The 6.2-acre garden of Harry and Virginia Robinson was developed over a period of 66 years. The plants chosen to compose the garden were in large part sourced by the Robinsons. On occasion, plant varieties were sourced by Mr. Rhodes, a professional botanist, who traveled with them to help formulate the “shortlist” of plants that were shipped to the estate from exotic places as they scoured the world for the rare and exotic.
The estate offers rich fertile soil and a favorable climate. In fact, more plant species can grow outdoors on the estate than anywhere else in the continental United States, much like most of the Los Angeles basin. This situation presented the unique problem of what not to grow! The planting began in 1911, and until the early ’30s, was primarily an experimental period, trying one of everything. As time ensued, and with the involvement of the Robinsons’ second majordomo, Charles Curtis, a trained landscape architect, the future garden development was grounded in classical design principles which nicely complement the neoclassical structures on the property.
Currently, the gardens are managed as a historic display garden. Great care is given to preserve the Robinsons’ original design intent of each of the six distinct garden areas. Each theme garden offers a plant palette that can satisfy even the most discerning gardeners’ curiosity. The 90-minute docent-led tour of the gardens and house museum provides a portal into a bygone era, providing inspiration and offering creative ideas in terms of planting schemes and introductions to new members of the plant world.
Into the Gardens...
The Front Meadow
The California drought has taught us to plant more conservatively. Originally planted with a lawn, the front area is now planted with herbaceous California native plants. Although a departure from Virginia’s original plan, it stays in line with her experimental attitude when it came to her garden.
Great Lawn and Dry Border
The Great Lawn allows up to 450 guests to dine al fresco, while the dry border on either side of the lawn offers examples of plants that grow in the same water regime as the towering Italian Cypress trees. It is a mixed herbaceous border with plants from all five Mediterranean regions of the world.
Italian Terrace Garden
It is laid out in a Neoclassical Italianate style with a central axis creating a bilateral symmetrical space. There are various terraces and entertaining water features in this garden. The dominant tree species include the Southern Magnolia, a grove of persimmons, and historic specimen trees, such as the largest Coral tree in the state, a female Ginkgo, and a majestic Deodar cedar.
King Palm Forest
Presumed to be the largest stand of King Palms outside of Queensland, Australia, over 1,000 palm trees tower over a visitor as they transverse a network of pathways on the forest floor. The space is cool and rejuvenating while affording views to the wildlife pond and waterfall.
Display Rose Garden
Glorious most times of the years, except in winter, with hundreds of heritage roses in bloom, this garden includes the Eiffel Tower rose, Virginia’s favorite rose since its introduction by Armstrong nursery in 1957.
This area is a demonstration garden planted with edibles. This garden is programmed for summer and cool season vegetables. The orchid house is filled with exotic orchids used on the estate for display. Laying hens now reside in the old monkey cage.