This spring, visitors can walk through private properties and gawk at gorgeous gardens.

Organized tours admiring strangers' flower beds have been attracting garden voyeurs for decades, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. In an interview for "LA Times Today," Los Angeles Times staff writer Jeanette Marantos told host Lisa McRee about the return of garden tours in Southern California.

What You Need To Know

  • Private homes are opening their gardens to visitors

  • People can tour gardens through the Mary Lou Heard Foundation and the Theodore Payne Foundation

  • Private gardens from Camarillo to Long Beach are opening up

  • The tours will take place until mid-May

"They've been around for decades and they're designed, usually as fundraisers for particular events," said Marantos. "People can buy a ticket and get a chance to tour three or four locations, dozens of private gardens, places where you might normally just kind of crane your neck as you're walking by. You can actually walk inside and really poke around."

The Theodore Payne Foundation focuses on native Californian plants and has more than 30 tours this year.

"They have created these tours so that at least 50% of the plants in these gardens are California native plants," Marantos said. "And for people who are thinking about going to learn more about native plants, that's a great opportunity to see how you can use them in your yard and what it means to create a habitat. It's a really beautiful landscape, and to see it with everything blooming. This is the perfect time for blooms for California native plants."

In Long Beach, Mike Esparza has created a "Man Garden" at his home. He took all the frilly-looking flowers out of the garden and planted blooms that look beautiful year-round.

"Mike Esparza works at the port in Long Beach, but he has this beautiful Tudor house near the beach," said Marantos. "He took out all the lawn in this place and he just built this garden. He has a friend who is an amateur designer who helped him, and they actually laid hoses down to create these little planting areas, moving the hoses around to find places where they could get a good flow. The result is so charming. There's so much color and lots of green and all these accent colors. It's a beautiful garden."

Esparza's garden is part of the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour. Marantos explained how that tour came to be.

"The foundation was started in honor of a woman named Mary Lou Heard, who moved to California in the 1970s. She started a nursery after she apparently had really struggled with depression for a while, after a really difficult divorce. She was hospitalized briefly, and she always told people that it was plants that help her recovery. And she had this really fabled nursery in Westchester that was devoted to cottage-type English flowers and other really beautiful flowers. She created these tours to support an organization called the Sheepfold, which is a women's crisis center in Orange."

In Pasadena, visitors can go into gardens at exclusive estates. Marantos said it's a treat since people can walk through gardens that are not visible from the street.

Pricing and dates for the tours vary. For more information, visit here.

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