La Jolla’s annual Secret Garden Tour will take some new paths


By Linda Hutchison

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation,” said British author W. E. Johns. Local garden lovers will be able to experience this firsthand on Saturday, May 19 as they anticipate and stroll through the 14th annual Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla.

Sponsored by the La Jolla Historical Society, the Secret Garden Tour allows participants to enjoy a variety of La Jolla gardens, normally hidden from view, in a variety of neighborhoods, from the coastline to the hills. The event includes both a self-guided tour and a shuttle bus Platinum Tour.

• The self-guided tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Participants check in at the Wisteria Cottage, 780 Prospect St., to receive their program booklet with the locations of the six secret gardens, a map of the tour, and an ID wristband. The gardens can be visited in any order; visiting all six gardens takes approximately 2½ hours.

Tickets are $40 for Historical Society members and $50 for non-members and can be purchased in advance or at the cottage on the day of the tour for $5 more.

• The Platinum Tour begins at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, 9700 N. Torrey Pines Road at 9:15 a.m. and includes a tour of the hotel’s drought-tolerant garden and a brunch, followed by shuttle transportation to the gardens. The Platinum Tour includes one extra garden and docent guides. Tickets are $140 for Historical Society members and $150 for non-members and must be purchased by May 11.

• New this year will be a focus on courtyard gardens. The smaller courtyard garden, according to Garden Tour chair Penelope West, is one that is open to the sky, but enclosed by walls of the house, extending interior living space to include outdoor entertaining. It often features container and vertical, climbing plants and fountains and reflects the influence of travelers who brought ideas back from Mediterranean courtyard gardens. The courtyard gardens on the tour will also include many decorating ideas for entertaining.

One of the courtyard gardens will be a re-purposed garden, which uses salvaged architectural pieces as part of its design. The designers will be on hand to answer questions and sell many of the pieces. They include Terri Cornell of Majestic Floral, Barbara Gray and Krista Niskanen of Cottage White, and Lori Chandler and Karen Lampard of Vignettes.

In addition, two new vendors will be displaying and selling plants during the tour. These include orchid grower A. J. Floral Farms and succulent vendor Terri Cornell. Each garden will also include plant experts to answer questions and local artists, photographers, and musicians, including painters Patricia Jasper-Clark and Andrea Gaye, pianist Anne Marie Haney and violinist Victoria Martino.

“We hope all come out, it will be a wonderful tour,” said West. “It’s a great inspiration. People can relate to this and take ideas away.”

• Another new part of the tour this year will be the addition of contemporary homes. To reflect this, the word “Old” was dropped from the name of the tour, which used to be Secret Garden Tour of Old La Jolla. When the idea for the Garden tour was developed in 1999 by members of the Historical Society, its main mission was to feature La Jolla’s unique architectural history. But La Jolla’s unique architecture also includes many beautiful contemporary homes that reflect Southern California living, according to West.

The Secret Garden Tour is the Historical Society’s main fundraising event. Since the first tour 13 years ago with just a few organizers, it has grown to include more than 235 contributing volunteers. It is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy our great variety of plants, according to the Society’s historian, Carol Olten, who also wrote the program guide.

“We have such unique and exotic plant life with our Mediterranean climate, oceans and canyons,” said Olten. “We can grow things here that they can’t in the Midwest or on the East Coast.”

“We have an interesting tradition,” she added. “We couldn’t really grow gardens here until the early 1900s when a fresh water supply became available. The only plants here were sage and sea lavender.”

What: 14th annual Secret Garden Tour of La Jolla

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 19

Where: Check-in Wisteria Cottage, 780 Prospect St.

Self-Guided Tour: $40 for Historical Society members; $50 non-members in advance; day of costs $5 more

Platinum Tour: $140 members; $150 non-members, deadline May 11, check-in 9:15 a.m. Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa

Tickets: (858) 459-5335;

Benefits: La Jolla Historical Society