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Laguna Beach

Barbara’s Column

A Garden Party with Roots 


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Ten years ago, the corner of Eagle Rock Way and South Coast Highway was a blight – unkempt and unused.

On Saturday, it was the joyous setting for a garden party – in spades. Gardeners and supporters of the South Laguna Community Garden Park celebrated the 10th anniversary of the garden that has taken root in their hearts. 

“I was ecstatic,” said Ann Christoph, the garden’s Godmother. “The gardeners pulled together to create the event.

“Everybody was so supportive and so happy – some of them had never been to the garden before.”

The event included a farm-to-table-style dinner, started off with dolmas wrapped in amaranth leaves from the garden. The entree featured short ribs dry-rubbed with dried local chilies, brown buttered root vegetables, or the vegetarian option of a potpie made with seasonal veggies and country gravy, spiced with sage and thyme. 

Dessert was grilled fig with fig leaf cream, strawberry puree, and raspberries. 

Tiffani Tincher was the executive chef, Ryan Goldsmith the coordinator/chef. 

Diners sat at tables featuring colorful centerpieces of autumn leaves, flowers, and fruit, designed by garden Godfather Ruben Flores.

A Garden Ruben

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Ruben Flores with resolution from State Assembly honoring garden

Flores gleefully displayed a resolution honoring the garden from the State Assembly, initiated by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.

“We also had one from [Representative] Harley Rouda,” said Christoph.   

Musical entertainment was provided by keyboardist Francois Dean and singers Charlene Minault and Nelson Coates, who recently served as master of ceremonies at the Festival of Arts Runway Fashion Show. Violinist Doug Miller strolled the garden, playing his violin.

And of course there was a silent auction. Among the donations: paintings by Maria Bertram, Jacobus Bas, and Michael Obermeyer, whose oil of the
“Laguna Garden” was used on the invitations to the $150-per-head event. Randy Morgan donated a giclée from his Waterman’s Wall on the Beach Street side of Hobie Surf Shop. Greg O’Loughlin’s six-foot photograph of Laguna was an attention-getter. 

Other donations included a ceramic bowl handmade by Nancy Miller, a two-hour landscape consultation with Christoph, coveted by Gayle Waite; gift certificates from the Lumberyard restaurant, the Marriott, Chiropractor Veronica Nice and The Ranch. 

A Mats Jonasson crystal sculpture of otters was among the several items donated by Barbara Grainger. Tom Joliet offered ukulele lessons and an electric tenor ukulele.

A Garden table

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Tables festively decorated 

Garden supporters at the event included Peggie and John Thomas, Johanna Felder, Charlotte Masarik, Anne Frank, Trudy Josephson, and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow.

 Dicterow has been staunch supporter of city funding to help the South Laguna Civic Association to purchase the properties on which the garden is growing – but Saturday he also spoke of the garden as an oasis of civility in an increasingly uncivil world. He served as the city’s Goodwill Ambassador for World Kindness Day and speaks at every opportunity in favor of kindness and compassion in daily and public lives.

Others at the event:  Ken and Janis Kaplan, School Board member Dee Perry, Barbara Hoag, and Larry and Rosaura Ulvestad, a gifted gardener.

Trish Reis greeted arriving guests Rose Ann and Dan Shultis, who have had a plot for five years.   

Sally Coffey has planted her plot since the beginning.

The beginning was in 2009, when absentee property owner Paul Tran gave the Civic Association permission to plant a garden at no charge on the two parcels at 31610 and 31616 Coast Highway. 

A Garden Gayle

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Gayle Joliet, on left, and Cindy Obrand 

In just a little over two years, volunteers completed the installation of the garden, which was divided into six by eight-foot raised plots, to be enjoyed by the gardeners and the folks who attend classes and events held there. 

The first step was to clear the weeds from the upper parcel, which gardeners began August 15 and concluded October 31.

They didn’t rest on their laurels (pun intended). They attacked the lower parcel and completed the final 23 beds in 2011. 

In 2013, the property was sold to new owners residing in Saudi Arabia, prompting a concerted effort by the association and garden supporters to raise funds to buy the properties.

Saturday’s event raised more than $12,000 toward the goal, Christoph said. 


The purpose of the Garden is to produce vegetables and flowers for families, to learn and teach organic garden methods and sustainable practices, to bring the community together, and to create a project in which the whole community can participate.

You don’t have to have a plot to participate, but everyone associated with the garden must abide by the rules, which are spelled out in detail on the website.

A Garden food

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Tiffani Tincher was the executive chef, Ryan Goldsmith the coordinator/chef

Here are some samples:

--Awarded a plot, gardeners must begin work within 14 days, complete planting within 21 days and maintain the plots and walkways around them in a safe manner 

--No non-organic chemical insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or weed repellants may be used in the Garden

--The Garden Planning Committee has the final word on what is permitted in the plots and what isn’t, and if not maintained safely, has the authority to rectify the situation 

A second violation is the forbidden bite of the apple and can get you kicked out of South Laguna’s Eden.

--Surplus produce is to be shared with other gardeners or donated to the needy 

--Water is to be used wisely

There are a lot more. 


Anyone interested in the South Laguna Community Garden is welcome to apply to become a member. 

There are four types of membership: 

--Supporting Members help with garden activities. The annual fee is $25. 

--Friends of the Garden make in-kind donations and annual financial contributions of $100 or more, as well as participate in garden activities.

--Garden Plot Members awarded one of the raised beds pay an initial fee of $120 to cover infrastructure costs and annual minimum fees of $75, due September 30. Sorry too late for this year. 

--Children’s Garden Members may join together to make infrastructure payments and annual fees. 

--New members are accepted whenever there is a vacancy and this year, there will be several vacancies due to people moving away. The Garden welcomes applications at:

Anyone who wants to be added to the waiting list must submit a completed Garden Application Form. Representatives of the planning committee will interview applicants and assign plots to qualifying gardeners. Priority for assigning plots will be given to Friends of the Garden, Supporting Members, SLCA members, residents of Laguna Beach, and those who help with garden activities. Subject to demand, there is a limit of one plot per family.

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading Contributions are welcomed.

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Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

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