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‘A comforting space’: Secret Garden Tour to show off La Jolla ‘tranquil vistas’

A peek of one of the gardens that will be featured in the La Jolla Historical Society's upcoming Secret Garden Tour.
A peek of one of the gardens that will be featured in the La Jolla Historical Society’s upcoming Secret Garden Tour. The gardens’ locations are kept secret until the day of the tour.
(Courtesy photo)

Tickets are on sale for the La Jolla Historical Society’s spring in-person fundraising event.

When one La Jolla resident who will showcase her backyard this spring as part of the La Jolla Historical Society’s Secret Garden Tour spends time in her lush garden, she feels “peaceful.”

She observes how the light coming through mature trees on the property changes throughout the day and how the trees frame the view of the ocean. She takes pride in a specially designed hedge that she trims herself to maintain its shape. She notes how the garden has evolved in the 16 years she’s lived in her home with her family.

“You just sigh,” the mystery homeowner said. “It’s a comforting space. It brings me peace of mind. There is always something to see and feel.”

But you wouldn’t know from looking at the outside.

“It’s certainly a secret garden,” she joked. “You go through a gate and, boom, there it is. You have no hint from the front of the house that there is a garden in the back.”

She describes the garden as “accidentally orchestrated” and says it is “cheerful and inviting” but also with “formalities and symmetry.”

“There was this one junky tree when we bought the house, and I wanted to make it a very cool-looking tree, so I had it trimmed and cared for,” she said. “There are other mature trees at the center that have changed and morphed over time, and we made changes to the backyard over the years and expanded the garden. Now there are terraces that line up from certain viewpoints, and new retaining walls. It’s a work in progress. It evolved.”

The Secret Garden Tour is returning in person Saturday, May 14, after two years online. Tickets are on sale.

The event has two options: a self-guided tour of six gardens that can be viewed in any order, and a Platinum Tour that includes an exclusive seventh garden, plus transportation with a docent and brunch.

Leah Higgins did the poster art for the 2022 Secret Garden Tour.
(Courtesy of Lauren Lockhart)

“You can take the self-guided tour ... at your leisure, during which some people find a garden that speaks to them and want to spend a lot of time there,” said event co-chairwoman Meg Davis.

“I’ve had a number of people tell me they enjoy [the Platinum Tour] because they can relax and have a richer experience with the docents.

You can do it fast, slow or in between. You can make a whole day out of it.”

The theme this year is “Tranquil Vistas.” Davis said the touches the homeowners have put on their gardens show the diversity of the theme.

“Each garden provides a unique perspective on the tranquility the garden environment brings to the homes,” she said. “We have different styles of gardens and homes from different eras, so you’ll see a lot of diversity, but you’ll see what matters to the homeowner reflected in the gardens.”

La Jolla Historical Society Executive Director Lauren Lockhart agreed. “There are different aesthetics to the gardens,” she said. “There are a number of gorgeous gardens that are highly manicured, very refined. Some are more focused on native plants with a more wild feel, but equally beautiful.

“It speaks to how much peace and calm we can find in tending to a garden. The homeowners put heart and soul into creating these spaces. They found an escape in their gardens.”

The gardens’ locations are a closely guarded secret until the day of the tour, but all are in La Jolla and will feature live musicians, plein air artists and dining table designs.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Historical Society and are “critical” to expanding its offerings, Lockhart said.

“This year, we are expanding our public service and educational programs at area schools, so the success of the event affects our ability to have school programs and camps for young people,” she said.

The Historical Society also has archives that are accessible to the public, as well as free public exhibitions.

In addition to the garden tour, the Historical Society will present its Friday Night Candlelight Garden Soirée at a private home in La Jolla on May 13. The gathering provides an opportunity to mingle with other garden enthusiasts while partaking of hors d’oeuvres, wine and music, all by candlelight.

The Secret Garden Boutique at Wisteria Cottage will be open to the public throughout the day May 14, offering gardening accessories, plants and gifts for purchase. Wisteria Cottage is at 780 Prospect St.

Tickets for the self-guided garden tour are $50 in advance and $60 the day of the tour ($40 for Historical Society members). The Platinum Tour costs $150 ($140 for Historical Society members).

Tickets for the Candlelight Garden Soirée are $75 ($65 when purchased with a Platinum Tour ticket).

To learn more, visit lajollahistory.org and click on “Events.” ◆