The Valley Line: Black-tie benefit boasts bamboo and ikebana

“East Meets Fete” was the theme chosen for “Only at Descanso,” the recent fundraising gala held at Descanso Gardens.

Heather Sturt Haaga, a Descanso trustee, seamlessly chaired the gala that raised $202,000 in support of the botanic garden's education programs for Los Angeles and surrounding area schoolchildren and special-needs students.

“The nice part is that the evening is also a very fun event, truly a community party. Many thanks to all who gave to keep the legacy of Descanso safe for future generations,” Sturt Haaga said.

It was a black-tie affair and Sturt Haaga looked classically beautiful wearing the haute couture color of this year, yellow. Joining her was her husband, Paul; their daughter, Blythe, who came for the event from her home in Chicago; their son, Paul (affectionately known as “Beep”) and his wife, Catalina.

The 200 guests first gathered in the Japanese Garden for cool beverages and plates of passed appetizers. The ponds in the garden reflected the bright-colored lanterns that were suspended on bamboo poles. A blue heron majestically waded through the water in search of his evening tidbit.

It was a lovely setting and it certainly inspired me to try my hand at writing a haiku:

     A misty moon shadow

     dances through the camellias

     A night to savor

Well, not exactly like the haiku masters such as Issa, Shiki, or Basho might have written, but the venue was perfect for such an art form. Other Japanese art forms were on display, too, with small floral arrangements known as ikebana that centered the cocktail tables and a large floral arrangement that was created by Youko Kitajama of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana.

The cocktail chatter was hushed when the sound of Taiko drummers emerged out of the camellia forest. They, along with a costumed, lion-like creature, led guests to the courtyard outside Van de Kamp Hall, where tables were beautifully set for dining.

The dining tables, covered in cloths of autumn-like colors of burgundy and deep orange, were centered with beautiful floral arrangements donated by Descanso trustee Hank Maarse, president of Jacob Maarse Florists in Pasadena.

The Asian fusion dinner was created by Patina and featured salmon with sweet corn ravioli in a brown butter sauce, lime, hazelnuts and early fall mushrooms.

Paul Haaga emceed the paddle auction that raised $70,000. Before the auction began, Brian Sullivan, Descanso's director of Horticulture and Garden Operations, shared meaningful remarks about the gardens and their mission. Hope Schneider, chairman of the gardens' board of trustees, also shared her thoughts about the evening and about Descanso's educational mission.

David Brown, executive director of Descanso, was in attendance with his wife, Judy, who was wearing a lovely Japanese silk robe.

Among the La Cañadans in attendance that night were Judy and Vince Dundee, Laura and Bill Olhasso, Dave and Kay Linden, Ben and Lucia Logan, Amy and Richard Wohl, Chris and Ginger Wilson, Rebecca Schneider, Hannah Schneider, Janice and Greg Trojan, Don Voss and Lynn DeGroot, Erin and Richard Atwater, Tania and Mike Cahill, Steve and Elysa Del Guercio, Thuy and Buddy Moss, Gracella Gibbs and Gene Wilcott.

Harvest Moon Happy Hour

The La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn. held its September Harvest Moon Happy Hour in the garden of Nana and Joel Smith on Hillard Avenue. Some 80 “floaters” enjoyed the evening. Attendees talked about the group's float, “Dino-Soar,” which is under construction for the 2013 Rose Parade.

In addition to the Smiths, others enjoying the evening were Rep. Adam Schiff, Cindi Behr, Pat and Dick Anderson, Larry Andreason, Sue Beatty, John Burrows, Julie Cameron, David Granish, Tom and Gale Caswell, Sherrill Carbonetti, Joyce and Bob Covey, Dick and Deanne Crother, Nymia Cucueco, Dottie Ecker, Fran and Bill Evans, Mary Lou and Eric Fiske, Sharlyn French, Mary and Daryal Gant, Brenda Gant, Vera and Garth Gragg, Harriett Hammons, Darlene and Gordon Hoopes, Doris Horwith, Peggy Hotaling, Harriett and Chuck Hughes, Pat and Otis Hutchins.

Also enjoying the ambience of the Smiths' lantern-lit garden were Art Johnson, Diane and John Landrum, Sarah and Mayfield Marshall, Jean and Jerry Martin, Eremite Miranda, David Moffett, Ann and Bob Neilson, Patti and Ross Newton, Lillian and Roy Olefson, Jenny Pass, Malak Peterman, Darlene and Joel Peterson, Ruth and Charlie Plowman, Bill Pounders, Anna Marie Seale, Teresa Lamb Simpson, Claire Slaughter, Ken Smith, Jean and Don Spomer, Virginia and Granville Swope, Chuck Terhune, Lynne and Joe Thompson, Pam Wiedenbeck and Gloria Winkley.

JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.

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