‘En Plein Air’ Raises $130,000 for Descanso Education

Bossa Zuzu performed during the cocktail hour on the PromenadeTable top closeup.Longtime Descanso supporter – and new interim CEO of National Public Radio Paul G. Haaga, Jr., leads the paddle auction.Sharing a moment, Chris Poole of LCF, Stan Olson of Pasadena and Scott Lee of LCFannual-7344(From left) Jim Dowd, Chris Myers, Laura Myers, Donna Melby, Heather Banis, Dan Banis(From left) Mari Yoneda and Sheron JohnstonDancing to the Gerry Rothschild Band are Hope Tschopik Schneider, chair of the Descanso board of trustees, John David O’Brien, curatorial consultant of the Sturt Haaga Gallery at Descanso, and Heather Sturt Haaga, Descanso trustee.


4:07 pm | October 1, 2013

More than 150 supporters of Descanso Gardens gathered Saturday night to raise $130,000 for the botanic garden’s education programs for Southern California schoolchildren and special-needs students.

On a warm autumn evening at a harvest table that seemed to stretch forever beneath a canopy of oaks, guests gathered for “En Plein Air,” this year’s edition of “Only at Descanso.” The theme was inspired by the plein air school of landscape painting, and paid tribute to the hundreds of artists who have found inspiration in Descanso Gardens.

“Only at Descanso is a key part of the Descanso Gardens fund-raising model,” said Juliann Rooke, chief operating officer. “Almost as important as fund-raising, this benefit is a ‘friend-raiser’ for the Gardens. Through our benefit we are able to meet new people who support the Descanso Gardens mission to educate and inspire through experiences in nature.”

The evening began on the Promenade, where guests gathered for cocktails and enjoyed jazz performed by Bossa Zuzu. Long-time Descanso benefactor Paul G. Haaga, Jr., of La Cañada Flintridge, presided over the paddle auction for the second year.

Guests took a short stroll to the Oak Forest, where they gathered at a length of end-to-end tables that stretched down the pathway. The tables were covered with homespun tablecloths and guests sat at rustic chairs. The canopy of oak boughs was illuminated by strings of café lights that spanned the space. The harvest theme continued with vivid flower arrangements of orange roses and dahlias, autumn leaves, fresh herbs, sea holly, and lilies. The arrangements were donated by trustee Hank Maarse, president of Jacob Maarse Florists in Pasadena. Music curated by Matthew Rubino set the mood for dinner.

The dinner, prepared by Patina Catering, kept the harvest vibe going beginning with a spritely raw Tuscan kale salad. The entrees included grilled hanger steak with golden potato tart and herb pasta cannelloni with field greens and ricotta filling.

Dessert – a selection of fine cheese and chocolates — was served in the Rose Pavilion, where the Gerry Rothschild Band performed a spirited mix of classic tunes for dancing. Guests gathered at small tables for cordials. And the cushy seating of the cigar lounge drew guests who enjoyed a smoke and glass of port.

The evening was generously underwritten by Paul G. Haaga, Jr., and his wife, Descanso trustee Heather Sturt Haaga, Sid and Betsey Tyler of Pasadena, Rick Neumann of Pasadena, Karl Swaidan and the Dorothy L. Johnston Foundation, Hank and Ana Maarse of Jacob Maarse Florists, and Patina Restaurant Group.

The funds raised at “Only at Descanso” will support programs for school children, for young people with special needs, and for the visiting community at large. “Education is an integral part of our mission,” Rooke said. “We seek to educate in a number of ways, from the structured curriculum we have created for school children and special-needs students, to less formal experiences. Just taking a walk through the Gardens can be a lesson in the natural world.”

About Descanso Gardens

Established as a public garden in 1953, Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, near the interchange of the 2 and 210 freeways. The Gardens are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Christmas Day. Parking is free. Admission fees are $9 for adults; $6 for seniors and students; $4 for children 5 to 12, and free for members and children 4 and younger. For information, call (818) 949-4200 or visit www.descansogardens.org. Descanso Gardens is accredited by the American Association of Museums.