After viewing six lovely gardens in the San Fernando Valley, I climbed up Benedict Canyon Drive on a veritable Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to drop down on the other side into the LA Basin. I continue to be amazed that after, all the years I lived in Southern California, this was my first trip through the hills NOT driving on a freeway! Only minutes from the glitz of Rodeo Drive a man made (woman made?) urban oasis overlooks Laurel Canyon and offers a place of respite for the owners, Dan and Susan Gottlieb, and the flora and fauna they nurture.
This one acre steeply sloped site has been in the making for over 25 years. When Dan first showed Susan the home, she was distressed that the ivy covered slopes provided no habitat for the birds–and so the labor of creating this environmentally sensitive and sustainable chaparral woodland began. The garden is a National Wildlife Federation-certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat and a Xerces Society-designated Pollinator Habitat.
Dan and Susan are environmental philanthropists and photographers. Susan pursues her passion for conservation not only with this native garden but also by serving on the President’s Advisory Council for the National Wildlife Federation and in her work with both the Theodore Payne Native Plant Foundation and UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, among other organizations. The Gottliebs own G2 Gallery, a wildlife and nature photography gallery in Venice, CA which donates all proceeds of sales to environmental causes.
After seeing the garden on in 2003 on the first Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour, Huell Howser, the late KCET television personality and host of “California Green”, devoted an entire episode to Susan’s conservation work. The garden has its own website http://www.thegottliebnativegarden.com where you can find a host of photographs, plant and wildlife lists and a great Wildlife Journal whose posts give you a look at what the Gottliebs see on a daily basis in their garden.
Now for the bad news–I was not very far into this fascinating ecosystem when my camera let me know my last CF card was full. Having little battery left on my phone, I have only limited photos of this great garden. So I’ll show you what I have and if I’ve left you hungry for more, hop on over to the garden’s website. Or go to http://www.theodorepayne.org and click on the 2017 tour information for photos and plant lists of ALL this year’s gardens.
Most of the homes on this street have minimal front yards. A shady courtyard leads you to the Gottlieb’s front door. A special treat for garden visitors was that this garden was accessed through the home. Dan and Susan have a wide variety of art in many different forms, both inside and outside. As you approach the large glass doors opening to the patio, the views capture you.
Both Dan and Susan have a special affinity for hummingbirds and, although I did not count them, they must have over 30 feeders just on the patio area. There were literally hundreds of hummers hovering around feeders grouped in clusters and hanging on shepherds hooks.
The Gottlieb home is on a very steep street and thus they have a significant slope retained by a block wall on their uphill side. Here you see a small section of the slope where water runs down the slope into a calm little stream bordered by colorful sun loving natives.
The Erigonum fasciculatum that I have seen in so many of this day’s gardens shines here as a slope cover draping down to camouflage the utilitarian block wall.
All of the planted areas are exuberant and filled with such variety I could not hope to even give you a partial list. What struck me about this long and very steep slope was how restful all that variety was even though the palette tended more to the lighter, more yellow green than to the darker greens.
The Gottliebs have designed an interesting solution to allowing their cats to have time outside without putting them in the position of being either predator or prey. Wire mesh tunnels run from cat doors in the side of the home to a number of points on the slope- sort of like an elevated train track for the kitties.
Succulents play a role in the patio area and especially liked this cheerful collection!
The patio and its compact surrounding beds and beautiful pool are only a small fraction of the garden property. Dan and Susan Gottlieb have made their steep slope down into the canyon accessible with a series of wooden walkways. On tour day groups of people wander up and down the slope stopping to admire the variety of form and texture making notes about plant combinations. Susan drifts among her guests answering questions and pointing out plants of special note. Although I walked the entire slope, my camera had already failed me so I have nothing to share save my impression of what a stunning habitat the Gottliebs have created, with the intent of returning the landscape to what it might have been before we all came in digging and building.
This lovely new book tells the story of the garden and features Susan’s photography. The book is also packed with interesting topics, in prose and pictures, including an introduction to P22, the bachelor mountain lion who lives in the Griffith Park area; LA Bird Day; a short list of reasons to “go native”; native alternatives to invasive species and profiles of many Southern California and national organizations dedicated to environmental causes. All proceeds for the sale of the book go to environmental causes.
My takeaway from the Gottlieb garden–I will attend this tour next year just to have another opportunity to spend time in the beautiful habitat they have created and graciously share with others interested in biodiversity, native plants and water conservation. It will be my FIRST garden of the day, not the LAST, and I will come prepared with extra batteries, CF cards for the camera and fresh legs to explore the slope into the canyon more fully.
NEXT UP–I’ll check in on Filoli in April and next week I’ll share the TPFNPGT Sunday gardens.