Cloudy skies and steady April rains could not dampen the 2024 Native Plant Garden Tour! As I made my way across greater LA to visit inspirational native plant landscapes last weekend, I was struck by the grit and determination of our community. Rather than let the rains impact our seminal annual event, people showed up in force, umbrellas in hand, to celebrate the vision and progress of the native plant movement.

On Saturday, the rain held for most of the day, with cloudy skies creating a contrasting atmosphere to the more typical full sun of tours past. No one that I’ve spoken to remembers there ever being rain during the Tour weekend. We broke new ground this year!

My final stop of the first day of the tour was at the Gottlieb Native Garden. As I walked in, a light drizzle was underway, which within a few minutes became a full on downpour. Susan Gottlieb, the driving force behind this remarkable space, took me down to the hill to meet up with naturalist Scott Logan, who shared (throughout the downpour) the incredible work they’ve done to document the thousands of native species that call the garden home. I’ve visited this garden many times before, but this time was truly special. The rain and the lush spring growth made it feel more like the Pacific Northwest than Beverly Hills. The many tour-goers still out for the last minutes of day one seemed to be just as energized by the experience as I was.

As day two began, the rains were steady. My first stop was at the Forbes Mountain Retreat. I was met by former TPF Board President Cassy Aoyagi. She, along with her husband Kirk are founders of FormLA Landscaping, a design and build firm that has created many native plant landscapes across the region, doing so much over the years to normalize native plant landscapes. The heavy rain was no deterrent to them, as they pointed out the innovative drainage feature that cut across the driveway and led to a rocky swale, which was steadily filling with the rain. What a great thing to see in action, they remarked.

The rest of the day was a blur of conversations with many friends, old and new, staff, board members, volunteers and colleagues. I kept thinking about how the weather didn’t take anything away from the event. If anything, it demonstrated the strength of this movement and the nature of people who are creating it. I can’t think of many other large outdoor events where steady downpours would be greeted with that kind of enthusiasm.

My final stop of the tour was at the home of another former TPF Board President, DJ Peterson. The Peterson-Nadeau garden looked great as always. DJ had flown in from travels in the east just a day or two before, and alongside friends had prepped the garden just before the tour, pulling weeds and making sure everything was perfect. In the final moments of the tour, the sun broke through the clouds, highlighting a giant flannel bush in full bloom in his backyard.

It was amazing to see it all in action. The enthusiasm and optimism were overflowing, just like the rain features that we saw in all their glory. It reminded me how strong this movement is, with thousands of people, together in the rain, driving it forward.

P.S. If you missed this years tour, don’t worry, planning is already underway for 2025! In the meantime, take a look at the Tour website, where you can find photos and information about the 41 fabulous gardens featured in 2024.