Tag Archives: Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour

catching up with Dustin Gimbel

This has really been Dustin’s year, and I think a recap is in order.

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Dustin Gimbel, Second Nature Garden Design

In early 2017 Dustin and Potted launched his Point Pot.

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Long Beach’s own “communal dining space,” Steelcraft, let us play around with some Point Pots at their shiny new outdoor venue, which cleverly repurposes multiple shipping containers to house food vendors. (Thank you, Kimberly!)

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After all, Long Beach is one of the biggest ports in the world, and containers stacked and stretching seemingly to the horizon is a familiar sight now. (But it wasn’t always so. I vividly remember my dad’s “On The Waterfront” cargo hook in the back of our VW bug before the harbor was fully containerized and goods still came in burlap sacks or loose piles in ships’ holds that had to be stevedored by big muscles. Malcom McLean forever changed all that.)

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The Point Pot at Steelcraft seemed like a good fit. I’m a fan of the potential of empty vessels of all kinds, whether filled with tillandsias or ramen shops. It’s all a matter of scale.

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Love the name of this microbrewery. (Los Angeles aka Smog City — might as well own it.)

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Dustin’s pace this year makes me feel like I’m moving at the speed of an old Galapagos tortoise. He’s a one-man artists’ colony. Luckily, there will be a couple opportunities for you to catch up with Dustin this spring.

The first opportunity will be April 27-30 at the Southern California Spring Garden Show, where he’s been a frequent contributor. I have no idea what he’s whipping up this year so I’ll be as surprised as you.

The second opportunity will be a tour of his private garden May 6-7 via the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour. It was at Mary Lou’s legendary, much-loved nursery many years ago that I first met teen-aged Dustin, before he apprenticed at Great Dixter, Heronswood, Greenlee’s nursery, etc, etc.

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And his private garden is currently looking exceptionally fine, having been primped and and tricked out for a photo shoot that will grace the pages sometime next year of one of the West Coast’s premiere garden/lifestyle magazines. Ferrying Mitch to the airport a couple days ago, I took a detour to Dustin’s and pushed Mitch out the door to grab some quick photos. Because everything was just so perfect.

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Fermob with matching California poppies. Perfect, right?
Dustin was hoping the Aristolochia gigantea would be in full bloom for the shoot, but alas gardens don’t always cooperate with such human timetables. But I bet it’s in bloom for the upcoming tour.

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Orange planter in back is vintage, the low white bowls in foreground are Dustin’s.

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This might be my favorite out of his new Robby the Robot/Forbidden Planet series.

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The shelving was newly built to accommodate the burgeoning number of pieces coming out of his studio just behind that wall.
The center, legged piece has been dubbed, if I remember correctly, “lambypants.” (Or maybe I just made that up.)

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Ripe lemons snuggle up to the totems now.

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The aristolochia vine just coming into bloom.

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The front garden this year is predominantly white, silver and green, with touches of orange from aloes, leucospermum, and leonotis.
Linen-white Minoan lace, the umbellifer Orlaya grandiflora, is just coming into bloom among agaves, weeping acacias, and lots of other treasures.
See for yourself this May. Check out the maps and other info on the self-guided tour here.

All photos by MB Maher

some upcoming events this weekend 4/30-5/1/16



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Tillandsias can perch just about anywhere with the right conditions, including on other plants.

This weekend brings the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden tour.
I don’t think I’ll be able to make it, so if you go, link back here maybe, so I can catch up.
(Spring has been so hectic that I actually made a dry run to one of the properties last weekend, mistaking the dates…oy!)

One of my jobs this week was located across the street from Rain Forest Flora (oh, sweet serendipity!)
I popped in just before closing and nabbed a couple tillandsias.
(T. bulbosa gigante and T. caput-medusae)

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A flier at the checkout counter of Rain Forest Flora was a handy reminder that there will be a bromeliad show this weekend
It will be presented by La Ballona Valley Bromeliad Society, held in conjunction with Sunset Cactus & Succulent Show and Sale.
Both shows and sales will be held at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 4117 Overland Avenue, Culvery City, CA. (323) 294-9839.

Happy weekend!


N.B. My Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is producing prodigious amounts of seed this year. Let me know if you want to practice your propagation skills on some.

on the tour; Passiflora vitifolia

The self-guided Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour stretches from my hometown in Long Beach to about 50 miles south, as far as San Clemete and Mission Viejo. For much too short a span of time, but long enough for so many to become diehard devotees, Mary Lou had the best selection of plants in the South Bay, very much in the style of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials up in Richmond, California, which I think was still wholesale when Mary Lou closed her doors. I was there, along with dozens of other admirers who came to offer our warm thanks that day she closed in 2002, too sick and weak to keep the nursery open any longer, and she died very soon after. Maybe one or two others have tried, but no other local nursery of its kind, with a passion for plants that dared to resist mass-market tastes, has succeeded since the day she locked the gates for the last time.

There were a couple houses on the tour about a mile from me, so those are the ones I chose to attend and drop a stipend in the donation jar for Mary Lou’s favorite charity, The Sheepfold.


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Lazy sloth that I am, freeway driving holds no appeal after a busy workweek. But it was well worth attending the two close to home last Saturday, if only to see this vine in full, heat-aroused glory.
The owner didn’t know its name, but it’s got to be Passiflora vitifolia, the Grape-Leaved Passion Fruit.

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Also goes by Crimson Passion Flower, and why wouldn’t it?

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Buds and bracts were seductively rusty in tone, backed by lush and healthy leaves. It was overall just a stunning vine that the owner admitted was too much for its small trellis to handle. The owner also said never again to opening his garden for a tour. Battling the effects of the heat wave pre-tour had frazzled his nerves. The rest of the garden was in a style that the owner characterized as cottagey, with unhappy roses that had fried in the strong sun, but enormous and healthy, mite-resistant fuchsias for the shadier areas, both some of Mary Lou’s favorite plants, so I know she’d be pleased. And people clamor to have their gardens on this tour, so even if some drop out there are plenty waiting in line. Mary Lou’s legacy tour is still as strong and vibrant as its namesake.


fine weather for garden tours


The overcast skies burned off late morning but temperatures stayed moderate with light breezes. Nice garden touring weather. More will be forthcoming from the Venice Garden & Home Tour later this week, but Sunday’s tour deserves a quick post because it is a very special event to us locals, the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour. To learn why this tour is so special, you must read Dustin’s heart-tugging tribute to Mary Lou on his blog here. It may come as a surprise — it has always surprised me — that with few exceptions Southern California has been largely bereft of great local plant nurseries. One such beloved exception was the wonderfully curated plant nursery Mary Lou Heard created in the drive-by city of Westminster, on the border of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, that drew in believers from cities in both counties. The tour reflects this spillover, with tour gardens weighted probably more toward Orange County. It was at Mary Lou’s nursery many years ago that I first met a teen-aged, plant-crazed Dustin Gimbel. (As a customer of the nursery when Dustin worked there, I distinctly remember having a discussion bordering on argument about erodium with him.)

To have his own garden included on her namesake tour this year is a very special, full-circle moment for Dustin and Mary Lou and their friendship that began with a love of beautiful plants.

Grevillea strutting on the tour
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These are all photos of Dustin’s garden, the only garden on the tour I attended Sunday. The back garden has been the focus of Dustin’s attentions recently and has undergone a dramatic transformation. It now includes large vegetable beds, an outdoor dining area, and the newly completed water garden built from concrete blocks. (All the materials in Dustin’s garden come from the humblest of origins.) That simple wooden screen affords the most amazing framing opportunities of multiple shifting views through the cut-outs from either side of the screen, plants billowing on one side, glasses clinking on the other. The new water garden is ingeniously sited under a cut-out, straddling both the dining area and outer garden. Watching the breeze-driven meanderings of those glass floats would be a fine summer evening’s entertainment.

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Acacia pendula gaining size on the rebar arbor in the front garden.

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For a look at Dustin’s front garden in soft evening light instead of mid-day glare, check out this post from fall 2010.


friday’s clippings 5/4/12

Spring is such a great whoosh of a season, isn’t it? A spring weekend really needs to be four days to accommodate all the incredible stuff there is to do. Let’s get those bright minds in Congress on that right away. Here in Southern California, tomorrow, May 5, is the Venice Garden and Home Tour, which overlaps the Jane Jacobs Walks that are taking place in cities across the globe. The “What Would Jane Do” walk for Los Angeles will take place in the Silver Lake neighborhood and includes former homes of Richard Neutra and Anais Nin. (Raise your hand if you read the entire collection of Nin’s diaries in your late teens/early twenties.) You can see if there’s a walk taking place in your city here. The Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour also takes place this weekend, and guess who’s on the tour Sunday? Some clues: He’s on my blogroll and is a garden designer and master of the non-sequitur who will be opening his garden Sunday to the curious hordes, of which I am and always will be one. Addresses on the self-guided tour for both days can be found here.

And without any context, just some odds and ends from recent garden tours.


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Top three photos by MB Maher.