April 2021 Happenings

Message from President Betty Goldstein

be free and reach
for the sun,
live in all your colors
and grow so
-butterflies rising.

Dear Friends,

It’s springtime. Red poppies, white yarrow, marigolds, scarlet flax, golden lupine, cosmos in red, white, and pink -- a profusion of color and textures and a delight for the eye and for the senses, the wildflower meadow above is the garden at the entry of the Virginia Robinson estate. This meadow, once a lawn, was transformed into this beautiful field of wildflowers and provides a refuge for the hummingbirds, the sparrows, bees, and butterflies. The earth underneath is teeming with insects and worms that enrich the soil.  This is truly a haven for nature’s wildlife.

Always a little bit sorrowful in the winter, the wildflower meadow bursts into its own glory each spring. It is such an affirmation of life as it reseeds and replenishes itself, a sign of survival and consistency. This resonates with all of us as we continue our volunteer work here at the Virginia Robinson Gardens.

This converted lawn, which brings much joy, was planted by Tim Lindsay, the Superintendent of the estate, to be mindful of water usage and to be water-wise. We will have a water-wise consultant available for members who would like advice on how to turn their garden into a water-wise garden. Watch for the email announcement coming soon.

Our children’s semi-virtual science program has completed its pilot study and is now being distributed to schools in the Los Angeles City School district to those who wish to participate. This new group of over 400 children will continue to increase as more and more teachers enter the program. The teachers have been able to use this free program virtually and will be able to use it in the classroom as well. A new Plant Unit is almost ready to be released just in time for spring.

As the gardens open, we are planning new events under the covid-19 restrictions. Watch your email for these announcements. Tours are now available; check the website for reservations. Join by becoming a Society Member.

The wildflower meadow thrives, as do we, here at the Virginia Robinson Gardens.  Let us share it with you.


Betty Goldstein
President of the Friends of Robinson Gardens       

Our Garden Tour Star Kathleen Spiegelman

Each month we are highlighting “Our Garden Tour Stars” -- landscape architects, florists and interior designers who have participated in our annual Garden Tour and Showcase Estate at the Virginia Robinson Gardens. We want to let you know about these very talented designers, their inspirations, and their creations.

This month, we are featuring interior designer Kathleen Spiegelman. A longtime Friends member, Kathleen’s beautiful Bel Air home has been on Garden Tour, and she has designed many of the rooms and outdoor spaces at Garden Tour over the years.

We asked her these five questions:

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Come Into the Garden

“A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses.”
– Chinese Proverb

The past year has reminded us how much relationships mean in our lives. Nothing expresses this sentiment better than the rose, which has been a symbol of love and friendship for centuries.

Garden cultivation of roses began some five thousand years ago in China where they grew in the imperial gardens of the Chou dynasty. The Romans used roses to make garlands and crowns for celebrations. In Roman homes, petals were used to carpet the floors, to fill bathwater, and to drop as confetti at parties. It is said that Cleopatra covered the floor of her chambers with over a foot of rose petals to intoxicate her lovers and demonstrate her power.

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The FRoG Semi-Virtual Science Program Delights School Children

The Friends of Robinson Gardens, although socially distanced, has not been idle. As the gardens have been quiet and missing the laughter of children taking the science tours, we decided to take the Science Program to the schools and to the children. Through a newly crafted, Semi-Virtual Program, lovingly called FRoG (Friends of Robinson Gardens Semi Virtual Science Program), we have accomplished that.

The first of three units is Nutrition and Healthy Living. This program includes boxes for delivery to each child and the teachers. We have written it to focus on Grades 2-4 in Title One Schools and Group Homes.

The study box includes a 5-minute video tour of Robinson Gardens and a 3-minute video focusing on our garden and nutrition, eating healthy, and a visit to our Kitchen Garden and the chicken coop. We have provided worksheets and a salad bowl filled with crayons, pencils, scissors, and healthy snacks among many other items. They are all wrapped up like a gift in cellophane. We have a developed a FRoG Logo (Friends of Robinson Gardens) to brand this program. The notebooks are filled with games, puzzles, worksheets, Sam’s Super Salad book (written by Joan Selwyn and Tim Lindsay), and recipe cards for healthy snacks.

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An Interview with Sunday Taylor, Author of “The Anglophile’s Notebook”

On March 11, 2021, Sunday Taylor, a longtime Friends of Robinson Gardens member, gave a fascinating virtual presentation on Zoom about her new novel, The Anglophile’s Notebook. She was interviewed by our lovely past President Patti Reinstein who said, “Her wonderful book is part history, part mystery, part love story and character study. It is also about the love of the Brontës that comes through in her writing.”

Sunday’s shimmering heroine, called Claire Easton, is a writer and magazine editor living in Los Angeles who travels to London to write a book on Charlotte Brontë. “This trip will change her life,” Sunday said. Claire is married to a very successful music producer. After the recent death of her mother and discovering that her husband has been unfaithful, she decides to stay in England indefinitely. On her second night in London, she visits an enchanting bookstore called Victorian Books and bonds with the owner on their love of books and the Brontës. The plot evolves into a literary mystery and romance that holds you spellbound.

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In Case You Missed It: Thoughts from Friends

Wild and Exotic Birds of the Robinson Gardens

The phrase, “Birds of a feather flock together,” is at least over 470 years old. It was in use as far back as the mid-16th century and was inspired by the flocking behavior of birds when foraging for food or flying in formation during seasonal migrations. This concept is sometimes applied metaphorically to people who act in similar ways.

One early spring morning, Friends members flocked together with a naturalist, Darrow Feldstein, who guided us on a garden bird watch. While we moved in predictable formation, we were singularly focused on observing “only” birds in the garden. It turned out to be a cognitive revelation. We enjoyed the garden for the first time with only one objective in mind — to get acquainted with our feathered friends. Knowing in previous years that “birders” from the Audubon Society had sighted over 150 species of birds one New Year’s Day, we set out on this adventure with great expectations.

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Spotlight on Laura Coleman

Each month we spotlight a volunteer, staff member, docent, donor, or sponsor of Virginia Robinson Gardens (VRG) -- those that have made an impact on the organization. We want to let you know about these wonderful people and corporations that give so much to the Virginia Robinson Gardens and to the community, and what they do that is so impactful.

This month, we spotlight Laura Coleman, a wonderful and dedicated Friends of Robinson Gardens member. Laura has been a Van Hostess for Garden Tour and volunteered to work at the Gardens during the shutdown due to Covid. Her many articles on several of our events including education lectures, garden classes, children's visits, Garden Tour and Gala have been published over the years in the Beverly Hills Courier, thus sharing who we are with the world. Thanks to her superlative journalistic skills, Laura has written fantastic articles for the Happenings as well.

We asked her these four questions:

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To see what the Friends of Robinson Gardens have been up to, please visit our Archive.