Each month we will spotlight a volunteer, staff member, donor or sponsor of Virginia Robinson Gardens (VRG) — those that have made an impact on the organization. We want to let you, the reader, know a little bit 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 Rachel Bieber, a devoted docent of VRG. She helps with many of our events and is a Los Angeles native whose great-great grandfather was born in Los Angeles in 1878 — so fitting with the theme of our Garden Tour in May 2020 which will be City of Angels. She is a public Librarian at Torrance Public Library, and a Librarian at Lost Spirits Distillery in Downtown Los Angeles, where she also gives tours of the production facility.
We asked her these three questions:
- How did you first learn about VRG, and what inspired you to become a docent?
I first heard about VRG when my mother and I were trying to plan a ‘staycation’ in the Los Angeles area during the holiday season in 2014. We included my grandmother in planning our adventures, and when she mentioned a garden in Beverly Hills none of us had visited, we knew VRG was a perfect outing for the three of us. She’s lived in Westwood since 1967 and had never seen the gardens! Our visit was on January 2, 2015. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect (aaaah, Los Angeles Winters), and by the time we reached the landing at the far south of the Palm Forest, I’d fallen completely in love with Virginia Robinson and her gardens. When our tour ended back at the Pool Pavillion where we’d begun, there were brochures about volunteering at VRG on the table. I’d always thought it would be fun to lead tours in historical places, and I’d been looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity in Los Angeles — this fit the bill quite nicely! I knew I wanted to share stories about Virginia and her gardens with other visitors. I trained to become a docent in Spring and started giving tours in Summer of 2015.
- What’s your role – How do you contribute to VRG?
Sharing stories of Virginia and her beautiful gardens with our visitors is always a highlight of my week. While I’m regularly a docent for adult tours and occasionally for youth tours, I’ve also volunteered for several years of evening programs like the Patron Gala and El Nido Garden Gala to assist our guests in finding their way around the gardens, or assisting staff in preparing and helping implement the evening’s program. I have even been lucky enough to assist in several years of the Science Fair put on by the Friends of VRG in March! One of the most enjoyable events to assist with is the yearly Garden Tour as a hostess. It’s amazing that people around West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills are willing and able to open their private gardens to visitors, and it’s a joy to pass along stories about the history of those gardens with visitors.
- Can you share a favorite VRG memory with us?
When a tour is over, I like to walk around the lower levels of the Mediterranean Garden to see what fruit is growing. Every season and every year is different, so a tree might not produce fruit annually or on any sort of normal-fruit-tree schedule. There have been a few instances where I’ve either brought a ripe fruit up to the kitchen to queries of “What on earth is that?!” (It was a pomelo the size of a volleyball), or announced the discovery of an unripe fruit-laden peach tree (Curator April Walton exclaimed, “We have a peach tree?!”). It makes me feel like I’ve uncovered a fun secret Virginia’s magical garden has been keeping. I get to share these types of stories with our visitors when I give tours, and it adds to the living legacy of Virginia Robinson’s gardens.