by Laura Foti Cohen
In spring, a gardener’s thoughts turn to planting and the Ebell’s gardeners are no exception. And Ebell members being who they are, they naturally approach gardening as they do other activities: to enrich their lives and the lives of others.
Ebell Membership Chair Patty Lombard also serves as President of Hancock Park Garden Club, a small, by-invitation-only organization formed in 1962. In 1996, Patty says, “Our club joined the Garden Club of America (GCA), which makes you get engaged and involved in your community.”
The club’s community improvement efforts have included renovating the sunken garden originally designed by A.E. Hanson at Getty House, the Mayor’s official residence; maintaining the Getty House roses; adding street vines at Third Street School; repotting the container plants along Larchmont Boulevard’s business district; and, with the support of the Garden School Foundation, adding a native woodland garden at 24th Street Elementary School in the West Adams district.
“What I particularly like is garden history and design,” Patty says. “My sister is an architect, and I tend to approach gardening from that angle. As I’ve become more involved I’ve learned more about the horticulture side. The GCA encourages its members to develop the areas that aren’t their strengths so you become well rounded. Plus, they say that if you spend 20 minutes a day in your garden it’s very restorative.”
Patty is working with Ebell Garden Chair Suz Landay to increase the Ebell’s garden programs, and is chairing a presentation on April 20th in conjunction with the Garden Conservancy.
Myrna Robin Gintel has always been known for the incredible roses in front of her Hancock Park house, but it was only when she became co-chair of the Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society’s annual garden tour in 2006 that she started to pay more attention to the breadth of opportunity gardens presented. In 2009, when the tour donated its proceeds to build gardens at Frances Blend Special Education Center, an LAUSD school for blind and multiply handicapped children, Myrna began volunteering. She now teaches there two days a week. In addition, she recently began the Master Gardener program through the University of California Cooperative Extension.
“A lot of it really started with me wanting to do a better job and bring more to the table for these kids,” Myrna says. “I am fortunate at this time in my life, after having a 25-year career in the garment industry and raising three children, that I have time to give back.”
The Master Gardening program was ideal because of its emphasis on community support of those with limited resources. In addition to helping with her teaching, the program will also surely have an impact on Myrna’s new organic vegetable garden, tucked behind the roses in a series of raised beds.
“There’s a whole new kind of awareness of what’s called edible landscaping. I’m just at the beginning of trying to figure out how I can transform my property and embrace the concept of sustainability. I love to cook with fruits, vegetables and herbs from my own garden.”
Another garden aficionado is landscape designer Catherine Roberts. After a career at Arthur Andersen, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and IBM, she hit a crossroads. “I started to ask myself what I wanted out of a work situation. It was a team environment, project management and the process of creating something.” Catherine went through the four-year UCLA Extension Landscape Architecture Program, graduating “just in time for economy to tank,” she says.
“It’s a difficult market now. Besides the slowdown in residential work, funding for municipal projects has disappeared and private development has dried up.” Catherine loves her chosen profession, however, and makes time to give back with her newfound expertise. “April is national landscape architecture month,” she points out. “There will be a lot of activities going on including one that is really fun: the 22nd annual La Gran Limpieza, the Great L.A. River Cleanup, on April 30th. It’s a good opportunity for people who want to help the environment.”
Catherine says, “Landscape designers are focused on public parks right now. Los Angeles has a lot of open spaces – Griffith Park, Angeles National Forest, the beach – but they’re not close to the most densely populated areas. The profession is working to find open space in park-poor areas. There needs to be a full spectrum of different types of spaces to meet different needs, from playing fields to hiking to community gardens to just places to sit and contemplate and have the wind blowing on your face and grass under your feet.”
Mary E. Nichols, a photographer of some of the most spectacular properties in the world, brings an artist’s eye to the subject of gardening. “I have a prejudice for formal gardens, although I have seen many great drought-resistant gardens that seem random but aren’t.”
Years of shooting for Architectural Digest has given Mary a definite point of view. She believes it’s important always to have something blooming, regardless of season. She is a fan of walkways that lead to seating areas and water features that calm the nerves. She embraces landscaping that respects the time period of a house. She believes bigger is better when it comes to trees, but as for the garden itself, smaller can pack more punch.
“One of the biggest mistakes is to plant tiny fledgling trees, so that in your lifetime you will never see them reach maturity. I am all for craning in mature plantings if you can afford to do it. Sometimes small gardens can be like jewel boxes and offer so much more than just rolling lawns.”