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The Theodore Payne garden tour is happening this weekend — virtually

Buckwheat, with its silver-gray leaves, is among the California native plants you might spot during the Theodore Payne Foundation's online garden tours March 28 and 29.
(2020 Native Plant Garden Tour)

It lives! The Theodore Payne Foundation’s native-plant garden tours are a go for this weekend as a two-day, interactive series of live virtual tours of more than 30 landscapes around Los Angeles, hosted by the people who created them.

The foundation had canceled its in-person garden tours on March 13, due to concerns about coronavirus, but coordinator Margaret Oakley set up a task force that day to see if there was some way to move the event online. The result is happening on Saturday and Sunday, with a garden tour “social,” via Zoom, that should permit participants to watch narrated tours of two gardens every 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and talk to the owners and designers.

Oakley said the learning curve has been steep (“I’m literally trying to become really savvy about Zoom in a very short period of time”), but most of the original 42 garden owners have been enthusiastic about being involved. “They’ve put so much time and love into their gardens, they’re really looking forward to sharing them with the community,” she said. (Full disclosure: Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is an investor in Zoom.)

A special Q&A session about maintaining native plant gardens is set for 4 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, with experts Tim Becker, director of horticulture at Theodore Payne; Nicole Calhoun, owner of Artemisia Nursery, devoted to native plants; and Max Kanter of Saturate, a company that specializes in maintaining native plant landscapes.

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“I’m trying not to call it a ‘webinar’ because that’s such a loaded word that people associate with work,"Oakley said. “We’re calling this a ‘social’ because it’s really important to us to make this fun, free and easy for people to access, to keep the community together in these difficult times.”

The popular garden tours are also the foundation’s largest fundraiser, bringing in $35,000 to $50,000 a year, Oakley said. This year’s virtual tours are free, but Oakley is hoping participants will leave some kind of donation to support the foundation’s continuing work. (Tickets typically run $35, or $30 for members.) The foundation is also selling plants from its famous nursery online, which people can pick up at the parking lot at scheduled times.

Theodore Payne Foundation (Virtual) Native Plant Garden Tour

What: Virtual, interactive tours of more than 30 native-plant gardens around the greater Los Angeles area

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When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 28-29

Where: Online at nativeplantgardentour.org

Cost: Free, but donations welcomed.


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