Malibu garden tour a feast of the senses

Malibu gardens near Point Dume, on Encinal Canyon Road and in Malibu Colony will be on view during the garden tour.

For evidence of the diversity of Malibu’s climates, one need only look at its gardens. The Malibu Garden Club’s 14th Annual Garden Tour will be held Saturday, May 18, including two gardens near Point Dume, one a short drive up Encinal Canyon Road and another in Malibu Colony. Each reflect the potential the climate can unleash in local horticulture.

“I think this will be one of the better tours this year,” Aaron Landsworth, a landscape designer and professional horticulturist (and recently retired Club president) said. “Guests will see what is possible in Malibu gardens in spectacularly different ways.

The annual garden tour allows Malibuites the opportunity to see how far gardening has come over the years in our city by the sea. In the early days, Malibu landscaping pioneers were faced with windy climates, salt-laced breezes and a paucity of experienced advice when it came to garden design. Young eucalyptus trees and myoporum shrub primarily represented local flora. Not anymore.

“People will find a lot to inspire them,” said Birute Anne Vileises, first vice president and chair of programming for the garden club.

The $30 tickets (if purchased before May 15 – $35 afterward) may be picked up by guests the morning of the event at Point Dume Marine Science School, and maps will be provided for the tour taking place between 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Walking shoes are highly recommended and it is respectfully requested that children and pets stay home.

Whitesands House is one of the homes on the tour. The Louks family has been growing its own food at its Point Dume estate for five years now. An exploration of the terraced, organically maintained garden will showcase the extent to which a commitment to sustainability and healthful eating can be accomplished.

June Louks found inspiration in a holistic approach to eating after a debilitating health crisis that left her effectively, “an invalid.” Five years and pounds of organic fruits and vegetables later, Louks said she and her family are a picture of health and energy.

“The garden has truly never looked more amazing than right now,” Louks said. “It’s a perfect time for a tour. You won’t believe our white roses in front. And it’s all organic. I never spray with pesticides and I never use any chemical fertilizer.”

The secret is in the compost, Louks said. She runs a biodynamic composting operation to serve her acre of so of farmland. Her garden also accommodates a greenhouse, underground tanks that capture rainwater, solar panels to heat the house and pool, and a colony of bees.

Also on the tour is a touch of India overlooking the Pacific. Pravina Somanti has created a garden comprised of succulents, fruit trees and strawberries and says that gardening, for her, is a form of meditation and healing restoration of the spirit.

Somanti’s garden is rich with palm trees, mosaics, ferns and natural cubbyholes created from palm fronds and drought-resistant plants. Sculptures that evoke Indian deities are set in between flowerbeds, and flowered archways will invite you to find your own meditative moments on the tour.

Another home’s garden was started only two years ago and shows that easy, comfortable landscaping is achievable even right next to the ocean.

Several species of mature palms are surrounded by agaves (source for tequila), bromeliads, birds of paradise and philodendron, creating a private sanctuary for the homeowner. The back lawn is an unencumbered vista of cool ocean breezes and rustling palm trees. The turf, Seashore Paspalum, can take heavy salt content from coastal air, and shows how adaptable green can be—even in Malibu.

Finally, a Laura Knauss-designed beachfront home epitomizes coastal living at its best. Owner of Garden Visions of Malibu, Knauss responded to her clients’ request for a contemporary, low-maintenance garden that would create a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

Landsworth said that Malibu’s many microclimates permit an astonishing variety of gardening approaches, with hedges operating as wind blocks that nurture “stuff you wouldn’t normally expect in areas like Malibu.

“The Garden Club is a good group,” Landsworth continued. “Mostly because you get so much information on what works here. There’s always something new and the more you know, the more you learn you need to know.”

More information on the Malibu Garden Club Annual Garden Tour may be found at