Sherman Gardens brings the indoors outdoors in summer ‘greenHOUSE’ exhibit

If, on a perfect summer day, you’ve ever wished you could drag your bed, sofa or reading chair outside and fall asleep under a slowly darkening sky, then you’ll want to catch the latest seasonal exhibit at Sherman Gardens.

Running through Sept. 12, greenHOUSE brings the indoors outdoors by reimagining areas within the 2.5-acre Corona del Mar property as different living spaces one might find within a home, but with a decidedly botanical twist.

It’s almost easy to miss, as a domestic theme subtly twists and turns through sections of the garden and furniture pieces lurk under fuzzy brown-green beds of moss, or a living vegetable garden with creeping sweet potato vines, or thick slabs of sod.

But once you know what to look for, the discoveries (and the photo ops) are endless. Peer into bathtub filled with fleshy pond plants or watch dragonflies flit around a toilet in a pond replete with lotus blossoms. Pick out a tune on a moss covered piano or kick back in an outdoor study succulently decorated with, of course, succulents.

Sherman Library and Gardens Executive Director Scott LaFleur said greenHOUSE reflects a recent trend toward attracting families and younger visitors looking for unique experiences and settings, something sparked by the gardens’ popular Nights of 1,000 Lights holiday display.

“We’d hit this nerve of getting a young crowd here, so we wanted to give them a reason to come back and something to do,” LaFleur said. “We’re really trying to create an attractive, interactive and Instagrammable exhibit at the garden.”

As if on cue, a quartet of teen girls wander into the sun garden/lavatory with cellphones in hand, looking for just the right angle to take a group selfie in the reflection of a bathroom sink mirror.

Riley Swindall, 16, came to the exhibit two weeks earlier with some friends and found so many things to look at and photograph, that she corralled three more girlfriends to join her on a repeat trip Wednesday.

Sherman Gardens brings the indoors outdoors in summer ‘greenHOUSE’ exhibit

“I never even saw any pictures of it. My friend just looked it up, and it seemed like a pretty place to take pictures,” she said of her initial visit. “I’d never seen something like that before.”

Friend Dominika Wasilewski, 16, was also pleasantly surprised by the exhibit’s unusual beauty.

“It’s a really nice place to take a picture with your friends and tells a casual story,” she said. “You really wouldn’t think something like that would be that beautiful, but the way they just made it is nice.”

LaFleur said the exhibit was the product of creative brainstorming session, in which staff members and horticulturalists began thinking about the pandemic and how people became sequestered in their own homes.

“After being inside for so long, we thought it would be fun to flip the page and bring the inside outside,” he said. “With outdoor spaces, and green spaces in particular, throughout the pandemic people have reconnected with that, and it’s fantastic to see.”

Brea resident Claire Morrill came to Sherman Gardens Wednesday to enjoy lunch at the on-site Cultivar restaurant with mom Elaine Cox and daughters Kennedy, 17, and 13-year-old Madison. The group was killing time before a 1:30 reservation.

Morrill took a photo of her daughters in the high-backed, succulent draped chair of the study, unsure whether it was OK for them actually sit on the installation. She had no idea it was part of a larger exhibit.

“I sent a picture of the toilet to my husband. He wasn’t too sure about it, but it all makes sense now,” she said, smiling. “Now, I want to go around again and take pictures.”

“Let’s go on everything,” Kennedy said.

greenHOUSE runs through Sept. 12 and is free with $5 admission to Sherman Library and Gardens, 2647 E. Coast Highway, in Corona del Mar. For more, visit thesherman.org.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.