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GARDEN FANATIC: Noticing plants on the Charm Tour

I had recited six times the adverse impact on development by time the fire happened Oct. 26, 1993, before I noticed the non-native Tamarisk growing along the side of upper Bluebird Canyon Drive. The same coastal sage scrub, which provided much of the vegetative fuel for the Laguna fire, was now harboring an exotic intruder. A small footnote, among many, that I filed away as a guide for the 37th annual Charm House Tour.

Village Laguna’s mission statement is “To preserve and enhance the unique village character of Laguna Beach.” Lofty goals, as we all consider Laguna a special place to live or visit, and want to keep it that way. However, I also believe that we have the right to develop our property reasonably . . . but I’ll save that thought for a Thursday evening.

Village Laguna board member John Monahan gave me a script featuring Eucalyptus, a love triangle, and why Laguna doesn’t have a First Street. These anecdotes and more kept my audience intrigued or at least mildly interested. As I recited stories, I enjoyed Laguna’s lovely, natural landscape, particularly on Rim Rock Canyon.

Sycamore adorns many gardens throughout the village. Native to our locale, these trees are well tended and graceful. Clearly, their robust growth is attributable to irrigated conditions, as sycamores growing in wild space often appear stunted in comparison.


Tamarisk is just beginning to show its pink blossoms. Its aggressive roots and invasive character displace native vegetation, and it’s being eradicated in many scenic preserves.

The colorful Gold Medallion tree from Brazil is not considered a threat to our chaparral. Its deep yellow flowers will be showy throughout the summer.

Two natives, Blue Elderberry and Chaparral Mallow are blooming profusely. The elderberry has creamy flowers and will form berries, which can be harvested to produce the famous wine. The mallow has arching branches covered with pale pink flowers.

Toyon is abundant on Park Avenue and throughout the coastal sage scrub in Laguna. Small white flowers are just forming, to be followed by red berries that persist through the holidays. This shrub is an important food source for bees and birds.


Five hours later, my duties as a bus guide ended. It was fun renewing acquaintances and making new friends. Perhaps next year, we’ll even visit a home in Diamond Crestview.

See you next time.

STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to award winning writer Catharine Cooper, and has two cats and five dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to