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My Hollywood Home Away from Home

by Rebecca Sweet

For the next few weeks I’d like to invite you to join me on my adventure in Los Angeles.  West Hollywood, to be exact.  Why am I here?  My daughter and I are touring colleges and getting to know the town she’ll call home in a year.

What’s that have to do with gardening, you may ask?  Not much, really.  Except that, as you no doubt already know, a gardener can’t really go anywhere without noticing the plants and gardens around them.

I’m probably the only tourist in Hollywood who takes more pictures of plants than actors.

While my daughter is busy spotting famous people on the street, yelling “Mom – look! Mario Lopez!”, I’m looking the other way yelling “Emily – look!  Eucalyptus ficifolia!”

We’re staying in an actor’s flat while he’s on vacation – an older building from the 1940’s that his parents owned before passing it along to him.  In addition to acting, he’s the landlord to four tenants below, and from what I’ve heard from everyone he seems to be beloved by all.  It’s definitely an intimate family of sorts, here in this old and charming building.

I’d love to tell you the name of the actor, but out of respect to him, mum’s the word.  Well, respect and a little fear (he’s been in The Sopranos after all)…After walking up the steep flight of steps to the first landing I immediately noticed that a gardener lives somewhere around here.  Be still my heart!

It turns out one of the tenants is a landscape designer who brings his ‘leftovers’ to the building to share with everyone. I’ve yet to meet him, but fingers crossed…

That first landing puts you eye-level to the top of the garage’s roof. Apparently there’s a weight limit that prevents it from being turned into a giant patio for everyone to use, so instead, the designer has turned it into a Zen garden.  This is actually a brilliant idea, as tenants who access the stairs on both sides of the garden can enjoy it. 

And since we’re staying on the top floor, we get the added benefit of a birds-eye view!

So much better than a dreary garage roof, don’t you think?

I love seeing the little touches this designer has sprinkled around.

Like this vignette outside of the laundry room.


Or this fountain placed right outside of the gate, to be enjoyed by all.The neighboring apartment building is just a few feet away, but with the evergreen bamboo planted in this very narrow space, a sense of serene privacy is achieved.  Vertical gardening in every sense of the word!

Los Angeles just experienced a very unusual tropical thunderstorm yesterday, and I can tell you it was absolutely dreamy to sit underneath our covered patio and listen to the rain and wind rustle through the bamboo leaves.

Speaking of our patio, look at this space – it’s huge!  With views up to the hills in one direction and across town in the other. 

We’re literally one block off of busy Sunset Boulevard, but it doesn’t feel like it – thanks to the privacy of the bamboo and neighboring palms.

Except for the view of giant billboards, that is.  Still – what would you expect?

I should have a little more free time next week and am planning on visiting several gardens, including the world-renowned Huntington Garden.  I’ll see you then!!


susan morrison July 17, 2012 at 10:16 am

Trust you to wind up in an apartment building where a talented landscape designer creates beautiful garden vignettes for the tenants in his spare time. It’s like the universe knows you won’t be happy unless there is a garden nearby. Looking forward to seeing more of your pictures!

Rebecca Sweet July 17, 2012 at 8:31 pm

I will admit, Susan, that even I was most amazed at the serendipity of this one!

sheila schultz July 17, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Sometimes our friends are just pretty dang lucky!

Scott Hokunson July 15, 2012 at 5:35 am

What an awesome experience for both of you! How did you ever find this place to stay? Please introduce us all to the designer when you meet him/her, very nice work, and I love the bamboo!

Rebecca Sweet July 15, 2012 at 7:45 am

Scott, I keep trying and trying to find this designer but he must work ALL the time because he’s never home. I’m hoping he’ll show me some of the other gardens he’s designed. Fingers crossed!

Kaveh July 15, 2012 at 12:25 am

OK this is just the freakiest thing ever. I lived in WeHo in 2011 and I absolutely looked at an apartment in that building! I know exactly where it is. It was a really nice place (the one right below that patio) but only had street parking (I think just four spots for five apartments in the parking area) and the thought of driving around trying to find a spot and not having a protected garage to park in frightened me away.

If your daughter is going to move to WeHo permanently I would highly suggest she get as far off the main streets as possible. The noise is often deafening until 3 in the morning if you are anywhere near the clubs and don’t even get me started on the helicopters circling overhead. Really was one of the worst places I have lived sadly. Though seeing all the actors at the gym or around town was definitely fun. If your daughter likes True Blood I think a bunch of the actors work out at Equinox on Sunset and the actors from Dexter work out at my old gym on Melrose.

Sounds like the landlord and building you are staying in is nice. Maybe I would have been happier there. No more cities for me though.

Rebecca Sweet July 15, 2012 at 7:54 am

Kaveh – that is SO crazy!! From your description of the parking it sounds like you’ve definitely been here. They’re one parking space short in the uncovered garage. I would NEVER live here with a designated space. Guaranteed headache 2/7. How funny that you might’ve been living under us and we could’ve finally met! Luckily, I doubt my daughter will end up here – she’s hoping to attend LMU after next year and will live in the dorms. You’re absolutely right about the noise. As you remember, we’re literally one block up from Whisky A Go-Go and there was a band playing last night until 2:00am. But crazy enough, the noise doesn’t bother me. Reminds me of when I lived on Polk Street in SF many, many years ago. God forbid there’s a distant dog barking at home – I’ll never get to sleep. But put me on Polk Street or Sunset Blvd and I can sleep like a baby (with the windows open, no less). But you’re right – what’s WITH those helicopters, anyway? They start around 7:00am and fly around FOREVER! Funny you mention those gyms – we brought our work out stuff and were hoping to find someplace to start going to for the next few weeks. Those places sound pretty entertaining – definitely makes the time pass, right? But in the end – I’m with you. No more cities for me. Occasionally, yes. But otherwise it’s either the country or quiet suburbia!!!

Kaveh July 15, 2012 at 10:44 am

Definitely go work out at Equinox on Sunset. Expensive but it is within walking distance and you should see some A list celebrities.

I ended up actually right down the block just on the other side of Sunset. So I remember the noise of Whisky A Go Go (and the Viper Room, and the Roxy and Mickey’s and Rage from Santa Monica the other direction, Oy!).

The helicopters are mostly looking for criminals. So if you see them with their floodlights on at 3 in the morning and they are circling overhead it means there is probably someone with a gun running around hiding in the bushes! For some reason right across the street from me there was always some bad stuff going down with dozens of cop cars and circling helicopters but despite this I never felt unsafe (though I also usually didn’t go wandering around town after dark too much).

LMU would be a much better choice. If she gets tired of the dorms in the future she can move to Santa Monica, Venice, or Marina Del Rey which are much nicer areas to live in and the weather is much nicer than WeHo. The gardens in those areas are also much more interesting too for when you visit!

Rebecca Sweet July 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Thanks again for all the info, Kaveh! We were cruising around Venice today – OMG. It makes Santa Cruz’s Boardwalk look like childs-play. I tried to lure my kids into the backstreets to see some of the gardens that I KNEW were hiding there, but couldn’t pull them away from the main beach. Oh well – some other time. Good to know what those helicopters are up to. And I think I’ll lock my windows from now on!! ;)

Kaveh July 15, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Definitely check out the Venice Garden tour next year. One of the best I have been on. Lots of great gardens there.

Katie July 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm

While my daughter is busy spotting famous people on the street, yelling “Mom – look! Mario Lopez!”, I’m looking the other way yelling “Emily – look! Eucalyptus ficifolia!”

^^^^^^ Ha ha! I love your sense of humor, Rebecca!

Rebecca Sweet July 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm

:) Thanks, Katie! Unfortunately, she finds it a bit tedious….

sheila schultz July 14, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I love that you and your daughter will have serious time together to get to know her new town. Quiet time for you away from jobs and working your own gardens, serious time for both of you to play in an area neither of you know as well as you will down the road and most importantly… time to enjoy one another without day to day interruptions. This will be a trip you will remember…

Rebecca Sweet July 15, 2012 at 7:57 am

Sheila – you know me too well. We are having so much fun ‘playing’ and just hanging out together. My son came down last night from SB and we played tourists until midnight. Hollywood Walk of Fame, Pinks, some Chicken & Waffle place – having the time of our lives. And when the kids sleep in, I get to write! It’s a perfect set up and a month I will truly remember forever.

sheila schultz July 15, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Enjoy every moment, you are making memories neither of you will forget… oh and yeah, lots of laughable moments that your daughter will remind you of for years to come! Trust me on this one!

Rebecca Sweet July 15, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I’ve heard!!! I was so bummed I couldn’t go this year – there was just no way I could get away for it. Next year, though, I definitely want to go.

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