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‘Catwoman’ Julie Newmar takes landscaping personally: ‘A garden is a reflection of you.’

At 86, Julie Newmar, the curvy dancer/actress who made Catwoman an icon, has a simple plan for gardening and overcoming life’s challenges: “Take everything you have and make it better.”

This Hanging Tuberous Begonia blooms outside Julie Newmar’s office window in one of her favorite colors, a peachy-pink hue she’s still trying to name. “Paris Pink? No.....Hermosa!” (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Julie Newmar has turned her 1/4 acre Brentwood property into a whimsical, Alice in Wonderland type garden, including pathways into “secret gardens”. Here a trellis frames one entrance to her front yard garden. (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Flowers pool over the front fence of Julie Newmar’s house. (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Alstroemeria, commonly known as Peruvian or Inca Lily, blooms alongside a myriad of other flowers inside Julie Newmar’s front garden. (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Roses are one of Julie Newmar’s favorite flowers, here cascading off a trellis in her front yard.  (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Inside the back garden of Julie Newmar, pots of begonias welcome visitors at the gate. (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Julie Newmar and her son, John, spend most Sundays on this two-person chaise in the shade of an olive tree, reading and watching what happens in the garden. John, 38, was born with Down syndrome and became deaf and mute about a bout with meningitis when he was 3. Newmar created the garden as a way to visually communicate with him.  (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Actress and dancer Julie Newmar poses under an olive tree, surrounded by ferns and begonias inside her fantastically colorful garden. “Ecstasy is big in my life.” (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Julie Newmar built several narrow pathways she calls “secret gardens” into her landscape, dotted with child-size surprises, to inspire and stimulate her son John, now 38, who was born with Down snydrome and became deaf and mute about a bout of meningitis when he was 3. (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
A sculpture of a meditating frog is one of many child-level surprises along the narrow paths in her “secret gardens” outside her Brentwood home.  (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Julie Newmar’s side garden is framed by a wrought iron gate that once served as the headboard for her bed when she lived in New York.  (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Julie Newmar used a mirror behind a black wrought iron gate to create the illusion of a larger garden on the back porch of her Brentwood home, which is filled with ferns and begonias, and the music of a tinkling fountain.  (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)
Julie Newmar loves bright, bold colors, such as this Dinnerplate Dahlia Labyrinth in her front garden. (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)