Ideas That Matter

Flower Power to Vocal Power

Lisa Gimmy
Flower Power to Vocal Power

From Flower Power to Vocal Power: A Grand Night of Opera at the Virginia Robinson Gardens
Published by Lisa Gimmy, ASLA, LEED AP
Photo Courtesy of El Nido Family Centers

Once the site of glamorous soirees, Virginia Robinson’s legendary Beverly Hills mansion and garden has become a destination for horticulture enthusiasts, landscape architects, admirers of nature…and now, music lovers as well.

A little backstory…

During her lifetime Viginia Robinson led the comfortable life of socialite: playing tennis, throwing lavish parties, swimming in her pool—which was modeled after the famous Villa Pisani in Italy—and, of course, spending time cultivating her extraordinary gardens. Also renowned for her philanthropy, Robinson was one of the last grand dames of the Hollywood era. In her forward-thinking wisdom, she decided to bequeath her home to the county so that future generations could enjoy the gardens.

Since 1982 the organization Friends of Robinson Gardens has been holding an annual tour—to promote this historically significant landmark and to raise funds for preservation and educational programs throughout the year. For the tour, held every third Saturday in May, event organizers bring in florists who literally transform the rooms of the Robinson’s house into flower-filled fantasias.

Flower Power to Vocal Power Flowers
Bouquet by Flowermaid florist (left), Arrangement by Grand Eclair (right), Photos Courtesy of Lisa Gimmy

In this photo below from this past May’s tour, you can see how florist Grand Eclair created a tableau with roses, hydrangeas and peonies literally flowing from the meadow into Virginia’s bedroom.

Flower Power to Vocal Power Arrangement by Grand Eclair
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Gimmy 

One of the loveliest aspects of Robinson’s single-story home is that it is designed to catch the gentle winds that come up the hillside, so that even on the warmest of days, the house remains relatively cool. In this photo of Virgina’s bath, you can see the curtains billowing in the breeze along with Flowermaid’s lovely floral arrangements.

Flower Power to Vocal Power Robinson Bath
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Gimmy

Robinson’s personal garden is a little over five acres and comprises three components: a formal core with the house at the lower end, and a lawn that rises up gradually to the nearby swimming pool and pavilion.

Flower Power to Vocal Power Robinson Pool
Photo Courtesy of Virginia Robinson Gardens

The eastern slope is home to the unique King Palm forest. Outside of Queensland, Australia, there’s no larger grouping of these trees in existence. This section of the garden also contains Plumeria, Ginger and Banana shade-loving subtropicals.

Flower Power to Vocal Power Robinson King Palm
Photo Courtesy of Virginia Robinson Gardens 

The western exposure, being dryer, features Mediterranean plantings.

The Robinsons were part of a large social network within Beverly Hills, so it’s no coincidence that the house and the pool house were designed for hosting parties—which is exactly what Friends of Robinson Gardens is doing: recreating the type of party that Robinson would have had, were she still with us today.

Tomorrow on June 24, 2017, Ann Petersen and Leslie Pam are spearheading a magical summer evening of Opera on the Great Lawn.

Flower Power to Vocal Power Opera on the Great Lawn

Photo Courtesy of Virginia Robinson Gardens 

The concert starts at 5:30 PM and features Pittance Chamber Music artists: Elizabeth Zharov, Soprano; Ashley Faatoalia, Tenor; Helen Zheng Altenbach, Cello and Douglas Sumi, Piano. They will be performing favorite songs and arias in this beautiful garden setting. Attendees can also expect a buffet dinner catered by The Kitchen for Exploring Foods.

For tickets and information:

Opera On the Great Lawn

Writer and Media Management Consultant Taylor Van Arsdale provided research and contributed to this article.

Lisa Gimmy Landscape Architecture

Helms Bakery Building
8800 Venice Blvd., Suite 216
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Phone: (310) 202-8320
Fax: (310) 202-8350

Creating landscapes for California living


Lisa Gimmy Landscape Architecture is a professional consulting firm offering master planning, site planning, and landscape design. Since its founding in 1992, LGLA has designed landscapes for schools, campuses, boutique hotels, buildings, public parks, estates, and private residences. At LGLA each project is viewed as an opportunity to explore a series of relationships: between the site and the region, architecture and landscape, and most importantly, between the landscape and the people who will use and enjoy it.

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