Springtime splendor showcased in garden tour

Locations to be unveiled on May 9

Reservations are now being accepted for the 11th annual Secret Garden Tour of Old La Jolla to be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 9.

Established more than 10 years ago by La Jolla Historical Society (LJHS) members Linda Marrone and Susan Vandendriesse, the sellout event serves two main purposes. It serves as the organization’s primary fundraiser, generating funds to preserve La Jolla’s picturesque history while cultivating an appreciation for local structures and gardens.

“It’s also to let people realize that they don’t need to build a new house,” said Betty Vale, event chairwoman. “They can start with an old house and renovate and end up with a perfectly lovely abode.”

The event has followed the same format since its inception. Each destination on the tour features a noteworthy garden, displays by area designers, performances by local musicians and La Jolla artists at work.

Seven gardens will be showcased on this year’s tour. Each site is numbered so that visitors can easily navigate the circuit, which ranges from one end of La Jolla to the other without necessarily starting at number one.

“What’s really good is we have a variety of large estate gardens to small, almost patio-type gardens,” Vale said. “It’s for everyone, and you can get ideas for your garden seeing what other people have done.”

The tour is organized by a 36-member team that includes a Garden Selection subcommittee. Each year, these volunteers seek out new and unusual gardens.

“If they see something interesting, they will literally stop and knock on the door,” Vale said.

The self-guided tour costs $40 for LJHS members and $50 for nonmembers.

For $140, or $150 for nonmembers, the Platinum Tour includes shuttle transportation, a special brunch, a tour guide and exclusive access to an eighth garden at a renovated, historic, oceanfront home.

A limited number of spaces are available, so Vale encourages people to make their reservations now. A postcard will be mailed to confirm the reservation, but the featured gardens won’t be revealed until May 9.

More than 100 volunteers serve as docents in the garden, and Vale said a few more people are needed. These spots are also sure to go quickly, as volunteers receive a complimentary self-guided tour reservation.

For first-time tour visitors, Vale suggests wearing comfortable walking shoes and a hat. Cameras are encouraged, and photo ops abound. For many photographers, this is an opportunity to capture many unique and beautiful shots.

The artwork created by painters during the event will later be displayed and judged by members of the historic society, with the winner being used as the promotional image for 2010.

“These gardens are beautiful, and it’s just such a lovely experience,” Vale said.

Her hope, however, is that people will recognize the significance of preserving La Jolla’s heritage.

“We have a very worthy cause here.”

For reservations, visit the La Jolla Historical Society Web site at

or call the information line at (858) 459-5335.