The Real Gardens of Beverly Hills

Well, darlings, Dig-It-Blog’s most popular post, day in and out, has been “Garden Visits in the Hamptons,” (now updated with new and better pictures). What’s behind those hedges and gates, people want to know. So, last week, off to the city of my birth, La-La-Land, one thing was foremost in my mind, capturing the best “Garden Visits in Beverly Hills” for your viewing pleasure.

I know you don’t want to take the bus tour of stars’ homes, and a drive along Sunset Boulevard isn’t going to reveal very much. So last Wednesday, I met my friend Sara Guggenheim at Virginia Robinson Gardens, a six-acre property that’s open by appointment for group tours. Sara and I took, as it’s described in the brochure, “a tour which reflects an era of gracious living and legendary hospitality and provides visitors with a tangible link to the rich past that is Beverly Hills.” (BTW, I grew up in the flats of Inglewood, which has its own multicultural charm, not in the hills of Beverly.)

Herewith, highlights of our North-of-Sunset afternoon, which began at the Renaissance Revival Pool Pavilion, built in 1924, modeled after an Italian villa.

The Robinsons, the late Mr. and Mrs. Harry Winchester Robinson, were heirs to the J.W. Robinison department store empire. Their Mediterranean Classic Revival home at 1008 Elden Way just off Crescent Drive—its living rooms and library were the next stops on the tour—is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house, below, was built in 1911, was the site of much grand entertaining. It and the grounds are now managed by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation; Virginia Robinson was a trustee of Hollywood Bowl, and she liked they way they took care of it.

The Formal Mall garden, a great lawn between the main house and the Pool Pavilion, is lined with perennial borders and topped-off Italian Cyprus trees.

The Italian Terrace Garden, connected by paths, features fountains, ponds and sculpture.

Steps lead to gardens on many levels of the steep hillsides.

Only in Southern California: desert agave coexist with water-loving roses; there are 500 blooming bushes and climbers in the Rose Garden.

The Australian king palm collection, in the Tropical Palm Garden, is the largest of its kind in the world.

I was most taken by the Palm Garden’s luscious underplantings of hot-orange blooming Clivia, below, often grown in as a houseplant, as is Monstera deliciosa, above, also known as split-leaf philodendron.

The beauty above is Echium candicans or Echium fastuosum, Pride of Madeira, which the docent-guide told us was just beyond its peak. During our tour, the many large clumps on the property sparkled in the sunshine.

Cacti and succulents punctuate many areas of the garden. The tour ended at the tennis court, draped with Bougainvillea that surely inspires players to keep the ball low and in play.

Want to see more? The Friends of Robinson Gardens are sponsoring “Under the Tuscan Sun,” a benefit bash on Friday, May 13 from 10 to 4. The event will include tours of fthis property and four other private gardens in Beverly Hills, floral and design exhibitions, a gift boutique, and an outdoor luncheon and fashion show.

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint,, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
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