Oh, my, Malibu!

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 

About Debra Lee Baldwin

Debra Lee Baldwin gardens on "an inhospitable half acre" in Escondido, CA, near San Diego. She is an award-winning photojournalist and artist with hundreds of articles and columns to her credit. Debra's books are Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens and Succulents Simplified. www.debraleebaldwin.com.

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7 Responses to Oh, my, Malibu!

  1. Debi June 4, 2010 at 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

  2. Loree / danger garden June 4, 2010 at 11:57 am #

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

    Thanks, Loree. That IS one amazing agave! Debra

  3. Chookie June 5, 2010 at 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

  4. Laura Balaoro June 5, 2010 at 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

  5. Daffodil Planter June 5, 2010 at 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.

  6. Susan aka Miss R June 6, 2010 at 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

  7. Gail June 6, 2010 at 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