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Pretty as a Picture: Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla promises stunning scenes on May 18

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La Jolla artist Sharon Hinckley’s painting, “Welcome Home,” is the poster art for the 2019 La Jolla Historical Society Secret Garden Tour.
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Much like the other participants on the La Jolla Historical Society’s Secret Garden Tour, artist Sharon Hinckley walks the various gardens to take in all their beauty, before setting up in the perfect spot to put brush to canvas.

For three of the last 21 years, Hinckley’s paintings have been the poster art for the Tour, including this year. Her “Welcome Home,” is a painting of the exterior of a Spanish Revival home — the Charlotte Gary Barnum House — which served as a gateway property to the southern end of La Jolla. Hinckley has been a participating artist for 14 years.

Alongside explorations of select La Jolla gardens, the Secret Garden Tour features artists painting on site, musicians and a boutique for garden-related shopping.

Tickets are now on sale for this year’s Tour, set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 18, and cost $50 for the Self-Guided Tour and $150 for the Platinum Tour, which includes a 9 a.m. brunch, a bus and docents.

Gardens are not revealed until the day of the event, except to the artists.

“Each garden is totally different,” Hinckley explained. “You could make 100,000 paintings in some of these gardens. You could spend your whole life in these gardens and still miss much of what was there. In a way, it’s like going to the Metropolitan Museum; you could spend all day there and not a waste a minute.

“Because of the traffic flow, sometimes we’re assigned a place in the garden to paint. But whether we’re assigned a place or not, I go before the Tour, sometimes frequently, and explore the garden.”

In the event she is not assigned a location, Hinckley said she looks for contrast or areas of “interesting” light to determine her subject focus.

“I look for what strikes my eye,” she said. “I’ve never made rules for choosing my subject. I remember one year, I painted at The Children’s School, but when I walked in, and all I saw was the concrete, I wondered why I was assigned there? But then, I looked more carefully and there were so many little nooks and crannies ... If you look at anything more carefully, you will find something in it. Sometimes, the gardens are so beautiful it’s overwhelming and you can’t paint the whole garden ... it’s like, there are a lot of words in the dictionary, but you can’t say them all at once. You have to select the images you can portray in one painting.”

In addition to the bounty of things to see in each garden, the locations represent a variety of styles, providing that much more to see.

As Tour sponsor, La Jolla Historical Society executive director Heath Fox explained: “There are six new gardens on this year’s tour. The only hint I can give is that two of the properties are historically designated, and one is by a noted historic architect, who is a Master Architect at the City of San Diego and has done a lot of work in La Jolla during his day.

“Because there is such a variety of different gardens — some modern, some traditional — there isn’t a theme to this year’s event. There is one really big surprise garden that’s actually not a private residence. It’s going to be a really big surprise that I think a lot of people will be delighted to see. And they may not realize it has been there! It’s going to be really fun.

“Some of the gardens are intimate and enclosed, others are wide with expansive views, and provide a range of plants for all manner of horticulture and architecture enthusiasts. There is a little something for everyone on this year’s Tour,” Fox said.

Proceeds from the Tour benefit the La Jolla Historical Society.

“Because we are concerned with architectural history and environmental history, this event is related to all that,” Fox said. “It is one of two big fundraisers for the Historical Society, the other is the Concours d’Elegance car show (April 12-14). The funds we receive from these events help us present our year-round exhibitions and educational programming to the community for free, or at very little cost.”

Artist Hinckley added: “It’s a real privilege to view these wonderful places that aren’t on the beaten path. It’s a wonderful appreciation for the Earth and a win for the participants and the guests; it’s something that is all good.”

Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla 2019

Friday, May 17: Candlelight Garden Soirée at one of the gardens on the 2018 tour (time/location to be announced when tickets are purchased). Tickets: $75 ($65 with purchase of a Platinum Tour ticket).

Saturday May 18: The Self-Guided Tour starts at 10 a.m. with check-in at Wisteria Cottage, 780 Prospect St. Here, participants receive a program booklet with the locations of the secret gardens, a map of the tour and the wristband necessary to gain entrance. Gardens may be visited in any order. Advance tickets: $50; La Jolla Historical Society members $40; Day of: $60.

Saturday, May 18: Platinum Tour starts with brunch at a private setting, followed by shuttle transportation to the gardens with docent guides. Tickets: $150; La Jolla Historical Society Members $140.

The Secret Garden Boutique will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Wisteria Cottage, selling gardening accessories, plants and gifts.

Tickets: (858) 459-5335. lajollahistory.org