Hit the Road: You’ll feel at home at this Newport Beach garden

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There are greenhouses and then there are green houses.

You’ll find the latter at the Sherman Library & Gardens in the Newport Beach neighborhood of Corona del Mar. This densely packed property, 2.2 acres of annuals, perennials, tropicals, cactus and succulents, shady old-growth trees and artistic hardscape, has a clever twist. Many of its displays are laid out to mimic the rooms of a house, and visitors learn how this works by following the map given at the entrance.

Before entering any of the “rooms,” discover the Central Garden with its fountain and array of colorful annuals, some of them chosen to attract butterflies. In fact, all six gardens within are planted with various butterfly-friendly flowers, and many of the flowers are rotated several times a year.

Following the room map, visitors pass through the parlor, study, music chamber, lavatory (bathroom), bedroom, formal dining room and finally, the solarium.

Don’t be shy about sitting on the parlor’s grass-upholstered couch (it is “mowed” with scissors); playing (softly, please) on the music chamber’s moss-covered piano; and curling up in the study’s wing-backed, succulent chair.

A grass-covered couch flanked by purple end table planters invites visitors to linger at Sherman Library & Gardens in Newport Beach. The gardens and library, which holds historic documents and collections related to the Southwest, was founded by businessman Arnold D. Haskell and named after his mentor, Moses H. Sherman. Photo by E’Louise Ondash

Note the elegant place settings (garden tools) on the table in the formal dining room, and don’t miss the table’s edible centerpiece — a healthy tomato vine.

Garden designers took the plunge with the bathroom and included a toilet (no invites here!) with the sink and bathtub. Each piece has been transformed into a fountain and is nestled among colorful flower beds. The bathtub, with lily pads and recirculating water, is home to guppies, goldfish and tiny frogs.

If it’s inspiration for your drought-tolerant landscape you need, visiting the succulent and cactus exhibit is a must and a joy. Gardeners have created artworks with their use of plants, rocks, bricks and vividly colored glass and other hardscape materials.

I have my long-time friend and Orange County resident Carole Courtney Adams to thank for taking me to explore this garden, which holds a surprise at every turn. We found ourselves lingering in each section because there is so much packed into each exhibit, and enjoying the breeze from the nearby Newport Bay and Pacific Ocean.

Garden designers created a bathroom amongst the blooms – one of a half-dozen “rooms” at the Sherman Library & Gardens in Newport Beach. Photo by E’Louise Ondash

If you haven’t had your fill of flora after this, visit nearby Roger’s Gardens, a Newport Beach institution and one-of-a-kind commercial nursery that earns the title Disneyland for Gardeners.

“We’re a happy place,” says Nava Rezvan, marketing director. “We’ve seen a major resurgence in gardening (during the pandemic), especially for edibles.”

You’ll need stamina and good walking shoes to take in the nursery’s 6 acres of themed gardens and boutiques.

Nothing is left to chance by the more than 100 employees who care for the merchandise, organic and otherwise. The boutiques are singular, too — like the shop dedicated solely to fairy gardens and gnome homes.

The store’s current theme is Hummingbird Summer; hence the 40 feeders scattered throughout.

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