Dedicated environmentalist and philanthropist Susan Gottlieb gave a riveting and beautiful lecture on her renowned garden, the Gottlieb Native Garden, at the Virginia Robinson Gardens. Susan’s garden in Beverly Hills is a National Wildlife Federation-certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat. Originally from Canada, she is currently on the President’s Council of National Wildlife Federation, the Boards of Directors of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands and Audubon California, and is a supporter of many environmental organizations. Susan took the photographs in her stunning book The Gottlieb Native Garden: A California Love Story, written by Mallory Smith, which she generously gave as a gift to all the attendees. She wrote her book to impart the importance of native plants, and what she had learned over the years through trial and error.
In 1989, the garden started out as a drought-tolerant one with succulents, rocks and cacti. Susan later became interested in native plants when she realized, “They were beautiful, and they provide habitat for native wildlife.” Maintaining California’s natural heritage, most of these native plants are drought-tolerant and extremely fragrant. They do not require fertilizer, and most are quite pest resistant. The plants in her garden came from the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley, which Susan said “is a wonderful place to visit even if you don’t buy plants. As anyone who cares about wildlife will tell you, once you discover native plants, there’s actually no turning back. You get hooked.”
In 2003, the Theodore Payne Foundation organized a garden tour that included the Gottlieb garden to show the beauty and scope of California native plants. After Huell Howser who had popular shows on PBS called California’s Gold and California’s Green came on this tour with his crew, “He really helped put the native garden on the map,” Susan explained. The Theodore Payne Foundation Garden Tour has become a very important annual event with 32 gardens for the public to view, as opposed to the 8 that were on the first tour. Susan said that it was very exciting to see around 400 people come through her garden in one day. “There is so much to learn about native plants and so many incredible choices to make. By 2008 we had more than 100 varieties of plants,” Susan enthused. By the time the New York Times did a story on the garden, she felt her work had become validated.
Susan explained that to provide habitat, you need food, water, cover and a place for animals to raise their young. Animals congregate around a pond and waterfall in her garden. To attract hummingbirds, she placed 10-15 feeders filled with sugar water. “Word of our Operation Hummingbird Feeder got out, and the BBC came,” said Susan. The BBC produced a video which one can see on YouTube showcasing the feeders and hummingbirds. “Equally gratifying and exciting are wildlife spottings of raccoons, owls, skunks, and coyotes,” added Susan. She encouraged the group to go on the website of the National Wildlife Federation if they are interested in creating a garden for wildlife.
The lecture concluded with a short presentation by Scott Logan who works with Susan in the garden. Scott reiterated, “Native animals are attracted to native plants, and it just adds so much life to your garden.” He showed beautiful portraits of butterflies, birds, and insects on plants, eliciting many excited oohs and aahs from the audience! A second book is planned to showcase these photographs. Many of the photos are now on view in Susan and husband Dan’s nature and wildlife photography gallery in Venice called The G2 Gallery. All the proceeds of the sales go to environmental causes. The gallery will close at the end of December and will have an online presence on a website that will be launching called The Gottlieb Native Garden.
After the lecture, a delicious luncheon was catered by Joe Monteferante. Guests enjoyed an appetizing cauliflower and celery root soup, leek and onion tart, salmon, pumpkin ice cream and a heavenly chocolate cake among other delectables. In keeping with the nature theme, Education co-chair Patti Reinstein created the most delightful and whimsical centerpieces. Colorful artificial birds, butterflies and insects perched on branches, decked with ferns, leaves and delicate flowers. It is always exciting to see such beautiful tables created for each education lecture. Many thanks to our amazing Education co-chairs Ellen Lipson, Kerstin Royce and Patti Reinstein for another inspiring and beautiful event!
Post by Linda Meadows
Photos by Diane Jenkins and Linda Meadows
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board members