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SHARING SECRETS: Inspiring Garden Visits Worth Copying At Home

Edited by Cathy Tylka, for Let’s Talk Plants! November 2023.

WiX stock photo. Friends sharing secrets.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” - Charles Caleb Colton, 1820

Question of the month

Have you visited any gardens lately or even in the past that gave you an idea to copy in your garden? Did it work? Show us the garden that you visited and your good work in reproducing!


Jim Bishop of 92013 stated…

… In 2016 I attended a Pacific Horticulture event in Sonoma. It included a tour of gardens. One of the gardens was Western Hills Nursery. In the garden there was a group of very tall old Cordylines. They appeared to be the cultivar ‘Torbay Dazzler.’

I created a similar planting in our garden that is now seven years old.


JoAnne Kemp lamented…

… we are moving to a retirement home with no garden.

However, when asked, “where and didn’t they have a garden?”

She responded, “My new home is Casa de las Campanas and I will find out about the garden situation. All I am capable of now is taking care of potted plants on my balcony like Helen Keller.”

These are the new location’s photos…

"The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will begiving of a happier life for ourselves.” - Helen Keller
Inspirational Helen Keller.


Cindy Bruecks of 92107 mentions…

… I visited a winery garden once, with beautiful lavender plants done in a series of diagonal rows. Very simple, very effective. I tried it in my garden. That was my first realization that scale has something to do with the translation. My lot is 50' wide, the winery had half an acre. It didn't quite come across the same, which taught me a good idea may need to be adjusted for scale. The basic lavender plants were the same size of course, and I only shortened the length of each row and cut the number of rows. I somehow thought three rows was enough for the good effect, although I sort of knew it might not be. But I have fifty feet, what to do?

The lesson for next time is to make an assessment: will this, scaled down, read the same? Maybe and maybe not, but it should work almost anywhere lavender will grow.


Cathy Tylka of 92026 reports…

… Many gardens have influenced me. I’m not sure I’ve done them well in copying, but I still like to be reminded of them. One is the Garden Borghese in Rome…. here is their beautiful pond.

This is my personal garden interpretation:

Many gardens including Lotusland, made me want many varieties of bottlebrush.

This pink Callistemon Reeves is by my bedroom window, and I just love it!

However, I cannot forget the Tucson Botanical Garden for teaching me about cactus.

In this photo they have shown me the barrel cactus, Ferocactus pilosus, lives side by side with the silver torch, aka, Cleistocactus strausii.

And, again, my way of copying but in containers, since it can get too cold sometimes…

The pincushion, Rebutia muscular, likes a bit of shade, while the small one, Parodia magnifica, likes the sun! The euphorbia just doesn’t care. I may not know all their names; however, I know the conditions they like and don’t.


Ida Rigby of 92064 remembers and plants her memories…

... I have enjoyed many garden tours in the States, Europe and Australia. My garden is an amalgam of many influences from those gardens, so it’s hard to identify specific vignettes.

In some cases, the influence is in specific plants, such as the Parade rose, I saw at the Roseraie de l’Hay outside of Paris or my introduction to ramblers there. The ramblers supplied an answer—go vertical— when I ran out of space the garden. My Rambling Rector climbing into a pomegranate tree is an example of insatiable desire for more plants meeting the limitations of horizontal space.

Then, there was the inspiration of Great Dixter’s aesthetic use of dead twigs and branches as supports for shrubs and annuals. My pathetic efforts work in the “natural” garden I have created, but they are only a dim shadow of the lovely use of natural supports at Great Dixter.

The incredible 25-year-old tree/fountain rose, Francis Lester is supported by deftly hidden supports from a tree butterfly bush I chopped down.

My beloved, incredibly fragrant, aging Mme. Isaac Pereire antique rose perhaps looks better with the butterfly bush supports than with something plastic holding it up.

I have done better in the kitchen with the inspiration of Christopher Lloyd’s cookbooks than efforts to emulate the beautiful feel of the natural materials used for supports in his garden.


Karen England of 92084 recalls fondly…

… visiting Taylor’s Herb Garden in Vista in 1990, long before I moved to Vista. I have no pictures of Taylor’s, nor could I find any on the internet, but here is an LA Times article that I read back in the day about the Herb Garden. Anyway, I took a Saturday off from my job at Sunshine Gardens in Encinitas to attend Taylor’s weekly “Garden Walk” and learn more about my newfound plant obsession, herbs and herb gardening. Honestly, that day changed my life. No joke. On that walk I learned that about 100s of herbs I’d never encountered at Sunshine and met my first ever Peppermint Scented Geranium, Pelargonium tomentosum, that was being grown in the shade of a tree to discourage flowering and encourage extra-large leaves, “because,” as the walk’s docent remarked, “we use these leaves as napkins for tea.” I stopped dead in my tracks and let that fact seep in. These people grow their own napkins! My mind was blown.

Well, needless to say, in all the years since that day, my gardens have never been without a peppermint geranium, including now where it's being grown in the shade of a mature Hachiya persimmon tree for my very own large, lush leaves to use as napkins.

Bay laurel martinis being served with peppermint scented geranium cocktail napkins.

If you do come over for tea, or a cocktail… and I hope you do, guess what? You’ll get a homegrown napkin.

But that’s not all. That visit to Taylor’s Herb Garden over 30 years ago spawned in me a lifelong thirst (pun intended) for all things herbs, not just pelargoniums and I learned in 2014 that I could grow my own drinking straws! If Taylor’s Herb Garden were still in existence, it isn’t, I think they would be so proud of their little prodigy. The herb Lovage, Levisticum officinale, has long hollow stems that are the perfect garden grown straws for drinking beverages (especially Bloody Mary’s since lovage has a very celery-esque flavor.)

Karen made this graphic about growing lovage for straws to post on her Instagram, @edgehillherbfarm, in 2014.


Question for December -

What is blooming in your garden now? Did it just get started? Is it in full bloom? Is it starting to fade or is it going crazy like never before?


Cathy Tylka, RN, retired Emergency Nurse, found her love of plants and the SDHS merge many years ago. Cathy acted as Treasurer for the organization and volunteer for many activities. Now, more than happy to assist in gathering questions to ask you in the Sharing Secrets area of the Newsletter.


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