In The News

San Juan Garden Club Transforms Library Courtyard

SJC Garden Club volunteers just completed a five-year landscaping project, beautifying the much loved “La Sala” space behind the library.

By Toni Nelson, Patch Mayor 
Nov 1, 2019 11:39 pm ET | Updated Nov 3, 2019 1:01 pm ET
San Juan Library La Sala Courtyard with Basilica San Juan in background.  All photos courtesy of SJC Garden Club
San Juan Library La Sala Courtyard with Basilica San Juan in background. All photos courtesy of SJC Garden Club

Both city residents and visitors to the San Juan Capistrano Library consider it a local treasure. Designed thirty years ago by the late, renowned post-modernist architect, Michael Graves, it is a city landmark that was and still is controversial for a design aesthetic that is anything but what one would expect in a civic library.

Situated on a small hill just a few blocks north of the Mission adjacent to the Basilica San Juan, on the corner of El Camino Real and Acjacheman Streets, the library fittingly evokes San Juan’s Mission roots, but with a fresh, modern take on neo-Spanish architecture. Graves created a series of unique and intimate spaces that are as enticing and unusual today as they seemed three decades ago. One of the crowning touches is Graves’ “La Sala” – an exterior room, quite literally, in Spanish, – a courtyard gathering space behind the library that is beautifully proportioned and now, thanks to the efforts of the San Juan Capistrano Garden Club, also beautifully landscaped.

Nearly five years ago, Club Founder Valerie Drey was asked by City staff to spearhead a five-year project to restore some of the Library landscaping. Since the SJC Garden Club was hoping to expand its philanthropic efforts, they agreed to take on the project, providing vision, design and installation efforts plus financial support. Stage One of the beautification project included the installation and planting of beautiful pots to line the reflecting pool. The dramatically scaled planters in a lovely cerulean blue provide a striking backdrop to the enticing water feature.

Beautiful pots and bower vines line the tranquil reflecting pool

As the non–profit Club worked on designs and raised additional funds, they began Stage 2, removing overgrown plum trees and root bound vegetation, replacing them with eight drought tolerant crepe myrtle trees, red confetti style lantana and other flowering plants and vines in a bed of bark, decomposed granite and gravel. A bench with a plaque acknowledging the Club’s gift to the City was installed as the final perfect touch. It provides an idyllic spot for library patrons to read, converse or simply contemplate the beautiful setting.

Flowering crepe myrtle trees and agapanthus grace the courtyard

Valerie Drey and current La Sala Beautification Project Chair, Nancy Cangiano, spearheaded the project, working with City staff, McGrogen Landscape Design, The Soto Company, Stevens Gardens and a cadre of hardworking volunteers. Nancy credits La Sala Committee Members Mary Crawford. Inge Harris, Dona Helmick, Jeanne Kubrick, Pat Martin, Judy Sage, Mozelle Sukut, Linda Jones, Andrea Jones and Joyce Meyer with providing the unglamorous but essential elements like digging, clipping, sweeping and literally carrying water to see the project through to completion. Founder Valerie Drey says the project has been a “dream come true” as it not only served as a catalyst for other city projects but allowed the Club to enhance the second “jewel” of San Juan Capistrano – the historic Mission, of course, being the first.

Club Founder, Valerie Drey at left, with Nancy Cangiano, La Sala Beautification Chair near bench and plaque donated by SJC Garden Club

Five years of meetings, design and hard work have transformed Valerie Drey’s vision into a beautiful legacy for the residents of San Juan Capistrano. In the words of La Sala Chair, Nancy Cangiano, “it’s been a great ride!”

The public is encouraged to visit this space and enjoy the peace and serenity of a truly beautifully landscaped gathering space. Thank you, San Juan Garden Club!

Snake plant (sansevieria trifasciata) and colorful succulents (echeveria) highlight new ceramic planters

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Member Recognized for Water Saving in South Coast Water District News

Congratulations to our member Linda Jones and her husband for being recognized by the South Coast Water District for the implementation of water saving techniques at their Dana Point home.

Water Saver of the Month Jones

The Jones’ have a large property consisting of fruit trees, a vegetable garden, lawn and drought tolerant ornamentals. They contemporized their irrigation system by replacing old designed sprinklers and drip with direct target drip, tubing and micro-sprayers. They continued the saving effort by converting their front lawn to Dymondia a South African native from the Daisy family. This lawn alternative can take foot traffic and this author has even seen it used successfully in drive ways.                                         Congratulations and thank you for setting a good example.