The Miracle of a Garden
Why is everyone ever so happy
When wandering within a garden’s spaces?
Could the answer be amidst the scented
Pansies which capture all the beauty of children's faces?
So next when one’s amidst a Rose’s bowers
Put aside your woes and sorrows.
Lend your Inner brilliance on those pathways
Sprinkling miracles about for those who’ll surely follow.
Poem by Regina Drucker, Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member and VRG Historian.
As Regina so magically describes, a garden is truly a place of happiness and splendor. Come and walk through the Virginia Robinson estate, and enjoy how our talented artists perceive Virginia’s beloved Garden in their creations.
Joan said, “It is spring, and the entrance to the Virginia Robinson Estate is a glorious site. Wildflowers in a rainbow of colors dazzle the eye! During our last drought, Superintendent Tim Lindsay’s attention turned to water conservation. He wisely decided to replace the front lawn and create a Wildflower Meadow. It was a festive occasion when Tim sowed the seeds in November, and many of us came to observe the process. The rain and sun did their work, and now our wildflower garden is host to beautiful butterflies and pollinating bees. Butterflies, sometimes called ‘flying flowers’ inspired my watercolor.”
Linda said, “I love the Wildflower Meadows that Tim created. They are always full of surprise – glorious colors, contrasting sizes and shapes, and the gentle movement of the plants as they sway with the wind creates a feeling of peace and contentment. My drawing reflects this random mix of flowers and green foliage.”
Suz said, “The wisteria is my favorite plant in my garden. They are easy to grow from seed so I have them all over the place! I tried to show as much of the plant as possible. I love the tiny tendrils looking for a place to connect and the spent seed pod. The seed pods start out covered in velvet and suddenly in one day, Bang! They spring open in a spiral and fling the seeds everywhere!”
As we walk to the right, we see the towering palms of the majestic Palm Forest, which has the largest collection of King Palms outside of Australia. Under its canopy grow masses of clivia, ferns, and iris. Meandering walkways lead us down to the Wildlife Pond. As we return up the hill, we see the waterfall whose soothing melody permeates the space.
Suz said, “I like to show as much of the plant as possible. It was very challenging to accomplish this with the clivia. I started it when the one yellow clivia in the garden was blooming. By the time I was nearing the end, I had no idea what color the seed pods would be. There were none on the plant. I asked several people, and no one knew! The orange plant seeds go from green to dark red. Finally, I saw an actual plant and voila! They were yellow!”
At the time that Julia painted the Wildlife Pond, there were no ducks or pond. Julia said, “I had never painted water, so I had to research photos to try and understand how to achieve the motion of water. I wanted Harry the cat to be in my watercolor, and of course, the palm trees and the house. The ducks?? I realized halfway through my painting that they were two male ducks. Their green heads were so much prettier to paint! The vision of Tim, Jeanne Anderson and Dorothy Kamins for the Wildlife Pond exceeded all expectations! What an amazing addition to Virginia Robinson Gardens!”
Kerstin said, “Virginia loved everything French, so it is appropriate that the ‘Fleur de Lis’ symbol that represents French Royalty grows in her garden.”
Some years ago, when Marcella Ruble moved to Palm Springs, she donated the potted Epiphyllum Cactus to VRG. This showstopper is so happy with its home that we get about 30 blooms each year, and it grows ever more beautiful.
Tania painted this orchid when renowned British botanical arts teacher Anne-Marie Evans first started to give classes at Robinson Gardens, at the invitation of Tim who is friends with her brother. Coming from London and having organized the Florilegium (a lavishly illustrated book of flowers) at Highgrove with Prince Charles, Anne-Marie was awarded the MBE (or Member of the British Empire) among many other honors. The VRG members and guests felt very privileged to learn from her. Tania became very passionate about painting these challenging beauties, and she and Barbara Jaynes were instrumental in continuing this important Botanical Program at the Gardens. Some of the paintings in this article were done under the guidance of our amazing teacher Anne-Marie who taught at Robinson Gardens for 19 years.
As we leave the Palm Forest, we approach the Tennis Court with its marvelous bougainvillea.
Robin said, “What inspired me was the amazing trunk growth and its age, another one of the many unique botanical treasures of Virginia Robinson Gardens.”
Next on our sojourn is Virginia’s Display Rose Garden adjacent to the Sumner Hunt-designed Pool Pavilion. Virginia loved roses, planting over 400 specimens throughout her estate. This garden is filled with many of her favorites.
Linda said, “I love the romantic bowers of roses with the cherub statues in Virginia’s Display Rose Garden. My colored pencil drawings of florals always include roses.”
Ellen said that this illustration was from “one of our very first lessons with Anne-Marie Evans at Robinson Gardens.”
Next, we visit the Kitchen Garden and the restored Orchid Greenhouse. Vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers are planted and serve as an important component of the Friends’ Children’s Outreach Program.
The orchids are a source of delight for the children who visit on the school tours.
We then come across the Great Lawn, a sweeping velvet lawn framed by the original Italian Cypresses on either side -- the site of many of Mrs. Robinson’s legendary parties, reflecting the Gilded Age and the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Nancy painted this illustration in Anne-Marie’s class and said, “Learning how to draw and paint botanical subjects gave me a set of skills that strengthened my other work immeasurably. I also became fascinated with the structural details of plants. Above all, conquering the medium of watercolor - not an easy task, but once you learn how to catch the light, it’s thrilling.”
Kerstin, said, “Stephanotis Floribunda, the Hawaiian wedding flower, grow along the wall of the estate on the back patio. Working on this project made my mind often go back to the wedding that took place at the estate, when one of Virginia’s closest friends, Lillian Disney, remarried in the Yellow Salon after Walt died. I hope that she had stephanotis in her wedding bouquet?”
Now, we are nearing the end of our journey to explore the last garden. We leave the Great Lawn and walk through an allee of Southern Magnolia Trees. We approach the dramatic Italian Terrace Garden which begins at the Three Frog Fountain where the music of flowing water guides us down the Musical Stairs. Camellias, citrus trees, and a magnificent Coral Tree (the mother of the Coral trees on San Vicente Boulevard in West Los Angeles) thrive in this garden.
Marcella said, “I started the first painting, the Virginia Robinson Gardens’ Gigantic Magnolia Seed Pod, in a class with Anne-Marie Evans. Botanical painting takes an amazing amount of time, meditation, and obsessive observation. Being able to do a painting from two different aspects of the magnolia's life cycle -- from the seed pod to the bloom -- allowed me to become more familiar, in an intimate way, with every element of the magnificent gigantic Magnolia.”
Virginia loved to put a fresh camellia on her dress every day when it was in bloom. Barbara won first prize in a Robinson Garden competition to depict Virginia’s camellia. Barbara said, “I loved the delicate beauty of the flowers next to the brilliant, shiny strength of the leaves.”
Sydney said, “This is a Tangerine done in watercolor on calfskin vellum. Working on vellum requires a dry-brush technique, and using transparent watercolors helps take advantage of the marvelous qualities found in the vellum.”
Julia said, “For our botanical watercolor classes, we often choose to paint flowers which are on the Robinson Garden property. When Jenny Phillips came from Australia to teach a class, we asked if she could teach us the techniques for painting a white flower. I was amazed at all the various shades of gray and pink which were used to create this flower.”
Barbara said, “I truly did not think I was ever going to be able to paint - or draw – the Oak Leaf Hydrangea, so it was very satisfactory to meet the challenge, even though, in retrospect, I always feel I could do better.”
Julia said, “The bold color of the Coral tree blossom was difficult for me to achieve. In watercolor, losing the light and thus the LIFE of a painting is not something easily recaptured. With oil painting, you add a dab of white -- not so with watercolor. I really did enjoy painting the thorns. The history of our Robinson Gardens’ Coral tree is fascinating.”
We hope you have enjoyed the remarkable artwork of our very talented artists, inspired by the magnificent Virginia Robinson Gardens –- a beautiful treasure and haven for all.
Post by Kerstin Royce and Linda Meadows
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Members