: mandarin orange, lime, navel orange and tangerine. 

From a certain vantage point, a visitor can see the Pacific Ocean, out towards the west. A large expanse of grass has been retained for grandchildren. 


On a coveted Santa Monica street overlooking the 12th green of the Riviera golf course is a new house with old roots.

Ted Weiant designed the garden.

A man-made berm in the front hides a private seating area complete with a stone bench and a fountain placed on a large rock, which in turn rests on a large pile of slate. A curvy stone path leads from the street to the front door. Other front-yard highlights include azaleas, dogwood and ash trees.

The homeowners, who do a lot of entertaining and host fundraisers, enjoy having multiple areas inside and outside where guests can mingle.

Rosemary plants, as well as a sculpture brought from the owners’ previous home, decorate the area that leads to the backyard. The sculpture can also be seen from the dining room.

Hillside home offers ocean view and eclectic garden.

From certain angles, the grassy backyard has an infinity-pool feel, seemingly merging with the country club below. At the bottom of the property is an orchard that includes avocado, peach, apple and plum trees. Another part of the yard has citrus trees, including lemon, lime, kumquat and an orange tree transplanted from the front yard.

Also featured is a vegetable garden, blueberry bushes, an olive tree and a shade garden close to the house with bromeliads and rhododendrons.

Underground tanks for the graywater system recycles most of the home’s water for landscaping. It took about 1-1⁄2 years to receive approval from the City of Santa Monica.

Since the water is recycled and the grass is irrigated from underneath, the homeowners didn’t feel guilty about having a lawn. They hope one day, sooner rather than later, that grandkids will be running around, enjoying the space.

The original house was built in the 1920s and redone in 1994 by the former owners. The current owners gutted much of the house, but did not tear it down. Round windows in the front are original, as is the garage. 


A joint venture between landscaper Susanne Jett and her clients has resulted in an eclectic, drought- tolerant garden with a storied history.

Jett explains that the property has “first seacoast exposure with lots of fog,” which means it’s an area where the coastal plant community can thrive.

One of the homeowners grew up in the home, which has been in her family since 1958. Located on three-fourths of an acre, it was the last house in the development to sell; the property was once part of Deanna Durbin’s estate.

A mix of old and new, some of the plantings are decades old, including a large juniper tree, magnolias and camellia bushes. The jacaranda tree is from the late 1950s, and another plant was a wedding gift from 1991.

The garden is a hodgepodge of foliage collected over the years, including fuchsias, poppies, geraniums, bougainvillea and sage. A vegetable garden is in the planning stages, and grapevines and citrus trees provide edible fruit.

Many plants native to South Africa (where the other homeowner hails from) dot the landscape, including different kinds of leucadendron (Safari Sunset and Safari Goldstrike).

The property is a continual work in progress, with Jett having worked since November to reconfigure the landscaping.

Plants and trees were moved, and new items were added, including gorilla-hair mulch (shredded redwood) in the front. Bad soil was eliminated, and replaced with a “good-quality organic compost,” Jett said.

The wide-open backyard is expansive, with a view of the ocean as well as many recently constructed tiers where before was a bland hillside.

Concrete, colored and textured to look like stone, makes up the backyard patio, which used to be old and small. “The idea is that it looks old and matches the driveway,” Jett said.

Before and after pictures will be onsite the day of the tour.

Jett is passionate about her work and enjoys working with involved clients. “It’s nice to work with homeowners who are actively engaged in their garden,” she said.


The xeriscape native garden on the east side of Temescal Canyon Road demonstrates the variety of native and drought-tolerant plants that are not only compatible with nature, but also attract indigenous wildlife. Over 600 new specimens representing dozens of species, mainly broadleaf flowering evergreens, have been planted in this 3/4-acre plot below Bowdoin.

Over the years of its development, thanks to the efforts of Palisades garden designer Michael Terry with volunteers under the leadership of community organizer Barbara Marinacci, the garden has been transformed from an abandoned native garden into a thriving garden that is home to native butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and songbirds.

Truly a local venture, the garden has enjoyed the support of both Palisades Beautiful and the Pacific Palisades Garden Club.

Temescal Canyon Road native garden offers inspiration.
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