Tucked into the hills just below the famous towering letters of the Hollywood sign, sits one of LA’s best kept secrets: the Garden of Oz. Follow the yellow brick road, or just hop on the 101 to Beachwood Canyon, where you and your little explorers can uncover a real life secret garden.
The Story of Oz
In the early 90s Beachwood Canyon resident Gail Cottman decided to build a beautiful garden in the plot of land on the hill below her home. It started as a set of flower beds and over the years, with the help of many artists and friends, it has blossomed into a labyrinth of colorful tiles forming thrones and tributes to everything from movies like The Wizard of Oz to peace-loving musicians, like John Lennon. Rumor has it that she gifted keys to her garden to all the children in her neighborhood. Luckily, she also decided to open this wondrous place, which is now a Designated Historic Cultural Monument, to everyone else. (Just not very often. More on that, later.)
Mosaics and More
When you first arrive at the Garden of Oz it looks a lot like the other foliage-covered front yards of the houses surrounding it, but then you’ll spot a handcrafted concrete and tile-covered seat peeking out of the bushes with a plaque reading “A Throne For You” and you’ll know you’ve found it. Follow the Toy Wall next to it, adorned with toy box relics and tchotchkes, till you reach the yellow iron gate that stands open, welcoming you in.
The first thing you’ll notice as you step inside is that there is in fact a “yellow brick road” made up of a hodge-podge of yellow tiles. The majority of the garden is made of cemented mosaics of colorful tiles, marbles and all kinds of found objects. The mosaics form walls, garden beds, several different themed thrones, and dozens of stairs that wind their way to nooks and corners all along the hillside. The garden is cool and shady, but the sun still peeks in, glinting off of the rainbow of colors everywhere you look. The entire place feels like a living piece of artwork and your young art connoisseurs will delight in the fact that they are actually allowed to touch every glittering surface.
Pint-sized adventurers will love climbing around the different steps and pathways to discover new spots around every turn, like the entirely green “Emerald City,” a ginormous dream catcher, and the crystal throne gazebo—a cozy seating spot that looks straight out of a Tim Burton movie. Many of the steps are steep and without railings, so this is definitely an adventure best suited for stable explorers. Wobbly walkers would manage best in a carrier, as there’s no room for strollers.
Continue The Adventure
If you’ve worked up an appetite after visiting the garden, drive or walk back down Beachwood Drive less than a quarter-mile to the Beachwood Cafe. This super cute and historic joint for locals is a great place to discuss all that you’ve seen over some delicious burgers and mac n’ cheese.
If you’re up for more exploring, pack your bikes up before you leave home and head up to the Hollywood Reservoir where you can enjoy a peaceful family bike ride with an unobstructed view of the Hollywood sign.
The garden is only “unofficially” open to the public once a week on Thursdays between 10 a.m. and noon.
Parking can be found along Ledgewood Drive, on the opposite side of the street only or along Beachwood Canyon. It’s a bit of a hill and there are no sidewalks on Ledgewood, so be weary of traffic. In the event of a potty emergency there is a porta-potty in the garden. Just look for the door near the entrance marked “Throne of Oz.”
Note: No cameras or phones are allowed inside the gate. So the only pictures we can show you are from the outside. So this really is a secret garden and a surprise for all who enter. A happy surprise, we promise!
Garden of Oz
3040 Ledgewood Dr.
Have you discovered the magic of Oz yet? What are some of your favorite secret LA spots? Share in the comment section!
—written and photos by Shahrzad Warkentin