Oh, my, Malibu!

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

While on the Malibu Garden Tour, I hoped for high-end gardens that incorporated my specialty: succulents (plants with juicy leaves and stems).

Homes in the hills of this tony enclave north of Los Angeles are huge, on multi-acre lots. My host had grown up in the area shown here, and recalled how neighbors helped Barbra Streisand protect her canyon home with sandbags when a creek flooded. Afterwards, she sent them all gift baskets of organic produce from her garden.

I liked the fanciful architecture of this estate, which has a coastline view. The garden was formal, with boxwood hedges, hundreds of rose bushes and broad expanses of lawn. Pretty, but not exactly waterwise.

The best part, IMHO, was the stable/art studio.

Chickens from the henhouse of this Italianate villa roamed the lawn. “They help fertilize it,” the owner explained. We checked our shoes.

A goofy approach to going green:  A water softener tank repurposed as a fountain.

Ah, succulents at last! A classical statue pours string-of-pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) into a basin overflowing with aeoniums.

More aeoniums, at a home with a Balinese theme.


In the garden of Malibu landscape designer Laurel Stutsman, graptopetalums and Sedum rubrotinctum tumbled over a wall, along with convolvulus and dime-sized Santa Barbara daisies.

And echeverias crowded a yellow-and-turquoise glazed pot. Also in the Stutsman garden was the 5-foot-wide Agave attenuata shown in the first photo—the largest I’d yet to see anywhere.

In garden designer Caroline Mitchell’s low-water front yard were red-flowering iceplants, purple statice, Euphorbia rigida (with chartreuse flowers) and ornamental grasses.

I liked the Malibu Garden Center’s signage and whimsical use of color.

Nasturtiums grew up against a robin’s-egg-blue fence.

Red Adirondack chairs contrasted with purple delphinium spires.

A nursery after my own heart.

Flower spikes of Agave vilmoriniana towered above Pacific View Nursery’s growing grounds in Malibu, adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway.

And I couldn’t resist snapping this photo: In the multicar garage of one of the homes was a vintage Chevy Malibu.

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified.  www.debraleebaldwin.com 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored the Timber Press bestsellers Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified. Debra is a regular contributor to Sunset and other publications, and her own half-acre garden near San Diego has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens. Debra specializes in showing how to use architectural, waterwise and easy-care succulents in a wide variety of appealing and creative applications. www.debraleebaldwin.com.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin

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Debi June 4, 2010, 7:36 am

That was a fun journey, and beautiful, too! As beautiful as were the gardens and plants, the surprise finish – the Malibu – brought a huge smile to my face! Nice – thanks.

Hi, Debi — And speaking of great cars, the president of the Malibu garden club drove me around to the gardens in his Mercedes convertible sports car with the top down! Debra

Loree / danger garden June 4, 2010, 11:57 am

Great tour, love that opening agave shot! Thanks Debra.

Thanks, Loree. That IS one amazing agave! Debra

Chookie June 5, 2010, 2:18 am

Gorgeous! That Italianate home — not Spanish Mission?

Good catch, Chookie! You’re right, it IS Spanish Mission. But the garden is Italian-inspired, and the home was called Italianate in the brochure. Debra

Laura Balaoro June 5, 2010, 8:44 pm

Succulents were the best part. Thanks for sharing. Love the string of pearls pouring over a basin of aeoniums.

Hi, Laura — I liked it too, but I think they should have tried harder to hide the drip line. Oh, well. Picky, picky! Debra

Daffodil Planter June 5, 2010, 9:28 pm

Love the languid feel of this post. The image of you being chauffeured in a convertible Mercedes was a perfect ending. Thanks for the virtual vacation!

Hi, DP — Thank you! It WAS one gorgeous car. Glossy black. And so aerodynamically designed, my hair didn’t get mussed, even on Pacific Coast Highway. (Course it helps that I have a new short ‘do.) Debra

P.S. I just posted a photo of the car on my Facebook page. You’ll like the license plate: BNVVANT.

Susan aka Miss R June 6, 2010, 6:48 am

Debra–That’s what I like about garden tours/visits…the surprise. I see things that are outside of my own expectation/limitation/imagination and it opens up the ‘this is a good idea’ part of my brain. I went on a Garden Conservancy crawl yesterday and was wowed by a garden…and that’s hard to do. More on that later.

Hi, Susan — Can’t wait to find out what wowed you. Can we look forward to a blog post? Debra

Gail June 6, 2010, 7:20 am

A wonderful tour~Love the trio of aeoniums is the turquoise pots…California seems wonderfully exotic on this hot, steamy, southern morning!

Hi, Gail — Yes, and such a simple composition. Just goes to show how effective it is to repeat things! Debra

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