Meet Tour Hosts

2022 Tour Hosts Bring Abundant Native Plant and Ecological Expertise

April, 2022. By Cassy Aoyagi: One of the things that most delights us about garden tours is the chance to introduce our clients to one another. This year, we have the joy of doing that a little early! Each of our 2022 brings their own distinctive ecological and hyper-local native plant expertise to the table – and the tour.


Garden 14 | Garden of the Setting Sun

Desiree Portillo-Rabinov and Paul Rabinov

The Rabinovs’ impact on the environment can be felt throughout LA, from our transit hubs to the trails that take us into the wild.

Desiree Portillo-Rabinov works for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), She has planned and beautified our roadways, instigating land-use changes that improve access to transit stations, increase ridership, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Desiree also manages the implementation of the annual countywide bicycle design planning and training programs. She serves as the state co-chair and on the California Advisory Board the Trust for Public Land.

Paul Rabinov co-founded Crescenta Valley Clean and Green to promote the importance of protecting and preserving the environment. The Crescenta Valley Town Council elected Paul to represent Crescenta Valley and Altadena on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a 26-person advisory committee and governmental entity tasked with preserving the state’s wilderness and urban parkland. One of his goals in representing the area is to extend and improve access to the Rim of the Valley Trail.


Garden 15 | Forbes Mountain Retreat

Doug and Claudia Forbes

The Forbes Mountain Retreat sits within 3 miles of the childhood homes of both Doug and Claudia Forbes. As La Canada-La Crescenta natives, they enjoyed roaming the natural spaces of Descanso Gardens as children and as they grew.

As adults, it was a dream to find their dream home in their hometown. Doug spent more than thirty years as a professor at the College of the Canyons in Valencia. Claudia served as a health educator at Huntington Hospital for the same. During this time, the large coast live oak at the top of the driveway shaded their comings and goings, becoming more expansive and extraordinary each year. The canopy was a great stroke of luck – likely planted as an acorn by an unassisted bird or squirrel.

Retirement sparked attention to the garden and its role in their lives. Claudia began volunteering as a docent at Descanso Gardens, an experience that piqued her interest in native plants. Reading Douglas Tallamy’s “Bringing Nature Home” and visiting gardens on the Theodore Payne Foundation Native Plant Tour further informed her understanding of just how important native plants can be. Doug’s horticultural interest formed while reading up on the medicinal use of plants, mushrooms, and plant propagation.

As they began to formulate plans and preferences for the garden, Claudia began to recall college lessons in botany, as well as inspiring family excursions to the Channel Islands. Several of the couple’s plant choices stem from those visits to Catalina, Santa Cruz and San Miguel islands. Several of the plants in the garden were propagated from cuttings Doug made.


Garden 25 | Urban Wildlife Refuge

Hilda Weiss and Wayne Lindberg

Hilda Weiss and Wayne Lindberg work as a team to collect, preserve and promote LA’s beauty.

Since 2007, the couple has operated the award-winning Poetry.LA website and YouTube channel, home to hundreds of videos of Southern California poet performances, interviews, documentaries and themed series. They have videoed events at over 60 venues from San Clemente to Ventura and Riverside to Redondo Beach, capturing performances by noted poets of the region as well as four U.S. Poet Laureates and three Los Angeles Poet Laureates.

Like their work, Hilda and Wayne’s home preserves and promotes LA’s distinctive artistry. The home sits just steps from a Metro stop and is surrounded by larger structures – it appears as a portal to a more holistic history. A rare workman’s cottage, the Santa Monica Conservancy has recognized its historical value, as well as Hilda and Wayne’s meticulous restoration work. In addition to restoring the structure, the couple ensured the rare, expansive space around it serves as an urban wildlife refuge and pollinator rescue station.

In 2014, Hilda moved from preserving to promoting native plants – she convinced the Santa Monica Conservancy to consider an ocean-friendly plant palette to surround its new headquarters in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. She now serves as a docent at the Santa Monica Conservancy’s Preservation Resource Center where she ensures architectural enthusiasts and the Ocean Park community appreciate the significance of the Shotgun House Coastal Garden.
We hope you’ll enjoy meeting these LA beautiful humans every bit as much as you enjoy exploring these lush and leafy gardens! More Tour Information