A Spectacular Event: Legendary Beverly Hills Garden Tour
Thanks to our extraordinary, passionate, and incredible Garden Tour chairs Maralee Beck, Leslie Kavanaugh, and our special angel Jeanne Anderson, the Legendary Beverly Hills Garden Tour and Showcase Estate was simply fabulous. It was a true labor of love, and not possible without the help of over one hundred volunteers and our very dedicated and talented Garden Tour Committee.
All of the gardens this year, rarely open to the public, were truly legendary. The Goetz Estate was designed in 1938 by famed architect Gordon B. Kaufmann, who also built Greystone. The gorgeous Georgian Revival manor was the long-time home of Edie Goetz, the daughter of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer. With a world-class art collection of paintings by Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso and others, Edie entertained royally. Her home was the center of Hollywood social life at the highest level. The park-like, arcadian setting encompasses a great lawn, two swimming pools, a lake, a pool house, a guest house, and a garden house overlooking the tennis court. Reminiscent of the “Jungle Cruise” in Disneyland, the garden also featured a magical treat of a tropical garden, cascading waterfalls, rocks and ferns, lush plantings, and even a funicular!
Another storied estate, rich with the spirit and history of the Golden Age of Hollywood, was the Harry Warner Estate. Many stars lived in the two-story guest house. (It is rumored that Marilyn Monroe was one of them.) The 1923 Tudor Style mansion features beautiful sycamore trees, original to the property. A rock-lagoon pool, and Jacuzzi imparted a splash of modern California style in this English garden, lushly planted with red and white roses, star jasmine, and hot-pink bougainvillea. Fountains, waterfalls, and a delicate Japanese bridge that crossed over a koi pond, further added to the enchanting scene.
The Liliore Green Rains estate was built for Liliore by her father Burton Green, the pioneer developer of Beverly Hills. It was later bought by entertainer Merv Griffin. The Georgian Colonial Revival style house was surrounded by beautiful statuary and gardens, including a formal rose parterre. Nancy Reagan, a good friend of Merv Griffin, used to clip roses from this garden. One of the surprise delights of the estate is a mature pine forest with an Adirondack-style cabin equipped for mountain entertaining at the top of a hill, affording stunning views.
The bonus garden was also a rare treat to experience. As you entered the pea-graveled driveway, lined with London Plane trees and a grove of citrus trees, you were transported to another world. Built in 1927, the classic French style, Beaux Arts home was simply magnificent. Luxurious lawns surrounded the pool, with a rose parterre on one side, profuse with apricot, deep-pink and red blooms. Each planted section had one color of rose, a design called block planting, whose overall effect was stunning, relaxing and easy on the eye. Beautiful sculptures, pomegranate bushes, white bougainvillea, citrus, pistachio, and almond trees along with the sound of water from fountains created a paradisiacal setting. This garden is also a model of water conservation, with drip irrigation used throughout, and water recycled in all of the fountains.
We are grateful to all the owners of these legendary properties who have so generously given us a glimpse into the elegance and glamour of old Los Angeles.
Back at the estate, songs from Cole Porter and those from the 40s and 50s, totally set the mood as guests entered the garden. Ladies with ravishing hats and garden party attire and elegant gentlemen dined on the Great Lawn at tables beautifully decorated with pink and green colors in homage to the Beverly Hills Hotel and its world-famous Polo Lounge.
The concierge level ticket holders were seated at their own tables. Evoking the exotic Hollywood films from the era of Rudolf Valentino that transported movie audiences around the world, legendary event planner Mindy Weiss and florist Marks Garden decorated the concierge tables with the opulent theme of the Indian Raj. Guests sat under ivory Indian tents decorated with golden tassels, stars and exotic large brass Indian chandeliers. On pale green tablecloths, lay centerpieces of red and fuschia blooms and gold-rimmed plates and gilt flatware. Two shirtless men in Indian garb (consisting of flowing ivory pants and bright fuchsia cloth belts), were holding palm fronds, thus completing the exotic theme. Amazing gift bags were lavished on the guests with items generously donated by Cartier, Jo Malone, Bobbi Brown, Ted Baker, Compartes Chocolates, and a beautiful book, Kazanjian Gems in The Virginia Robinson Gardens. As a thoughtful touch, every Concierge level guest was also given a delicious goody bag on the van buses to the gardens. VIP level vans also had snacks for all! (The VIP and Concierge level tickets were completely sold out this year!)
The menu was absolutely fabulous – featuring many iconic dishes from Los Angeles’ legendary restaurants, recreated by the Kitchen for Exploring Foods. Delicious Chili from Chasen’s (Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite), the Mandarin’s Chinese Chicken Salad, the McCarthy Salad (Marilyn Monroe’s favorite) from the Polo Lounge and Spago’s Chino Chopped Salad were but a few of the delectables served. Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake, and Strawberries Romanoff were a smash hit, along with the traditional Coconut Cake and Peach Fuzzie cocktails that are offered every year.
The fashion show by Theory featured lovely summer separates. White jeans and white lace tops were all the trend, and there were even chic ensembles for the men!
Maralee and Leslie gave a welcoming speech thanking our many guests for their participation and support in helping to maintain our beloved Virginia Robinson Gardens. We were proud to honor our Grand Marshal, founder of the Yucaipa Corporation and prominent philanthropist Ron Burkle. A great friend and supporter of Robinson Gardens, he has generously opened his storied estate, Green Acres (the former Harold Lloyd Estate), twice for the Garden Tour. As Mr. Burkle was out of town, his son John accepted the honor and surprised us with a very generous $25,000 donation from his father to the Friends of Robinson Gardens. Needless to say, we were all stunned and thrilled!
The rooms at the house were decorated with incredible beauty and visual splendor by top florists and designers. It is always such a delight and one of the unique charms of this Showcase Estate to see all the rooms transformed with so much whimsy and talent. In one memorable vignette in Mrs. Robinson’s bedroom, mauve and peach roses and pink and purple hydrangeas spilled out in profusion from two open windows onto the floor- a breathtaking sight, designed by florist Grand Éclair. It was as if Sleeping Beauty had woken up in this enchanted house, filled with flora and dazzling tableaux. Dale Witt played the piano in Virginia’s living room, further enhancing this beautiful atmosphere.
The kitchen, bedecked with orchids, cala lilies, and hydrangeas, all in white, was a vision. There, the charming and incredible Mama An, of Crustacean Restaurant, signed her cookbook An: To Eat. Thirty percent of the sale proceeds was generously donated to the Friends of Robinson Gardens. Delicious tastings of a Vietnamese chip and chicken dumplings in pho broth were offered as well!
The boutique was a shopper’s paradise, filled with many exciting vendors and enticing silent auction items. The Pool Pavilion offered makeovers by Bobbi Brown, clothes by Theory, and the latest fragrances by Joe Malone for everyone to try. Nini Jewels also displayed their exquisite jewelry line.
Adding to the excitement to this year’s festivities was a treasure hunt for “buried jewelry,” generously donated by Nini Jewels. One lucky guest won the most exquisite necklace, with a be-jeweled gold flower pendant, set with green gems and diamonds.
In all, it was truly a glamorous day, and all for a great cause – preserving Virginia Robinson Gardens, Beverly Hills’ public gem. Nothing sums up the love and hard work put in by the Garden Tour Committee better than this clever and whimsical poem, penned by the incomparable Leslie and Maralee, our treasured Garden Tour co-chairs:
It was a legendary day at VRG Garden Tour
As we dawned pink and green we opened our door.
Months of planning with care of our amazing committee
Made our gorgeous garden far more than just pretty.
Our guests were delighted with smiles as they toured
The fabulous properties provided by Maralee and Jeanne which allured.
Joan so beautifully designed the gal on our covers,
Who graced all our print for our garden lovers.
Diane took the baton and wow did she go,
As she created our print materials with incredible flow.
On to social media and script writing at its best,
Linda Meadows was up to this incredible test.
Concierge needed the touches of grace and of charms,
Patty E. and Shiva took this well into their arms.
Ellisa and Kerstin performed a remarkable feat,
As the florists and designers made each room a visual treat.
Robin called and cajoled and helped in all ways,
Then she greeted all who come throughout the day.
Hostesses arrived at their various spaces,
Betty was the one who ‘put them in their places.’
Décor and Rentals, every detail was so clear,
Patti R we certainly have you to cheer.
The food was creative and beautifully themed
Because Greer ordered all of which we had dreamed.
Pre-Tour was successful in the organizational realm,
Lisa, Janice, Jeanne and Marian were the masters at the helm;
And, Marian took charge of the Friends’ Booth as well.
Signage is a job for one not faint of heart,
Lynn was our superwoman, as she solo did her part.
Greer, Adrienne and Beverly… what an awesome team,
Our Auction and Opportunity Drawing was nothing short of a dream!
Clare you wrote our timeline and took our minutes too,
This kept us up to par with what we had to do.
Kathy brought us Theory for our fashion show galore,
Those models really took the stage and compelled us to shop more.
Dana is our retail queen, who wrangled those merchants in;
Our vendors were abundant, more than have ever been.
Deidre and Kathleen were willing to do most anything,
They responded with a “yes” whenever we would ring.
Leslie was the “catch it all” for media partner, shuttles and vans;
She lassoed Grand Marshal Burkle; he was the man.
Lynda did the job of at least sixteen,
She manned the phones, took the money, sent the contracts without being mean!
Tim who is celebrating his twentieth year,
He makes it all happen – we hold him so dear.
So, to our committee one and all;
We thank you for Garden Tour 2017
We did have a ball.
Jeanne, Leslie and Maralee
Post by Linda Meadows
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member