The Joyous 2024 “Spring Rhapsody” Garden Tour & Showcase Extravaganza

 Left to right: Co-chairs Elaine Stein and Lynn Whitaker

The 35th annual “Spring Rhapsody” Garden Tour and Showcase Estate at The Virginia Robinson Gardens on May 18, 2024, presented by the Friends, was a spectacular success. In the words of Friends member Krista Everage, “The tour enchanted and welcomed the lucky attendees with its gorgeous and gracious ambiance. We were treated to local masterpiece gardens, exuding warmth, hospitality, and divine beauty, and the tour delighted us all with a sumptuous luncheon and floral displays at the timeless and beautiful Virgina Robinson Gardens.”  The founder of the Friends Joan Selwyn added, “As I walked down the rose-lined pathway to the tennis court, I thought how pleased Mrs. Robinson would be to see her exquisite garden full of our joyful and admiring guests.”

This premier fundraiser and signature event raises much-needed funds for the restoration and preservation of our beloved Robinson Gardens and the Children’s Science Program, keeping Mrs. Robinson’s legacy for the welfare of children alive.

The Friends are so grateful to our terrific co-chairs President Lynn Whitaker and Vice-President Elaine Stein. The day was a glorious one, full of exhilarating beauty, creativity, and culinary delights. It was a labor of love not only for our co-chairs, but also for our very talented and dedicated Garden Tour Committee, Superintendent Diane Sipos, Member Relations & Administrative Manager Barbara Remedios, volunteers, docents, curator April Walton, and our County staff. The Friends are also very grateful to our generous sponsor, The Northern Trust. A big thank you as well to Superintendent Emeritus Timothy Lindsay who beautified the gardens for our grand event!

Thanks to Maralee Beck and Jeanne Anderson, three superb private gardens were selected for the attendees to tour. Serene and elegant, “A Garden for All Seasons,” wowed the guests and was a spectacular place to explore. Courtyards, loggias, and lawn beckon, draped in wisteria, defined by native oaks, olive trees, sycamores and punctuated by crape myrtles, espaliered magnolias, paper bark melaleuca, and Japanese maples. The entire property, animated by fountains, both contemporary and rustic, offers both active and reflective spaces — tree swings and sculptures, pools and pavilions, soccer fields, and firesides, and a uniquely romantic nightscape. The site plan, hardscape, water features design, and landscape are by Clark & Karsh and Christine London, Ltd. The loggia, pergola, and pool pavilion are by Backen & Backen Architects.

The guests were charmed by “The Secret Garden,” where fully mature foliage wrapped its greenery from pine trees to Ficus hedges around a series of vignettes: vine-covered balconies, woodland paths, fairy-lit patios, and surprise seating. Statuary and requisite play areas – music studio, sports court, outdoor kitchen, sunning pool – mixed with voluptuous vines, riotous canna lilies, and perennial blooms in this romantic hideaway. The container gardens were created by Mae Dorfman Appel.

The joyous colors of the Birds of Paradise flowers were reflected in the “Fit to Be Tiled” garden, a Mexican revival masterpiece. Orange — in the exuberant kumquat citrus trees; and blue – in the urns, fountains, tables, and Japanese fishing buoys, stud the magical landscape. A collector’s trove of tiles – Bauer, Malibu, Garden City – in squares, grates, stamped fragments, and centerpieces blend hardscape and plants into another world. The garden maintenance is by Ernesto Lia, and the plants are from Rolling Greens. The tile purveyors are Scott Wells, Mission Tile West, and Wells Antiques. The contractors are Heron Brothers and Janisse & Son.

Back at the Virginia Robinson estate, the attendees were treated to a magnificent show of incredibly beautiful floral creations in select rooms of the house and exterior spaces. Always a highlight of Garden Tour, and thanks to Kerstin Royce and Jeanne Anderson who select the very talented florists and designers, these dazzling displays never fail to delight and inspire the guests.

Planted with native wildflowers designed to attract birds, bees, butterflies, and insects that are beneficial to the health of the plantings, the Front Meadow greeted guests as they walked up to the house. The stunning meadow was ablaze with yellow, blue, and red flowers and was a harbinger for all the beauty within the house to be discovered by the guests.

Dan Zelen handsomely decorated the front of the house with triple ball topiary and fuchsia-colored foxglove in classical urns and terracotta and stone pots.

In the Great Hall, Lynn Vinkovic of Rose Lane Farms’ luscious flower bouquets are always a hit with the guests who cannot help but buy these beautiful arrangements.

On a long table in the Great Hall, Louesa Roebuck’s romantic tableau of a cornucopia of flowers with trailing vines and foraged leaves spilling out of shallow containers and bowls created a ravishing scene. Nestled among the flowers were Louesa’s lovely artwork and floral candles. Dramatic sprays of yellow and deep burgundy flowers decorated a nearby corner with a golden mirror, whose twirling vines on the mirror’s frame repeated Louesa’s aesthetic.

Louesa’s captivating, ethereal, and fairytale-like artistry graced the Library as well where Matthew Drewry gave enticing tarot readings to interested guests in an alluring tent he arranged for a spiritual setting.

The Yellow Salon featured a spectacular arrangement of a mannequin festooned with flowers and butterflies created by Sepideh Mianaby of Ivory Florist. The sheer beauty of the scene enchanted the guests. At the base, a cello evoking our musical theme was surrounded by yellow snapdragons, and huge peonies from Australia. “So outstanding and gorgeous!” enthused one attendee. Charming arrangements of yellow and white flowers dotted the salon, enriching its yellow color scheme.

The beauty continued in the Guest Bedroom and Bath with Hilary Bein’s opulent, jewel-toned floral arrangements, evoking the realm of Dutch Master floral paintings. The profusion of flowers and glowing vivid colors in beautiful containers were dazzling. Frette’s luxury linens completed the richness of the setting.

 In the adjacent bathroom was a fun vignette of a mannequin nestled among branches, flowers and rose petals in the bathtub. The figure represented a lady who attended the Marlborough School and graduated in 1913. She held a scrapbook that depicted her memories throughout the year, which even included her dance card!

The Morning Room, decorated by Yanna Polshina of Vespera Floral Studio, was a veritable delight with multiple bouquets, one more beautiful than the next! Yanna chose a particular pink orchid to complement the painting of Virginia as she knew that Virginia’s favorite color was pink!

The Master Bedroom, decorated by XOXO Patti Sue, featured bursts of pale roses in front of the bed and a cabinet, and peeking from behind a chair with a French-style footstool. Patti Sue’s floral designs enhanced the feminine ambiance in the room while in a corner, a mannequin, “dressed” with roses, foliage, and shawls added a whimsical touch.   As in the Guest Bedroom, the luxurious linens of Frette completed the elegance of the Master Bedroom, thanks to Alexa Kuhn, manager of the Frette boutique in Beverly Hills.

The dressing area of Mrs. Robinson’s bedroom looks over the magnificent view of the Italian Terrace Garden. In this special room, Joan Selwyn arranged beautiful bouquets.  Luscious peonies and roses in one flowered porcelain vase, and pink tulips and white Veronica blooms in another, adorned the vanity table. The master bath was enlivened by a lovely sun hat and a pale pink orchid in a Mackenzie and Childs ceramic pot.

The floral splendor continued in the Galleria Bar with a gorgeous arrangement by the Bel Air Garden Club. Member Joan Ransahoff expressed her vision for the bouquet to Beth Brown, the designer of Colors in Bloom. (The florist for the J. Paul Getty Museum, Beth does all the arrangements there.) Beguiling roses in varying shades of pink and red with yellow chrysanthemums and accents of blue delphiniums were framed by shooting sprays of leaves and trailing vines.

Jeanne Anderson added to the beauty in the Galleria with multiple stunning arrangements from different varieties of orchids (including bramble orchids) and roses to white oakleaf hydrangeas, rose lilies, daylilies, sage and smoke bush, all materials from Robinson Gardens.

In the Dining Room, George Martinez of George’s Garden decorated the table with hydrangeas and roses in varying hues of soft pink, pale blue, and green on a scintillating tablecloth. With the gold and red crystal glasses and gilt-patterned plates, elegance was personified in Virginia’s dining room. A glorious burst of greenery, hydrangeas, and roses under the mantle of the fireplace added to the splendor of the scene.

George also created the gorgeous floral “35” sign representing our 35th Garden Tour near the Lily Pond. Its beauty inspired many guests to take pictures near the sign for Instagram and as a memory of the day.

The Loggia overlooking the King Palm Forest was decorated beautifully by Hope Sword of Pigsty Studio.  A symphony of pink, red, and lavender flowers, including peonies, roses, and foxglove on a long table permeated the Loggia with a delightful spring air.

Jelena Trifunovic of Viola Floral’s multiple bouquets embellished Ivo’s Office with much panache – from smaller floral designs to a creative composition of pink, red, and fuchsia flowers, with a burst of green sprays on top and purple radicchio at the base on the table. An arrangement of pink and apricot bougainvillea with bright accents of birds of paradise decorated the front of the fireplace.

Curator April Walton’s exuberant and vibrant creations in the Pantry was a joy to see! On four shelves, April designed contrasting compositions with hydrangeas, roses, trailing ivy, patterned plates, colorful vases, and napkins. Directly across was a delicate parasol framed by calla lilies, and colorful aprons. 

In the Kitchen, Superintendent Emeritus Tim Lindsay composed a veritable vegetable cornucopia. Tim explained, “The vegetable and fruit types chosen for the kitchen floral arrangements had to broaden the narrative of what would historically appear in the Robinsons’ kitchen. The intent was to contextualize the arrangement within the function of a kitchen.  Sometimes, it was quite literally represented by radishes, potatoes, lettuce, and using fruits like cantaloupe, bananas, and apples.  In other instances, the vegetables appeared quite natural in form and color, but were indeed various types of succulents. Whereas in some instances, flowers made it into the arrangement because of their plant names – such as, grape hyacinth and Swiss cheese philodendron. The centerpiece in the vegetable cornucopia was the highly fragrant purple and maroon-colored sweet peas from my garden.” 

On the Back Patio, Hal Valentine set an inviting table for two with orchids, elegant china, silver, and crystal and a happy note of yellow lemons beneath the table.  An olive tree with a rare white variegated Bougainvillea and cypress bonsai on other side formed the backdrop of this picturesque tableau.

Also on the Back Patio, Josh Johnston designed three beautiful arrangements (two of which are pictured below) using pink alyssum, cyclamen, black petunias, and creeping jenny in colorful pots. Josh explained, “I wanted to create some height in addition to a trailing plant. I planted each pot with a slightly different light requirement. All the plants and pots are from Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery. It is fun to shop there and to visit frequently as their selection is quite diverse.”

The Kitchen Garden is a welcoming spot of utter charm. Dedicated master gardener Lucia Burke and Estate Caretaker Josh Johnston keep the grounds flourishing with vegetables, flowers, and fruits. There is an Orchid Greenhouse and a chicken coop with hens that provide fresh eggs daily. A special space that is 100% organic, the garden is a fun place for children to learn from and enjoy in the very popular Children’s Science Program.

Marine Avetisyan of Mosaic Floral Event Design not only decorated the Pool Pavilion with elegant arrangements of palm fronds with a cluster of pale peach roses and green hydrangeas in a classical urn on two consoles, but she also draped roses and peonies with hanging amaranthus on the railings around the pool in a stunning and romantic vignette.

The Friends can always count on Amanda of House of A Gray to decorate the Silent Auction table. Her pink, white, and cream arrangement of peonies, roses, and tulips was a vision of sheer loveliness

Out on the Great Lawn, Jeanne arranged charming centerpieces of soft-hued roses from the rose gardens and wildflowers from our Front Meadow on tablecloths with black and white stripes, echoing those of a piano, so in keeping with our “Spring Rhapsody” theme.

Throughout the day, the attendees were regaled by Friend Natalie Gordon Beiser’s lovely harp tunes on the Back Patio, guitarist Aron Peidraita by the Lily Pond, and pianist Dale Witt in the Yellow Salon.

On the Great Lawn and by the pool, the festively attired attendees enjoyed a superb luncheon catered by the Kitchen of Exploring Foods, overseen by co-chair Elaine.  The delicious menu featured: poached salmon filets with a yogurt, cucumber-dill sauce; citrus marinated chicken breasts with a cilantro chimichurri sauce; a charred and raw corn salad, chili, cilantro, queso fresco with a lime vinaigrette; a summer chopped salad with red lettuce, butter lettuce, peas, radishes, tomatoes, croutons, grapes, avocado, cabbage, almonds, beets, lettuce, green onions, mint with a champagne honey mustard tarragon vinaigrette; and Parmesan crisps.

Our signature tantalizing Dessert Table in the Pool Pavilion, helmed by Betty Goldstein and Nicole Antoine, was graced by a tall, tiered and sparkling silver centerpiece decorated with flowers and cookies. The plethora of delicious cookies baked by the Friends and served on elegant silver trays, and exquisite chocolates by andSons Chocolatiers delighted the guests. The iconic coconut cake crowned with luscious red roses and red velvet cake from The Ivy were a big hit as well.

Co-chair President Lynn Whitaker welcomed and thanked everyone for coming and supporting our largest fundraiser of the year. She thanked our sponsor Northern Trust and the County for their continued support of the Gardens, and said, “We are especially thankful that we have the Director of Parks and Recreation, Norma Garcia Gonzalez, and several key members of her staff here today, including Alina Bokde.” Lynn also thanked co-chair and Vice President Elaine Stein, Superintendent Diane Sipos, Barbara Remedios, our staff, and all the volunteers. Lynn introduced George Geary as our Grand Marshal saying we are so pleased to be honoring him.

Best-selling author, award-winning chef, and educator George Geary was honored with a Frommer’s Domestic and International Tour Guide Award for best culinary tours in 2012. A fascinating and entertaining speaker, with 16 books to his credit, George has generously given many lectures at Robinson Gardens on his books on restaurants in Los Angeles. He signed his books, L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants, Made in California, and L.A.’s Landmark Restaurants near the Display Rose Garden.

Florist extraordinaire Louesa Roebuck has created floral installations for Vivienne Westwood, John Baldesarri, Todd Selby, Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Rintaro, and Carolyn Murphy for Vogue and House Beautiful. She signed her two beautiful books, Punk Ikebana: Reimagining the Art of Floral Design and Foraged Flora, on the Back Patio.

Back by popular demand, the second annual hat contest took place on the Great Lawn, masterfully chaired by Patricia Cowett. Our terrific Master of Ceremonies, Grand Marshal George Geary, was so entertaining as he interviewed each contestant about their hats. They twirled across the stage to much applause, whistles, and laughter!

Our very talented judges were Sepideh Mianaby of Ivory Florist, Marine Avetisyan of Mosaic Floral Event Design, and Alexa Kuhn, manager of Frette boutique.

Our lovely contestants:

The three categories were “most elegant;” “most bedazzling;” and “most jaunty.” Lara Roman won in the most elegant hat category. She said she chose the hat for its floral motif because of the spring theme of Garden Tour.

Lynn Rothacher won in the most bedazzling category. Lynn is a middle school English teacher, and her hat was made by a student of hers as a gift! When she saw the paper hat, she said “I love paper. I was blown away and really struck by it.” She added the musical notes to the hat because of the theme Spring Rhapsody.

Ian Brooks won in the most jaunty category. He made his hat with supplies from Michaels and wired in three birds’ nests, six butterflies, and many daisies, roses, and tulips. He said, “I am wearing a pink suit in honor of Virginia, and I’ve been waiting all year for this show!”

The winners received prizes comprised of a beautiful floral scarf and the perfume Natalie, which was created by famed actress Natalie Wood’s daughters, Natasha and Courtney Wagner, in honor of their mother.

Three important achievements of the Friends were displayed by the pool under the banner: “This Is Who We Are.” The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) documentation represents a comprehensive survey of the development of The Virginia Robinson Gardens. It includes historical landscape plans, large-format photographic documentation, and a written history of the Robinsons and their estate. The Friends-sponsored HALS Project, led by Friends member and landscape architect Lisa Gimmy and the liaison for the Southern California chapter for HALS Alison Terry and their terrific team, has been awarded the prestigious 2023 California Preservation Design Award!

Archive Chair Patty Elias displayed exhibit boards with charming photographs showing the development of the Italian Terrace Garden, 1934-1935, the evolution of the J.W. Robinson Department Store, and a close-up of the fun & games taking place on the tennis court from the early 1930’s.

Also impressive was an exhibit of the very successful Children’s Outreach Science Program, created by Patti Reinstein and Leslie Kavanaugh, with Kerstin Royce heading the outreach to the teachers. The program has been met with great enthusiasm from grateful teachers as well as students. All the units for study were displayed including the newest one, “The Ecosystem of the Pond and the Development of the Frog.” There are more than 10,000 students in both public and private schools who have participated in the three science modules since its inception during Covid.

Adding to the excitement of the day was the Marketplace, chaired by Patti Reinstein and Susan Finkelman. More than a dozen new vendors offered exceptional items to purchase this year from food products and home gifts to estate jewelry, original artwork, festive hats, and beautiful clothing. Twenty percent of the sale proceeds was donated to Robinson Gardens. The signature Peach Fuzzies, lemonade, iced tea, and Arnold Palmers along with a wine tasting were offered center-court in a covered seating area, a favorite spot for guests to relax. To see photos of the vendors, please see the gallery of photos at the end of the article.

Helmed by Kerstin Royce, Andrea Layne, Susan Finkelman, Stacy Klines, and Elaine Stein, the popular Friends Boutique also displayed many treasures and antiques for sale on the tennis court. 

The silent auction, chaired by Kerstin Royce and President Lynn Whitaker, and overseen by Barbara Marcus and Laurelle Johnson, was a big success, offering many items solicited and generously donated by the Friends. Popular items included a meal catered by The Kitchen for Exploring Foods, a replica of Virginia’s garden monkey bench, a set of chinoiserie vases, a king sheet set from Frette, restaurant gift certificates from Koi, Nerano, Porta Via, and Crustacean, jewelry including a baroque pearl necklace and a ceramic heart necklace crafted by Marcella Ruble, a pet carrier from Society Hounds, pet portraits, tours of Lotusland, the Huntington Library, Hollyhock House, and Rancho Santa Clara del Norte, tickets to the Wallis and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and stays at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Tennis & lunch at VRG and bridge & lunch in the secret card room in the Pool Pavilion were offered as well.

Our terrific Garden Tour Committee:

Seated, left to right: Susan Finkelman, Kerstin Royce, Patti Reinstein, and Evie Carlson

Standing, left to right: Linda Meadows, Barbara Marcus, Patricia Cowett, Jeanne Anderson, Maralee Beck, Barbara Remedios, Lynn Whitaker, Joan Selwyn, Elaine Stein, and Betty Goldstein

Not pictured: Diane Sipos, April Walton, Nicole Antoine, Sharon Gart, and Ann Petersen

Our wonderful staff:

From left to right: Diane Sipos and April Walton

From left to right: Josh Johnston and Barbara Remedios

From left to right: Pamela Davis-Burns, Branden Santos, April Walton and Sophie Orellana

Former employee Justus Ross

Not pictured: JC Griffith, Arthur Abramyan, Alex Aguilar, Bobby Flores, Jonathan Gulley, Pablo Rodriguez, Charles Tyrer; also from other facilities: Colleen MacKay, former employee Fernando Marroquin; and drivers Gabe Ortiz and Joe Garcia

It was a magnificent day, a visual feast for the eye and the soul, and all for a cherished cause — the restoration and preservation of our beloved Virginia Robinson Gardens and the Children’s Science Program. Thanks to our sponsors and the hardworking Friends in partnership with the County, this historical treasure and botanical paradise is flourishing.

Bernice Balson enthused, “What a terrific day! Congratulations to the hard-working team and their organizational skills. Life at Robinson Gardens is idyllic, with our love for the gardens…the beauty, the serenity, and the joy that enlightens each one of us, as we escape and relax with friends and with family into the beauty of life’s living, environmental greenery, and edible gardens that delight our senses.”

Sharon added, “Such a fun and special experience like no other … a magical day with friends new and old, all sharing our love and admiration for Robinsons Gardens and the other wondrous homes and gardens on tour that define the LA landscape and all that makes this city so great.”

View a full gallery of photos from the Garden Tour here!

Post by Linda Meadows
Friends of Robinson Garden Board Member
Editor of the Happenings

Event photos by Linda Meadows, Elaine Stein, Josh Johnston, Emina Darakjy, Krista Everage, JC Griffith, Alayna Steele, Sharon Gart, Diane Jenkins, Nicole Antoine, Patti Reinstein, Tim Lindsay, and www.shousemedia.com 

4 Responses

  1. Krista Everage
    | Reply

    Brava to all who made Garden Tour so delightful and beautiful !!

  2. Barbara Berg
    | Reply

    Wow! Everything looked so fantastic! Thank you so much beautiful pictures, I really wish I could have arranged my schedule to attend however the pictures are so much appreciated

    • linda meadows
      | Reply

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Hopefully, you will be able to join us next year!

  3. Valerie Chan
    | Reply

    This was my first time experiencing the Garden Tour! It was so much more than I ever expected! The floral arrangements were absolutely breathtaking, the volunteers all so friendly and the food scrumptious, particularly the dessert bar! The Garden Tour will now be an annual event for me! Thank you for such a wonderful experience!

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