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Memorial Garden Tour

A self-guided tour of the most beautiful gardens in the SCV

Posted: May 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.
The Valencia garden of David and Laima Zbojniewicz. The Valencia garden of David and Laima Zbojniewicz.
The Valencia garden of David and Laima Zbojniewicz.
A quiet haven in the Benjamin garden. A quiet haven in the Benjamin garden.
A quiet haven in the Benjamin garden.
Areas of the Benjamin garden have an English country garden feel. Areas of the Benjamin garden have an English country garden feel.
Areas of the Benjamin garden have an English country garden feel.

The seventh annual Memorial Garden Tour will be held 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Eight private gardens and one public garden will be included on the free, self-guided tour, and your free will donations will go to the Cole William Larsen Foundation, which supports families of fallen and wounded military. (Checks can be made out to the Cole William Larsen Foundation.)

This is the seventh year of the Memorial Garden Tour, created by Christi Larsen, mother of Pfc. Cole William Larsen, who was killed in action Nov. 13, 2004.

Christi Larsen said after the loss of her son, she didn’t know where to turn for support, but eventually found out about TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors —

She said the Memorial Garden Tour then began as a way to “give something back.”

TAPS is just one of the organizations her group supports.

As a gardener herself, Larsen said, “It’s a gift to myself, really, and all for a good cause.”

She added that once people experienced the tour, they thought it was wonderful and so she has continued it every year.

“This is the seventh year of the Memorial Garden Tour, and I am so thankful for everyone involved,” Larsen said. “Each year, the tour has grown in attendance and contribution, and I look forward to another successful year.”

The following gardens will be featured on this year’s tour.


Bob and Diane Benjamin

15207 Saddleback Road

Canyon Country

Cross Streets: Sand Canyon and Live Oak Springs Canyon

The Benjamin’s garden has been on the tour for the entire seven years.

What’s happening in the garden this year? Some of it is the same — veggies, fruit trees, flowers, flowers and more flowers — plus somewhat less woody rosemary (thank goodness) and a little less lawn and some brand new lighting.

“The lighting project created the most change — inadvertently,” said Diane Benjamin. “I was initially horrified to see the trenching required to lay the electrical wires. All I could see was mounds of dirt and a very torn up garden, but it turned into an opportunity. The trench around the back of the gazebo created a whole new pathway and planting space. Now I will have a shade garden at last.”

Benjamin said the garden won’t be picture perfect this time around but she imagines a haven for azaleas, hostas, ferns and maybe even orchids.

She will give a brief (15 minute) talk on the organic gardening concept of “feed the soil, not the plants” at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“I hope you’ll all spend a few minutes in my garden, relax and welcome the glorious spring,” Benjamin said. “I’ll also have information on the Los Angeles Master Gardening Program and the Gardening Club of Santa Clarita.”

Wheelchair access 60 percent.


Santa Clarita Community Gardens at Central Park

27150 Bouquet Canyon Road Saugus     

Cross Street: Bouquet Canyon Road

Two years ago a community garden was just a dream, an idea and hope of a small group of organizers sharing a common vision. Today it has become a reality.

The Community Gardens of Santa Clarita is the first community garden in the Santa Clarita Valley. It opened in February of 2011. There are 80 10’ x 10’ gardening plots that are being planted and lovingly tended. The garden not only provides a place for local residents to raise fruit, herbs and vegetables, it also provides a place of friendship and sharing.

Wheelchair access 100 percent.


Sally Coss

25438 Altos Drive


Cross Streets: Farrow Drive and Vista Ridge

Another 7-year garden tour veteran, the Coss garden is located above the 13th hole on the Vista Valencia Golf Course.

The winding paths, adorned with her grandchildren’s handmade signs throughout this terraced property, lead you to hundreds of roses, a vast variety of fruit and citrus trees, lavender, ceonoethus, rockrose, a variety of grasses, clematis, lilies, valerian and olalee berries, along with gorgeous annuals scattered throughout the garden. There are seating areas nestled throughout the garden.

A recent addition to this garden is a variety of cacti and succulents Coss has planted in one of her sunnier locations. She believes that a garden is meant to be shared with one and all who appreciate nature’s creations.

Wheelchair access 50 percent.


Mark and Kathy Dirkse

20456 Lisa Gail Drive


Cross Streets: Plum Canyon and Rodgers Drive

This is a new garden on the tour. The Dirkse garden was designed by Julie Molinaire of The Grass is Always Greener Landscape Design, with hardscape artistry provided by Ventura and Son Masonry.

The old planter railroad ties were rotting away and a tree root was breaking up the pool deck, so a hardscape theme to create accessible planters, a new dual barbecue island and sunken firepit, and then filled the new planters with predominantly native bird and butterfly attracting flowers, shrubs and fruit trees. We created a flagstone patio around an existing tree for a shady resting place, added a growing area to a previously boring block wall and reflected the curves of the pool throughout the planter walls, patio and cooking area.

We kept feng shui principles in mind while selecting colors and layouts of plants, and the flow of energy in our backyard has positively improved. Our garden is now a restful, renewing and beautiful space to spend time.

Wheelchair access 25 percent.


Wendy Robinson

20524 Lisa Gail Drive


Cross Streets: Plum Canyon Road and Rodgers Drive

Two year garden tour veteran. Wendy Robinson describes her garden as a calm, cool, “Cartagenan” garden.

“I have succeeded in creating a shady Mediterranean Garden in the hot hills of Saugus,” she said.

Nestled amongst tall shrubs and tropical plants is a new fountain. Hanging from special wires and chains above are six sphagnum moss baskets, spilling flowers.

“Two of those baskets I built 33 years ago, when I first moved to Saugus,” she said. “They are still thriving. I have built more baskets since, which are 24 inches across and each weighing about 100 pounds.”

Wheelchair access 50 percent.


Tom and Paula Nichols

25712 Shady Oak Lane


Directions: Heading West on Valencia Boulevard (toward Stevenson Ranch), turn left on Valley Oak Lane (gate access). Turn right on Oak Meadow Drive, turn left on Shady Oak Lane.

When we moved into our newly-built home in Westridge three and half years ago we were both excited and a bit overwhelmed. We had never built a house before and it’s amazing all the details that go into a project of this nature. How amazing when you are finished, though. The entire home, top to bottom, inside and out, is all yours.

We wanted our garden to feel like a Mediterranean oasis, where anyone would feel they had been transported to a fabulous vacation spot as soon as they stepped into our yard. The backyard is an unusual U shape, with gentle slopes, a wood burning fireplace, a pool and a spa that is nestled into the slope overlooking the garden.

We capitalized on the odd shape of the yard by clustering numerous oak, olive and magnolia trees, as well as crepe myrtle, an assortment of palms and many other types of trees. There is every type of color throughout our garden, as we wanted it to have a casual feel, including two rose gardens and some huge birds of paradise.

The pathways are all cobblestone or red brick to add to the Old World feel of our home. We also have two courtyards, one enclosing a fountain with shade foliage, the other enclosing a wood burning fireplace and sun loving foliage.

We have created our own private garden, perfect for entertaining or just hanging out with our puppies, a good book and a glass of wine!

Wheelchair access 50 percent.

Note: New recruit. This is a beautiful garden and home set in the Westridge community.


David and Laima Zbojniewicz

27305 Duxbury Place


Cross Streets: Decoro Drive and Blueridge Drive

A three-year garden tour veteran the Zbojniewicz garden design and style started with an appreciation for a natural, free-flowing, carefree look, choosing plants with movement.  

“Our front yard was designed to create a warm and welcoming entrance,” said Laima Zbojniewicz.

Guests will find a mix of California natives, perennials, unique salvias, roses, lavenders and Mediterranean style plants. These drought-tolerant, environmentally correct plants repeat themselves throughout to create continuity and flow.

“My love for a white-themed garden, complimented by group plantings drawing from a palette of soothing blues, gray-green, silver, lavender and shades of pink, seems to tie it all in both front and back,” said Zbojniewicz.

“The creation of our front courtyard is the true essence of our front garden,” she said. “A 30-foot Chinese fringe tree provides a cozy and lush canopy, creating a cool and shady retreat that we enjoy as our ‘outdoor’ room.”

Select plantings provide privacy and an intimate mood and setting. The back features more than 35 roses, lilacs, abutilons, hydrangeas, heliotrope and fruit trees. Planting of more than 25 trees throughout created microclimates where ferns and other shade-loving plants can be enjoyed.

“I hope my garden may inspire those who seek an understated, natural look,” Zbojniewicz aid.

Wheelchair access 50 percent.


Alec and Tami Smight

23278 Cuestport Drive


Cross Streets: Decoro Drive and Blueridge Drive

Tired of wasting water and coaxing grass to grow in the shade, the Smights enlisted the professional help of friend and colleague Julie Molinaire, of The Grass is Always Greener Landscape Designs, to eliminate the grass and create a unique garden.

Tami Smight of Tami Smight Interiors joined talents with Molinaire in the creation of this “water-wise” garden in Smight’s yard.

A stroll through this garden reveals Smight’s love of garden art, antiques and collectibles and Molinare’s romantic landscape design, which engages all the senses.

Together they have created a garden full of beauty for the eye, fragrant blooms throughout the year and the gentle sound of a fountain to combat the sound of distant traffic.

No wheelchair access. Front-yard access only.


Wendi and Billy Berndt

23242 Redbud Ridge Circle


Cross Streets: Seco Canyon Road and Pamplico Drive

A new garden on the tour the Berndts 2007 we started their landscaping project in 2007.

The couple wanted the garden to reflect a serine tropical feel. After interviewing many contractors they decided to design their own landscaping.

The final design offered “destination spots” by creating curved pathways. Sitting spots that encourage one to stop and sit awhile were also created.

In the fall of 2007 the project of trimming back pine trees on the back slope began. It included demolition of cracked patio and brick walkway and installation of a new redwood fence.

Irrigation and drain holes were moved from the top of the hill down, a portable sauna up on the hill was also moved and electricity and accent lighting was added.

A sitting area in front of the koi pond was created, as well as a 22-foot waterfall.

In the summer of 2008, the hardscape, pergolas, wrought iron gates and plantings were completed. The Berndts describe the result of everyone’s efforts as “our own tropical paradise, not only in the backyard but the front yard, too.
 Wheelchair access 75 percent.

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