Annual Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase

The Mar Vista Community Council Green Committee launched the Green Garden Showcase in 2009 with the goal of encouraging sustainable home gardens in Mar Vista…and beyond.
It’s exciting to see what we’ve achieved – sustainable gardens are now plentiful and most Mar Vista streets have quite a few! The irony is that this makes garden selection for the tour even more demanding – for the tour to be meaningful, the gardens need to stand out beyond what we all see around us.
Organizing the tour is a very demanding, time and labor-intensive task – one that past organizers are unable to take on this year. So the Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase is taking a well-earned sabbatical.

We hope you'll continue to find inspiration for your garden on this blog. We've featured approximately 250 gardens over the past seven years. You can still view posts from past tours. Use the links on the right to find gardens from the 2015 tour with the features you're interested in.  Enter a term or address in the search box at the upper left hand corner of this screen to find gardens from prior tours. 

You can still view front yard. PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL OF GARDEN OWNERS’ PROPERTY. View gardens from the sidewalk unless invited in. Don’t pick anything! Click here to display a 2015 Green Garden Showcase map, then follow the directions to create your own personal tour map. Click here to display the 2014 map.

The Mar Vista community has an ongoing commitment to encouraging sustainability in all aspects of life. The Green Tent at the Mar Vista Farmers' Market hosts a different eco-presenter each Sunday. Every 4th Sunday, UCCE Master Gardeners visit The Green Tent with seeds, seedlings and advice. 

3967 Coolidge Avenue - Cluster 1F

Volunteers from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation completed this demonstration rain garden just in time for the 2012 Showcase

It's featured in a new DWP Public Service Announcement: Pretend

Come see how it's grown!

All the plants are CA natives. The garden is full of sedges, rushes, grasses with interspersed colors and scents of California Rose and Yerba Mensa, Canyon Sunflower, Monkeyflower, Sages, Yarrow, Mugwort. 

Milkweed is planted for Monarch butterflies. The garden attracts many butterflies, bees, birds & insects. 

All the rainwater, which is captured by house and garage downspouts, flows into the garden. It is dispersed by the plants and by underground gravel pits.

Watering is done by hand once every 2 - 3 weeks in the dry season. Mulch and compost tea are added for maintenance. 

Last year, the garden owners installed a plank bridge along path to the house.

What qualifies it as a rain garden?
A rain garden is a garden of native perennials, shrubs and small trees planted in a small depression designed to temporarily hold and soak in rainwater runoff that flows from impervious surfaces such as roofs, driveways, walkways and compacted lawn areas. Basically a rain garden receives rainwater channeled via gutters and connected pipes, allowing the rainwater to soak into the ground, as opposed to flowing into storm drains. Compared to conventional lawns, rain gardens allow for 30% more water to soak into the ground. Most rain gardens are built to hold a 1" rain event.

Every time it rains, the water runoff from impervious surfaces collects pollutants such as particles of dirt, fertilizers, chemicals, oils, garbage and bacteria along the way. The pollutant-laden rainwater enters the storm drain untreated.  Storm water runoff accounts for 70% of all the water pollution nationwide. Rain gardens collect rainwater runoff allowing water to be filtered by vegetation. A rain garden retains water just long enough to percolate into the soil where the plants and soil microorganisms breakdown and remove the pollutants. By keeping the water onsite and preventing it from flowing onto impervious surfaces, a rain garden lessens the amount of contaminated water entering storm drains.

Native plants are recommended for rain gardens because they have adapted to Southern California's dry conditions. Native plants attract birds, bees, wildlife and beneficial insects that have evolved alongside these plants. In keeping with the idea of improving water quality, they do not require fertilizers. A rain garden using selected plants native to the region requires little watering once it's established. The plants are selected with large root structures to allow runoff to soak into the ground. Water that makes it past the roots moves through filtering soil layers before entering the groundwater system. Rocks may be strategically placed so that storm water runoff is slowed, allowing for better absorption and preventing erosion.

In summary, a rain garden:

  • Attracts a diversity birds, bees, and beneficial insects.
  • Protects oceans land-based runoff pollution.
  • Provides an attractive alternative to a traditional lawn.
  • Doesn't need mowing or fertilizer as with traditional lawn.
  • Requires little watering after plants are established; 60% to 70% of drinking water is used for conventional landscaping.
  • Saves money that would be spent on irrigation.

3590 Ocean View Avenue - Cluster 2H

This front yard garden was added five years ago when the owners moved into the house. The previous yard was nothing more than weeds and the owners wanted to make it into a water-wise garden.

With the help of a local landscaper, they designed the garden to feel like a wild field and to include specific plants such as the Foxtail Agave, Firesticks, Dodonea, Sage, Aloe and other drought tolerant plants. The biggest addition was the California Live Oak Tree.

While the main layout hasn't changed over the past five years, some plants had to be changed or removed. The garden has no irrigation so plants must really be able to survive dry conditions. During the summer months, the garden is watered by hand but mostly survives on its own during the winter.

The best part of the garden now are the maturing FireStick plants which tower throughout the front yard. Also the owners love to watch the ever-present hummingbirds zoom around the garden.

3451 Cabrillo Boulevard - Cluster 3P

These garden owners wanted to create a tranquil garden that was also functional for access to the side of their house and easy to circulate for doing routine maintenance. The garden was completed in December 2014 and has filled in very nicely. 

An interesting feature of the garden is the "front" of the garden is not from the sidewalk view but from the driveway.

Susan Taylor of Paradise Gardens designed the garden.

3936 Minerva Avenue - Cluster 1G

This "yard" was once just a storage place for one owner's construction material. There were tons of plants in barrels and piles of boulders to do something with "eventually" well as a couple thousand bricks from the earthquakes,  six or so 7 foot telephone poles, picket fencing and junk collected from various places...and a lot of weeds.

The garden's other owner took care of the succulents that interested her. 

The current garden began to take shape early 1999. You’ll find a mixture of  Korean Grass...Black and boulders...lemon verbena..azalea’s  and other easy to maintain plants make this garden easy to take care of (though a specialist is needed to keep the black pines and other pines in a bonsai state). 

The garden is special because it was a labor of love. Many of the plants don't need a lot of water. A sprinkler system waters; it is regulated. 

12916 McCune Avenue - Cluster 5E

After years of drought turned this front yard into a sad looking lawn full of crab grass and weeds, the homeowners decided to put in a garden that is more in tune with the natural environment. With the help of their gardener they took out the grass and and just started planting. They didn't fertilize or treat the dirt in any way. 

They started with 1 medium-sized potted agave americana and a few small agave attenuatas (aka Foxtail agave). In a short amount of time they started to propagate and have filled in nicely. They added a tall, flowering aloe arborescens and put in some succulents and jade trees that were also previously potted to fill in the holes. 

On the strip closest to the street, in order to make that area more pedestrian friendly, they planted ornamental beach grass. On the side that they share with their neighbor they planted bamboo.

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Walgrove Elementary School - 1630 Walgrove Avenue - Cluster 4F

Walgrove Elementary is established as an Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation. The students work weekly with a Master Gardner learning how to care for the gardens and hold sales of the organic produce they have grown. The garden program extends across the campus and includes:
  • a flourishing organic garden
  • individual classroom garden boxes
  • dry creek bed/rain capturing arroyo
  • a kinder "garden" that is an official Monarch Butterfly Habitat
They also now boast a 25,000 square foot schoolyard habitat and outdoor laboratory known as the Walgrove Wildlands. It offers all Walgrove students the opportunity to become stewards of their environment by engaging directly with nature. This urban eco-lab is designed for on-campus curriculum-based science education including lessons about native plants and animal species, eco-systems, watershed issues and more. It also facilitates the practice of council and a myriad of outdoor projects that promote learning and discovery.

 The bench needs to be tamped down between layers,
which can be done with metal tools or human feet!
There'll be lots happening at Walgrove during the Showcase - STEAM Cardboard Carnival, kids eco and art activities, food, music and performances. Special guest speakers includes LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer and Tree People founder Andy Lipkis. Click here to see a flyer with more information. 

The event includes a council circle at 1 pm to inaugurate a new earthbench, among many other things. Walgrove is drawing lines between garden and social emotional wellness, art, design, project based learning, curriculum, and so forth. All are welcome to this council, facilitated by Kate Lipkis. The structure of the superadobe council bench comes from native soil poured into earthbags . Here  the bench needs to be tamped down between layers, which can be done with metal tools or human feet!

The Walgrove Wildlands was conceived and constructed by parents, staff, students and volunteers from throughout Los Angeles. They work with the LAUSD, Enrich LA, S.M. Bay Audubon 
Society, Whole Foods, Loyola Marymount's  CURes program, Common Vision, Surfrider Foundation, Million TreesLA, Kids4Trees, Theodore Payne Native Plant Foundation, CA Native Plant Society, Venice Youthbuild and volunteer groups from UCLA, Pepperdine and Santa Monica College, just  to name a few of their many partners and supporters. They owe possibly the largest debt of gratitude to their landscape architect, Ryan Drnek of Sodder Studio; he'll be on hand to answer your questions.

NOTE: entrance gate is on Appleton Way at Redwood Ave.

3642 Inglewood Boulevard - Cluster 2A

One owner's mother was a champion gardener. Her last garden in Santa Barbara is memorialized in The Smithsonian. She taught her much about the fun and joy of gardening. "I think of her as I go around the garden to cut flowers and greens for the house, dead head, weed and make up pots for splashes of color."

Life, as you know, can get complicated and this garden did not fare so well. With concerns about water usage and the continuing drought, they let it become quite fallow.

Then they made some changes to our home and it seemed the right time to make over the garden to something sustainable and easy to care for. George Boulanger put them in touch with landscape architect Tom Rau. 

Tom listened to their desires for creating a water wise garden with a cottage garden feel about it. While discussing various ideas, he suggested they open up the back by removing the fence that closed off the back garden from the driveway. One thing led to another!

A year later they have a new garage with a deck, a totally new patio area, a fabulous potting table and a garden that nearly takes care of its self. In the morning when they go out the front door, it is smells like being out in the country with the sage, mallo and lavender. 

It took a year to get it all done. They have had some set backs due to young plants and extremely hot spells. They haven't seen it through all its phases but are enjoying each day as the plants mature and show their personalities. 

Spring should bring out the colors of the native flowers and they believe that they will be peaking for the tour. 

The owners hope that the design and ideas put together by their team of Tom (design and plant selection), George (hardscape, fencing, garage & deck and potting table) and Eyal Zucker (Land Sculpting Inc.- irrigation system and plantings) will inspire others to take the steps to create water wise gardens too.