Garden Show and Tell : THE LOS ANGELES GARDEN SHOW : Display gardens, instructional talks and demonstrations highlight five-day event

TIMES GARDEN EDITOR

Designer Mark Bartos has a vision of Provence, that part of southeastern France with a gardening climate so similar to our own. He's imagined walking across fields of sweet lavender, passing through a gap in an ancient stone wall (perhaps from a medieval abbey) to find a grape-covered colonnade with a garden inside.

At its center is an old copper wine-making vat now overflowing with water from some hidden spring. All around it grow shrubby plants with the exquisite foliage--silvers, grays, blues and bronzes--and the soft scents typical of Mediterranean-climate plants.

Under what promises to be a blue Provencal sky, visitors to the Los Angeles Garden Show, co-sponsored by Robinsons-May and the Los Angeles Times, will be able to travel this no-longer imaginary path in "Dreams of Provence," an elaborate display garden created for the show by Pasadena's Hortus Nursery.

The Hortus display is but one of several highly imaginative gardens based on the theme "Gardens of the World" and created in a great flurry of earth-moving and landscaping expertise just days before the show opens Wednesday at the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum.

Display gardens are the highlight of any garden show and some at the Los Angeles show are good enough to take home ribbons from London's fabled Chelsea show. Like the Chelsea exhibits, a few could be lifted up and set down in someone's back yard after the show closes, but most are much too fantastical.

Given the opportunity of creating a garden only meant to last a few days, designers prefer to play and experiment, trying out new materials and unusual plants. Garden shows are a hotbed of new ideas, one reason you may see some visitors taking photographs and notes.

For instance, in "Dreams of Provence," Bartos has experimented with humble materials used in elegant and innovative ways. The capitals atop the rough-hewn wood columns are cleverly made of galvanized metal drain pipes crowned with garden tubs, each planted with cascading grape vines. In an anteroom off the main court, he has used ordinary Italian cypress to make extraordinary garden sculpture--a temple of cypress.

The wildly romantic garden by Sassafras Nursery of Topanga called "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is an outdoor bedroom "with a Gothic kick," according to designer Eric Solberg. Although the idea of sleeping in a garden surrounded by roses is tempting, this garden is really a fantasy.

Screened by giant topiaries, a massive Gothic iron bed with matching candelabra sits on a rug of dichondra edged in Irish moss. Giant faux-concrete pillars covered in climbing roses make it a partially enclosed garden room, and there are more roses and other typically lush English plantings at the base of the pillars. One pillar stands in an ornamental lily pond and each has an old Tudor rose sculpted into the cement finish.

Some find new gardens a bit like new shoes--too stiff, not scuffed enough and uncomfortable to be in. There are ideas for instantly aging a garden at Burkard Nurseries' display. In just a few days, this Pasadena nursery has made "An Abandoned Garden," using a mix of antique materials and unusual plants.

You'll have to peek through some overgrown shrubbery to see the garden, but inside is a small patio of old diamond-shaped tiles salvaged from a historic estate. The metal patio furniture, weathered by years of use and missing its cushions, and a rusty garden rake missing a few teeth add to the aged effect.

But what really makes the garden seem forsaken are the small perennials and tiny bulbs sprouting from the gaps between the tiles, like "no one has worked on the garden for a very long time," as Frank Burkard Jr. put it. The flower beds around the patio are happily overgrown, and, as in many old gardens, there are some exciting discoveries to be made among the herbage.

You can't miss two tropical-looking plants that say "Los Angeles"--the bold, red-leaved crinum lily in full flower and the outrageous variegated banana with its cream and green leaves. An impressive variegated lemon (named 'Sunstripe') is a striking tree if there ever was one, and it's anyone's guess where Burkard found these old specimens of a fairly recent plant introduction.

One of the more colorful displays promises to be Jane Adrian's "California Eclectic," which ties all sorts of diverse elements together with the unifying colors found in some Arizona boulders. She brought in 20 tons of this reddish rock, found at a working gold mine and streaked with exotic minerals, such as the opal-like chrysocolla, light blue azurite and bright green malachite.

A Craftsman era-inspired trellis and a gazebo are stained the same color as the mint-green chrysocolla, and Adrian aged an arbor of copper pipe, inspired by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, with the same verdigris color. In the center of the display, one boulder makes a spurting fountain.

Adrian admits "you'd never do your garden like this--it's too much frosting on the cake." But that's part of the fun of garden shows, although using color to tie diverse garden elements together is an idea to take home.

The garden is built under an old pepper and among some of the arboretum's old Australian grass trees ( Xanthorrhoea ), a very dramatic plant in any landscape. The other plantings will mimic some of the mineral colors in the boulders--the blue gray of Agave attenuata , Elymus 'Canyon Prince' and Senecio mandraliscae ; the azure blue flowers on ceratostigma; and the drying, rust-colored flowers of our own native buckwheats.

To see lots of exciting plants, visit Gary Hammer's display of drought-resistant perennials, mixed with aloes, agaves and other succulents. Hammer is one of the few nurserymen who is still out there collecting new plants from exotic places, and his display will have many plants you've never seen nor heard of.

He and other growers will also be selling hard-to-find plants in the Plant Market pavilion, where his Desert-to-Jungle Nursery will have a booth. Burkard Nurseries, for instance, will have the almost impossible-to-find autumn-flowering Crocus goulimyi , which was only discovered in Greece in 1955, but does so well in Southern California gardens that it flowers year after year and even multiplies.

At other booths, you'll find exotic orchids imported from Bangkok, herbs, daylilies, roses, perennials and tropical plants. At the Marketplace across the way, you find all sorts of garden accessories, even hammocks and garden hats. There will be pots and planters for sale, fountains, garden tools, umbrellas and furniture, and at VLT Gardener Botanical Books, the best selection of gardening books in the Southland.

Robinsons-May is sponsoring several exhibits of floral arrangements, including one that honors celebrities who have had roses named after them and another where the bouquets are made from plants that go into perfumes. Nearby, it will have an exhibit of designed table settings, called "Tablescapes."

There will be no shortage of speakers and demonstrations at the show, with two talks or demonstrations scheduled for nearly every hour of each day. (See the accompanying listing.) Garden celebrity C.Z. Guest will speak on Wednesday and Atlanta garden designer Ryan Gainey will speak on Thursday, both at 1 p.m. These two seminars cost extra, with an admission of $25 per person for each talk.

Another extra-cost event, "A Traditional British Afternoon Tea," with tea sandwiches, musical entertainment and informal modeling of fashions, will be held each day at 2:30 p.m. The cost for this is $20 a person. On Oct. 22, there will be a special Sunday fashion brunch, costing $30.

Food will be plentiful at the Garden Show, at a small Italian bistro, a coffee plaza and other food pavilions. At Tuileries, visitors may buy picnic lunches, then dine on blankets provided by the Garden Show.

The garden will be lit for a preview party on Tuesday from 6-9:30 p.m., with exotic foods and entertainment. The party costs $75, and reservations should be made for this and other added-cost events by calling (818) 447-8207.

The Los Angeles Garden Show will run Wednesday through Oct. 22 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum, 301 N. Baldwin Ave. in Arcadia, just off the 210 Freeway (take the Baldwin Avenue exit). Tickets are $5 before the show and $6 at the gate. Children 7 and under are free.

Tickets are available at the arboretum, all Ticketmaster locations and Robinsons-May stores. For event and parking information, call 1 (800) EVENT-06.

For more details on the Los Angeles Garden Show see ad on K12.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Seminar Schedule

A = Ayres Hall

B = Savoy Pavilion

S = Spice Garden

WEDNESDAY, OCT.18

10 a.m., Seminar Room A, Paul Alderson "A World of Herbs"

10 a.m., Seminar Room B, Bill Robinson "Rose Rustling"

11 a.m., Spice Garden, Chef Chas Boydston Fire Magic Cooking Demonstration

Noon, Seminar Room A, Donna Deane "Inside the L.A. Times Test Kitchen"

Noon, Seminar Room B, Robert Smaus "True Confessions of a Garden Writer"

1 p.m., Seminar Room A, Jack Christensen "All About Roses"

1 p.m., Seminar Room B, "Around the Garden with C.Z. Guest"

2 p.m., Spice Garden, Cooking Demonstration

3 p.m., Seminar Room A, Jim Bauml "The Making of a Children's Garden"

3 p.m., Seminar Room B, John Schoustra "Gardening With a Sense of Humus"

****

THURSDAY, OCT.19

10 a.m., Seminar Room A, Jane Adrian "Sustainable Landscaping"

10 a.m., Seminar Room B, Roy Leisure

11 a.m., Spice Garden, Chef Chas Boydston Fire Magic Cooking Demonstration

Noon, Seminar Room A, Donna Deane "Inside the L.A. Times Test Kitchen"

Noon, Spice Garden, Janie Malloy "Home Grown Edibles"

Noon, Seminar Room B, Robert Smaus "True Confessions of a Garden Writer"

1 p.m., Seminar Room A, Jack Christensen "All About Roses"

1 p.m., Seminar Room B, Ryan Gainey "Eden Without Boundaries"

1 p.m., Spice Garden, George Liskow "Wildflowers"

2 p.m., Spice Garden, Cooking Demonstration

3 p.m., Seminar Room B, Jan Smithen "Mediterranean Garden for Southern California"

****

FRIDAY, OCT.20

10 a.m., Seminar Room A, Mary Foote "Great Oaks From Little Acorns Grow"

10 a.m., Seminar Room B, Judy Horton "Design of the Mixed Border for So. California"

11 a.m., Spice Garden, Chef Chas Boydston Fire Magic Cooking Demonstration

Noon, Seminar Room A, Reiko Kawamura "Ikebana"

Noon, Seminar Room B, Robert Smaus "True Confessions of a Garden Writer"

Noon, Spice Garden, Lili Singer "Questions and Answers With Lili Singer"

1 p.m., Seminar Room A, Rick Fisher "A Native Plant Garden for Southern California"

1 p.m., Seminar Room B, Gary Jones "The Art of Cottage Gardening"

1 p.m., Spice Garden, Mayita Dinos "Hidden Treasure--Fragrance in the Garden"

2 p.m., Spice Garden, Cooking Demonstration

3 p.m., Seminar Room A, Janie Malloy "Edible Landscaping"

3 p.m., Seminar Room B, Jack Christensen "All About Roses"

****

SATURDAY, OCT. 21

10 a.m., Seminar Room A, Melanie Baer-Keely "An Introduction to ... Native Plants"

10 a.m., Seminar Room B, Robert Smaus "True Confessions of a Garden Writer"

11 a.m., Spice Garden, Chef Chas Boydston Fire Magic Cooking Demonstration

11 a.m., Seminar Room B, Allison Mia Starcher "How to Build a Tub of Good Bugs"

Noon, Seminar Room A, Jan Smithen "Mediterranean Garden for So.California"

Noon, Seminar Room B, Gloriana Pionati "Ancient Scents"

1 p.m., Seminar Room A, Tim Lindsay "Color in Your Garden"

1 p.m., Seminar Room B, Nancy Goslee Power "The Gardens of So. California"

2 p.m., Seminar Room A, Joel Rapp "The Joys of Indoor Gardening"

2 p.m., Seminar Room B, Allison Mia Starcher "How to Build a Tub of Good Bugs"

3 p.m., Spice Garden, Russ Parsons "Cooking With Winter Vegetables"

3 p.m., Seminar Room A, Jack Christensen "All About Roses"

3 p.m., Seminar Room B, Kathleen Slater "Historic American Gardens"

****

SUNDAY, OCT. 22

10 a.m., Seminar Room A, Robert Smaus "True Confessions of a Garden Writer"

10 a.m., Seminar Room B, Tim Street Porter "The Los Angeles House"

11 a.m., Spice Garden, Chef Chas Boydston Fire Magic Cooking Demonstration

12 p.m., Spice Garden, Russ Parsons "Cooking With Winter Vegetables"

Noon, Seminar Room B, John Schoustra "Re-Blooming Day Lilies for So. Cal. Gardens"

1 p.m., Seminar Room B, Tim Lindsay "Color in Your Garden"

3 p.m., Seminar Room A, Patrick McCullough "Trees"

3 p.m., Seminar Room B, Annie Kelly "Tropical Gardens of Bali"

3 p.m., Spice Garden, Mayita Dinos "Hidden Treasure--Fragrance in the Garden"

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