La Jolla Historical society presents annual Secret Garden Tour


Each of the six gardens chosen for this year’s Secret Garden Tour of Old La Jolla has its own story to tell.

Among the highlights of the La Jolla Historical Society-sponsored event is a mansion garden along the Torrey Pines cliffs with a sanctuary for spiritual thoughts, and a fun family yard with a life-size dollhouse. In between are some quaint cottage gardens and drought-resistant grounds — all with horticultural designs to surprise and delight visitors on the self-guided tour, which runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 15.

Entering through often secluded garden gates to view private gardens each spring has become an annual rite of passage for many of the guests who arrive from across the country and who plan their vacations to coincide with the tour, said Ruth Chandler Varonfakis, spokeswoman for the event.

“We’ve been very lucky through the years that each garden tour is sold-out,” she said. “To preserve the gardens, only a limited number of tickets can be sold — 850 tickets are available for the self-guided tour (and that number includes volunteers, artists, musicians) and 150 for the Platinum.”

The coveted Platinum Tour features brunch at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa with shuttle transportation and a guided tour of each garden, including an additional garden open exclusively to Platinum guests.

The entire event is enhanced by the talents of local artists who provide the music, create the displays, and exhibit the paintings that capture each home and garden’s unique beauty.

“We don’t offer refreshments per se since guests will normally stop along the way for their own refreshers,” said Chandler Varonfakis.

The garden locations are announced on the day of the tour, listed in the brochure handed out at registration. Proceeds from the event provide vital funding for the La Jolla Historical Society to accomplish its goal of “discovery, collection and preservation of La Jolla’s heritage.”

This is the 12th year for the tour that was founded by historical society members Susan Vandendriesse and Linda Marrone. Participants are reminded to bring their cameras.

The self-guided tour is $40 for members, and $50 for nonmembers. The Platinum Tour is $140 for members, $150 nonmembers. Visit for online reservations using a credit card or to download a reservation form and mail it in with payment to La Jolla Historical Society, P.O. Box 2085, La Jolla, CA 92038. Patrons may also phone the information line at (858) 459-5335, ext. 5 for reservation information.

La Jolla Historical Society’s offices and archives are at 7846 Eads Avenue, La Jolla. They are open to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, with an exhibition gallery open noon to 4 p.m. Thursday-Friday. (858) 459-5335.


If you go

  • What: 12th annual Secret Garden Tour of Old La Jolla, presented by the La Jolla Historical Society
  • When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 15
  • Where: Six gardens to be revealed on tour day
  • Optional Platinum Tour: Includes brunch at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel, shuttle transportation, guided touring, plus a seventh garden; $140

members, $150 nonmembers

  • Perk: The Estancia is offering guests a rate of $159 per night, plus a 20 percent discount on spa services
  • Self-guided tour tickets: $40 members, $50 nonmembers at

Other local garden tours

Del Mar:

“A Landscape in Transition,” American Society of Landscape Architects, San Diego Chapter, 1 to 5:30 p.m. May 1, departing from Kilroy Business Center Del Mar, 3611 Valley Centre Drive. Guided bus tour of four private residential gardens and public projects designed by architects. Afterglow includes music, food and drink, plus a raffle. Tickets $45 at


North County:

“Through Garden Gates” tour, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 1, with four North County gardens featuring Mediterranean, succulent, and native plantings. Hosted by American Association of University Women, Del Mar-Leucadia. Tickets: $25-$35 at (760) 603- 9287 or The Book Works, 2670 Via de la Valle, Flower Hill Promenade, Del Mar.

North County:

Five gardens, plus admission to Weidners’ Gardens, Ecke Ranch. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 24. The gardens on tour feature a tribute to California native plants, a sangiovese vineyard, an estate-sized English garden, and others. Tickets $25 at or (760) 230-6305; on tour day at Weidners’ Gardens, 695 Normandy Road, Encinitas. Benefits Community Resource Center programs.

Rancho Santa Fe:

“Water-wise and beautiful,” sponsored by Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club, 9 a.m. April 25. Bus ride to four gardens, then back to headquarters for lunch, spring flower exhibit, displays by the Santa Fe Irrigation District and the San Dieguito River Conservancy. Tickets: $50-$65 at (858) 756-1554 or

  1. Benefits horticulture scholarships and conservation groups.


Encinitas Garden Festival and Tour, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 25, features walking tour of 20 gardens in Cardiff, local artists’ booths, outdoor living rooms and other attractions. Marketplace will have vendors with unusual plants, vegetable seedlings and garden art, plus exhibitors with information about gardening, composting and more. Park at MiraCosta College’s San Elijo campus where buses will shuttle guests to site. $10-$21 at (760) 753-8615. Benefits gardening books for the libraries, funding for public landscaping, school gardens.


“Coastal Treasures” annual tour of the homes, gardens and studios of the San Dieguito Art Guild members. Refreshments, entertainment, art for sale. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 9-10. Tickets: $20 at Off Track Gallery, 687 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas,


Benefits school art department.