February 2023 Happenings

Message from President Betty Goldstein

“When one door closes, another door opens”

Dearest Friends,

It was in July 2020 that I wrote my first President’s message. We were deeply in the midst of the Covid pandemic, and the Gardens were closed. I, in my naiveté, thought life in general and at the Gardens would return to normal quickly. Little did any of us know to what extent in time and patience the pandemic would take and how it would affect our lives.

This will be my last message as President of the Friends of Robinson Gardens. It has been a roller coaster ride of experiences and emotions. It has been such a joy to be able to communicate every month with all of you during these 32 months.  Writing a message every month was a love and sometimes a bit of a hardship. I thank Linda Meadows, Editor of the Newsletter, who always waited so patiently until I got “my inspiration” to begin my message. As I look back at the messages, some better than others, it was a chronicle of what happened during the pandemic months here at the Gardens and how it affected us.

One of the quotes I used in my messages, and I so strongly believe in, is “When one door closes, another door opens.” I choose it to guide my life, and I used it to guide the works of the Friends during these months as well. And did the “doors open!” When I look back at the stalwartness of this group of women and our few men and see their fortitude and their passion to always move forward regardless of the situation, they made my leadership easy, and I am in awe of our members. Here are some of the accomplishments of our terrific membership during these Covid years:

The HALS (Historic American Landscapes Survey) project, almost in its completion, was directed by two of our members and numerous volunteers; there are a few more small edits to be done before it is sent and housed at the Library of Congress. The archives of the Robinsons are now sorted and safely housed in the converted seamstress room. This project was led by one of our members with the help of volunteers and County staff. The Children’s Science Tour program has started up once again, but during Covid, children’s study units were written by three of our volunteers; the units are “Nutrition and a Healthier You!,” “Ecosystem of a Pond,” and “Plants and our World.” These units have continued to be an important addition to our Children’s Science Program with nearly 5,000 units sent to mostly Title 1 schools, and it will continue. Mundane, but important tasks such as the revamping of our accounting system, the ability to better keep track of memberships and renewals, the updating of all our computer systems and many other housekeeping duties were also completed.

The “door” is closing on my Presidency; it has been my honor to be President and I have loved it so. Just as the wildflowers reseed and new flowers bloom from these seeds, so do the Friends. A new President, Lynn Whitaker, and a new board move forward with new blooms and new bursts of color. I wish them the best of luck and know that they will continue to carry the Friends of Robinson Gardens on a strong path with new ideas and energy.


Betty Rodriguez Goldstein
President of the Friends of Robinson Gardens

Our Garden Tour Star Jean-Pascal Lemire

From time to time, we highlight “Our Garden Tour Stars” -- landscape architects, florists, and interior designers who have participated at 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 Jean-Pascal Lemire. At the 2022 Garden Tour, Jean-Pascal created beautiful floral displays in the Library and Library Terrace in the house at VRG. He also sold lovely bouquets in the vendor’s boutique on the tennis court. Following him on social media, Garden Tour co-chair Katie Marsano said that she is “a big admirer” of his work. Katie added, “I am captivated by his use of stems as an integral part of his arrangements; their perfectly fanned alignment gives way to a bounty of luscious blooms.  I find the contrast quite beautiful.”

We asked Jean-Pascal these four questions

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How a Department Store Heiress Turned Her Historic Beverly Hills Estate Into a Must-see Public Garden and Home Tour

By Deborah Belgum

The famed Robinson Department store may be long gone, but the family’s legacy lives on in a six-acre Beverly Hills estate in California that has been open to the public for 45 years.

Known as the Virginia Robinson Gardens, the compound was built in 1911 by Harry and Virginia Robinson, who wed in 1903 and took a long honeymoon to Europe, India and Kashmir, where the newlyweds collected merchandise for the family department store and themselves.

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The Glorious Camellia Beckons the Sun to Rise

During a brisk winter morning, while strolling through the Italian Terrace Garden, I found myself surrounded by camellia bushes heavy with bud and bloom. Flower colors ranged from blood red to the palest of pink with the occasional pure white bloom. Some flowers were mixed red and white reminding me of a peppermint stick. The flower form varied greatly as well. Some were reminiscent of peonies; others looked like roses; and still others like carnations. It’s no wonder many people mistakenly think the flower will produce fragrance. Most do not; however, one new to the scene is called ‘Sensation,’ and it does have a mild, yet distinct fragrance.

Once the camellia had arrived in California in the late 1800s, from its native countries of China and Japan, there was no looking back. In fact, by 1936, Mr. Boddy, a newspaperman by trade and a horticulturist by nature had assembled a 25-acre commercial camellia forest in La Canada-Flintridge, now known as Descanso Gardens.

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Upcoming Classes and Events

Docent-Led Tours

Explore the sights and sounds of the Virginia Robinson Gardens guided by one of our master storytellers, a.k.a. docents! Tours last approximately 90 minutes and are offered by reservation only.

February 11, 18, 21, 25, 28

Orchid Whisperer

Brandon Tam, the Orchid Collection Specialist at the Huntington Library, curates one of the largest and most diverse orchid species collections in the world. Join us as Brandon dispels the mysteries of the orchid, one of the largest plant families in the botanical kingdom.

Learn about their diversity, how to grow them, and methods to help them rebloom.

$20 Members
$25 Non-Members

Wednesday, February 22nd - 10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Tea, Scones & Gardens Reading Group

Charlie Chaplin My Autobiography tells of Mr. Chaplin's life in poverty growing up with his mother and brother in the slums of South London, his debut in the Music Hall stage in London, as well as his luck in movies in America. He always had a vision for the work he produced and demanded full control over his film work. Charlie was a frequent guest at the Robinson estate as he was a close neighbor to the property at one period in his life. He enjoyed playing tennis on many occasions with Virginia on her pink-walled court.
$20 Members
$25 Non-Members
Saturday, March 18th - 10:30 am 
To see what the Friends of Robinson Gardens have been up to, please visit our Archive.