Who hasn't passed an eye-catching front yard and wished they could sneak in for a closer look?
Curious types will get a chance to do just that -- no trespassing necessary -- on May 6 when six residential landscapes will be showcased on the Garden Conservancy's annual Los Angeles garden tour.
One stop, at the Fremont Place home of Thomas and Chany Chung, features a newly renovated front yard blanketed with an unusual mix of succulents, cactuses, roses and plumerias beneath tree aloes and ponytail palms. The mosaic-like plantings are so mesmerizing that visitors might easily overlook the 1923 red-brick Colonial designed by noted architect Myron Hunt (known for the Rose Bowl and the Huntington Art Gallery).
"The owners wanted something drought tolerant and low maintenance, but they wanted color, too," says garden designer Kenny Kim. So he kept the stacked-stone walls and Chinese elm, trimmed the privet hedge, added boxwood, then replaced a neglected lawn and overgrown shrubs with sedums, echeverias, aeoniums and agaves mulched with gravel. Working a section at a time between swaths of river rock, he also made room for barrel cactus, red-blooming euphorbia and, most recently, an orchard including loquat, persimmon, pineapple guava and fig trees.
Elsewhere, an island of miniature and hybrid tea roses brightens the driveway. And while azaleas and dwarf papyrus fill a shady side garden, crossvine drapes a gazebo with a veil of blooms.
Gracious outdoor living is the highlight at another stop on the tour.
Designed by Windsor Square homeowner Kathleen Losey, the garden of her 1923 Mediterranean-style home boasts multiple outdoor options for entertaining or just hanging out with her two dogs.
"My previous garden was huge and too much to take care of," says Losey, an artist and former interior designer. "This one's smaller, but I'm still out there pruning, potting and puttering around."
She widened a front deck to pair her parents' patio furniture with an arbor seat for a neighborly spot to sip cocktails at sunset facing the street.
Out back, a split-level terrace came equipped with a grill, but it was Losey who rolled out the welcome mat: She added a generous awning, set out a dining table and green-upholstered seating, and removed part of a wall to annex the driveway. Terrace steps and a baker's rack display containers of succulents and herbs.
Down a curved staircase, Losey created still more destinations on terra firma: first, a stone table and bench on gravel beside a fountain and, past a trellis of climbing roses, a sitting area surrounded by creeping fig, India hawthorne and four crape myrtles.
Although Losey usually paints in the garage studio, moving her easel out on the terrace can be tempting.
"In good weather," she says, "it's a little piece of heaven."
Garden Conservancy Open Day
What: Self-guided tour of six Los Angeles-area gardens
Where: Hancock Park, Windsor Square and Fremont Place
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 6
Tickets: $7 per person per garden
Info: gardenconservancy.org/open-days, (888) 842-2442