Like all proverbial green thumbers, they found a way to plant and grow. After all, they had named the first subdivision in 1887 La Jolla Park and had planted 2,000 trees, including 1,000 palms and a variety of cedar and eucalyptus to enhance the landscape. Some withered and died because of the lack of a feasible water supply, but others survived, and a number even remain standing today, such as the old eucalyptus on Ivanhoe Avenue.
Spring gardening must have been on the mind of pioneer developer George Webster Heald in 1887, when he built the first actual permanent residence in La Jolla at Silverado Street and Exchange Place and surrounded it with clumps of daisy bushes and trained a morning glory vine on the front porch. An early photograph of Heald shows him standing proudly by the front yard in a bowler hat and suit behind a push mower that seems to be anticipating a lush green lawn to come.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, California was a land of California dreamers, an exotic far-away land beyond the prairies and the Great Divide where "honeybees hum melodies and orange trees scent the breeze" "“ and did so all year-round! Early La Jollans were quick to note that gardens could be enjoyed 12 months of the year in the mild Mediterranean climate. The topography "” high cliffs overlooking a sparkling blue sea with ocean canyons spilling toward sandy beaches "” provided extraordinary landscape settings suggestive of the European heritage on the Mediterranean. Perhaps the legendary Anna Held and Kate Sessions were thinking of Sorrento when they planted trees and winding paths of flowers leading to the beach from Held's Green Dragon Colony of cottages at Goldfish Point.
Two memorable private gardens were planted in La Jolla's early history, and what extraordinary sights they must have been, especially as spring arrived after the winter rains. One was the extensive gardens planted around the Ellen Browning Scripps estate on Prospect Street, presently the site of the Museum of Contemporary Art. When Miss Scripps' first Victorian-style residence was built in 1896, her gardens were designed within the parameters of classical symmetry, with geometrical boxwood parterres and plantings of colorful perennials. Cobbled terraces filled with flowers were considered so colorful as to be photographed for California postcards. After Miss Scripps' first residence burned in an arson fire in 1915, a new home was built in a more modern style designed by architect Irving Gill, and the gardens grew to include a lathe house planted with exotics and featuring Japanese elements. Some remains of the Scripps gardens can be viewed today on the ocean side of the museum.
The other landmark private garden was established around a 1905 residence known as the House of Dreams at 1428 Soledad Ave. Designed and built by world traveler Florence Howard, it had many Oriental influences, including a teahouse and curved bridge. Howard imported more than 300 trees for planting on the property, among them unusual varieties of pines and cypress as well as bamboo. Much of the garden remains today and is in private ownership.
"” "Reflections" is a monthly column written for the La Jolla Village News by the La Jolla Historical Society's historian Carol Olten. The Society, dedicated to the preservation of La Jolla heritage, is located at 7846 Eads Ave. and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The Society's annual fund-raiser, the Secret Garden Tour, will be held May 10 featuring old as well as new La Jolla gardens.