Twelve years ago, the wonderful gardens of Venice were a secret. They still are, in a sense, because each year new ones are added.
This year, for the first time, the 12th Annual Garden Tour on Saturday, May 6th, includes the Oakwood neighborhood.
Proceeds from the tour benefit the Las Doradas Children’s Learning Center.
Operated by the nonprofit Neighborhood Youth Association, the Center offers child care and education at very low cost or free to low-income, at-risk children, ages two to 12, from the Oakwood neighborhood.
For more information, go to www.venicegardentour.org
Also, the tour committee is always looking for new gardens.
If you are a green thumb enthusiast or have used a professional landscaper or architect and would like to have your garden considered, you may contact the committee at venicegardentour @comcast.net
One of the Oakwood gardens will be an unusual experience — showing soil used as a canvas.
“Working with the soil is like working with a piece of art,” says Kimya (who uses just one name, like Cher). “There is something about a labor of love that has a territory of its own.
“That’s the beauty of life when you tap into those things. Some people will tap into it with music or art. I’ve tapped into it by working with the land. This is my art.”
At an early age Kimya intuitively tapped into the energies of inner healing, which led to a career as a massage therapist.
She has channeled her vocation into the Aloha Sanctuary Spa, which is located at her home, surrounded by the nature that produces its own rejuvenating forces to heal mind, body, spirit and soul.
The garden is not a typical “flower” garden. The majority of the plants are vegetables and herbs, along with fruit trees. There are many flowers, but most are only in one stage of transformation.
“As I started to have a hands-on relationship with gardening and the earth, I realized that everything has a flower,” says Kimya. “In order for the fruit to have life, the flower has to happen first.
“If you leave something alone in nature, the flower is the way it keeps the life cycle going.
“Our focus is holistic healing and rejuvenation and I believe nature is the first ingredient to embrace that.
“The healing takes place when people tell me that they’ve never seen something like celery or lettuce in the ground. That tells me how disconnected so many people are. The supermarket has been the middleman of nature.”
Rejuvenation is taking in the great assortment of fruit trees —cherimoya, loquat, apricot, pineapple guava, almond, honey tangerine, pear, mango, pomegranate, lemon, blood orange, mandarin orange, green plum, nectarine, three different types of apples and three different types of avocados.
Rejuvenation is inhaling the aroma of the herbs — marjoram, lemon thyme, regular thyme, apple mint, spearmint, chocolate mint, Indian curry, rue, oregano, cilantro, New Zealand spinach, rosemary and pineapple sage.
“Smell is such a fascinating sense I don’t believe many people utilize much today,” she says.
Rejuvenation is seeing vegetables in their natural habitat — kale, Brussels sprouts, parsley, strawberries, artichoke, asparagus, collards, black kale, red winter kale, cauliflower, cabbage, Italian dandelion, turnips, beets, lettuce — and unique varieties of tomatoes that you may never have heard of such as Brandywine Pink, Williams Stripe which is yellow and red, Cherokee Purple and Black Cherry, to name a few.
Communing with nature has many benefits. As a vegan and advocate for organic food, Kimya has no problem with getting her hands dirty.
“Anyone who gardens will agree with me that it’s probably one of greatest ways to release stress and to ground yourself,” she says. “Nature helps me feel connected to the world that is so big.
“You put a seed or a starter in the ground and it grows. That’s pretty breathtaking. I feel incredible at the end of the day when I’ve been in the garden. I feel that I’ve been blessed with such a privilege.”
Gardening came naturally to Kimya.
“When I lived in San Francisco I found out by observing and being in the present moment that plants like me and they grow around me,” she says. “I do water and fertilize but I don’t have to do much.
“Plants are conscious of and receptive to their environment.”
Knowledge comes with experience and Kimya has figured out how to integrate esthetics with practicality.
“I do my best to plant ground covers, like strawberries, and incorporate them with things that grow straight up,” she says. “You use your intuition to maximize different spaces. You also learn how to use herbs to repel insects that eat plants. Bugs love black kale, so I’ve planted rosemary next to it.
“I’m also learning about giving the soil more nutrients through organic gardening.
“I believe the true rewards of understanding or embracing the cycle of life is that we become nourished by it and that nourishment we get to share with other people.”
Kimya shares her nourishment with people who come to her spa.
“This place is open to people who are interested in receiving love and open to being rejuvenated,” she says.
The spa includes a steam room, a Jacuzzi, an oxygen bar with a choice of aroma therapy, and a treatment room for Reiki, hot stone massage, crystal chakra clearing and sound healing treatments. Everything is customized.
“It is not a cookie-cutter process,” she says.
“I encourage people to tune in to what they feel is best for them because we receive when we open ourselves up to things that resonate with us.”
For more information, go to www.alohasanctuary.com
Aloha Sanctuary Spa got its name from Kimya’s visits to Hawaii and her studies with the local kahunas (native medicine man).
“I was to go there to become intoxicated, if you will, in a positive and loving way by the aloha and bring it here and let people know that the aloha is everywhere,” she says.
Kimya decided to stay in Los Angeles and moved to Venice four years ago.
“Venice has this down-to-earth, small-hometown feel to it,” she says. “I can walk to the beach, the post office, the bank, local events, Abbot Kinney, wonderful restaurants.
“There is a sense of community as well. I really enjoy that. I like the quaintness. I can walk down the street and wave to people I know. I can visit a neighbor. I know who my neighbors are.
“Those are things that are important to me.”