‘Rose rustlers’ inspire Palos Verdes Peninsula garden

A meandering pathway leads to secret gardens and peek-a-boo ocean views looking out at Catalina Island.

by Stephanie Cartozian

The “rose rustlers” of the days of “Southern cemeteries” were the inspiration for a half acre sustainable, woodland garden tucked away in Palos Verdes Estates. “Rose rustlers” are rosarians who study, collect and cultivate rare, and oftentimes forgotten rose varieties by taking rose clippings from old Southern cemeteries and abandoned properties, and knowledge shared at early meetings of the Peninsula South Coast Botanic Garden. These plants have most often grown wild with no care. These are sweet smelling, non-hybridized original flowers and their restoration of these varieties was influential to this garden. 

The flora and native Palos Verdes stone were selected by the gardener/homeowner (who asked her name not be used), based on her three decades of garden society relationships. These include participation in “The Gardeneers,” which offers courses in horticulture, landscape design and flower show accreditation (CaliforniaGardenClubs.com). 


The modern design home melds with its natural environment.


“It’s important to value the whole plant, not just the blooms. Taking note of an own-root, non-hybridized plant. Giving it a home with the right microclimate and exposure, and using only amendments such as cottonseed meal and natural leaf mulch — never chemical fertilizers or pesticides — to allow the plant to establish its own relationship with the soil-food web to get nourishment and fight disease,” the homeowner said. 

“My former neighbor, Claude Marie Smith, walked her dog by our home and stopped to say encouraging things when I was redoing our garden. This happenstance meeting changed the course of my life,” the homeowner said by introducing her to the many garden clubs on the Hill, she said. 

“Our meetings were at members’ homes, as well as the early South Coast Botanic Garden meetings. We had speakers on different topics of plant species followed by wonderful lunches. Members like Claude, Helen Gates, Evelyn Greene and Gudrun Kimmel generously shared their knowledge of the various micro-climates on the Peninsula, hosted visits in their gardens, and shared advice and heirloom cuttings. We did things with other Garden Clubs and Plant Societies affiliated with the South Coast Botanic Gardens (southcoastbotanicgarden.org), such as the Fuchsia Society, Begonia Society and the South Coast Rose Society. 


A master stone mason hand chipped PV stone to build a three-foot high storybook wall.


“I can’t say enough to thank the various plant societies for their sales at South Coast Botanic Gardens, and for taking time to help me choose plants for our garden. 

“Marsha Hopwood of the Fuchsia Society is absolutely the reason we have fuchsias. From her I learned about encliandra-type and species fuchsias that have done well and even a ‘procumbens’ trailing fuchsia that serves as a ground cover, and has tiny greenish-yellow orange blossoms.”

In 2002, when she and her husband purchased their Via Davalos home, they hired landscape architect Ric Dykzeul. “He gave me the courage to do things. It was just a “weedy slope,” the homeowner said.


PV stone was hand-fitted, without the use of cement.


“The Leyland Cypress trees were diseased and had to be removed. We looked for solutions to fill in the lost trees for privacy, and shade for the other plants. We replaced the trees with Deodar Cedar trees and Canary Island Pine.” 

“We collected PV stone from construction sites because it was in short supply, and was unavailable for purchase. We studied contour maps from the Palos Verdes Homes Association, and could see each level on my property, and how they went down to the canyon. Then we asked ourselves, what paths do animals take here, and preserved those paths.” 

“I made longer pathways than were originally imagined so one could essentially lose themselves in the garden.”

The year-round flower garden in view from the family room and kitchen has roses, camelias, hydrangeas, fuchsias and begonias. “There’s always color that can be seen outside our window,” she said. 

“In 2008, it was a bad economy and a master stonemason and his assistant who had been out-of-work came to my home five days a week to build a meandering, three foot high,  storybook wall. Each stone was hand-chipped to fit together seamlessly, and stacked and stabilized without the use of cement. 


Cherry Blossom trees in full bloom.


“Cement is alkaline and seeps into the soil over time,” the homeowner said. “Introducing something foreign to the environment upsets the natural balance of things.”

“There’s a magic to using native stone,” she said. “A garden can reflect how chemistry, physics, math and art resonate in nature. I have tremendous respect for how math and art work in nature. My husband and I were inspired by the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, who based his work on mathematics and geometry. He produced drawings from Italian landscapes.” 

The owner is is now selling her home because, she said, “When I first planted a cherry blossom tree next to an apple blossom tree in the garden, my husband exclaimed, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” and proceeded to hum the 1955 tune made famous by Cuban bandleader, and composer Perez Prado. My husband was my audience for my garden, but he passed away two years ago. Now it’s time for the next generation to share the joy the garden gave us.” 

For more information about this home and garden visit ChrisAdlam.com. Pen


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