Laguna Beach artist Jessica deStefano takes delight in re-inventing herself. For the Exchange Club’s al fresco pancake breakfasts on Memorial Day, she turned watermelon-pop hostess and handed out fruit on sticks. During December’s Hospitality Night, she transforms into a Wish Faerie, granting the desires of children with a flurry of gauzy wings and the touch of a wand.
Her newest turn: butterfly surgeon. By relying on an internet tutorial, she’s repaired a butterfly’s damaged wing by gluing on a replacement extracted from one that died.
DeStefano’s specialty evolved from a butterfly garden she’s cultivated for more than a year outside the county library’s Laguna Beach branch.
Last week, its flowering specimens dotted by eight re-purposed bird houses turned fairy cottages earned deStefano recognition as the “Fairy Garden designer” from the Laguna Beach Beautification Council.
“Since the fairies have moved in, it’s become even more magical,” said deStefano, who read to the award audience a few of the endearing notes scrawled by children and left in the garden for its invisible inhabitants. “Please help my nanny’s back to get better. I don’t want her to be in pain. P.S. Also, could I have a unicorn, please.”
Purple cosmos flowers in the garden prove alluring to Monarch butterflies. The patch also draws painted ladies and yellow sulphur butterflies. On most mornings by 6:30 a.m. the self-titled “fairy fiduciary” starts her day with an hour of tending the former succulent patch beneath the library’s trees at 363 Glenneyre St.
“Jessica’s persistence and artistic sense has transformed a previously unremarkable plot of land into a magical, much beloved, local treasure,” said branch manager Jon Gilliom. “The library’s staff regularly receive compliments from community members and visitors who come into the library to express their admiration for the garden and to ask who created and maintains it. They are always noticeably surprised to learn it is the work of one single, very dedicated, volunteer.”
Gilliom said deStefano’s expenses are reimbursed by the Friends of Laguna Beach Library.
For 52 years, the council has strived to enhance the town’s natural beauty by revitalizing slivers of land and awarding residences and businesses for their beautifying contributions. Creation of the Main Beach Park is credited in large measure to the lobbying of the council’s founder, the late Harry Lawrence.
At a presentation last week, the Council, in addition to recognizing deStefano, showered more than two-dozen other landscapes created at homes and businesses with praise, according to council member Leah Vasquez. The full list of awards follows.
Residential Awards: James & Ann Shea, High Drive; Clark & Gregory Collins, El Bosque; The Duensing Family, Morningside Drive; The Sproule Family, Blumont Street; Dr. Stefanie Fightlin & Todd MacCallum, Bluebird Canyon Drive; Alexander Brown & Patricia Rinaldi, Bluebird Canyon Drive; Dr. Haresh Jhangiani & Dr. Mohammad Ala, Alta Laguna Boulevard; Carolyn Brown, Cliff Drive.
Unattended Awards: Entry Garden Flamingo Road, Historic cottage on Wendt Terrace, Mar Vista Avenue, and Anita Street, The Palms on Cliff Drive.
Business Awards: The Ranch at Laguna Beach, Mark Christy, 31106 S. Coast Highway; Another Kind Restaurant and Frontage Road, Landscape Design, Dora Wexell Orgill & Mark Orgill, 891 and 793 Laguna Canyon Road; Dawson Cole Gallery sculpture garden, Marty Raichle (for Rich and Ariana MacDonald), 326 Glenneyre St.; Selanne Steak Tavern, Exterior landscape, 1464 S. Coast Highway.
City/Public project Awards: South Laguna Village Green Park, Ann Christoph, Landscape Architect. Catalina and Monterey Street, South Laguna; Brown’s Park, James Dockstader, Landscape Architect, 551 S Coast Highway.
Trees: The City of Laguna Beach, Shohreh Dupuis, director of public works, for exceptional care of public places; Lemon Scented Eucalyptus, Catalina and Los Robles surrounding the traffic circle; California Pepper, Parking Lot, Ocean Avenue; California Sycamore Tree, Laguna Beach Water District.
Art in Public Places: “Green Man with Red Birds,” 2006, Julia Klemek, artist, stoneware ceramic sculpture, South Laguna Village Green Park; “Voyager,” 2003, Linda Brunker, artist, Treasure Island/Montage walkway, 10’ bronze filigree sculpture; “Tide Pool Kraken & Strand of Life,” Casey Parlette, artist, Heisler Park overlooking Divers Cove; “Canyon Walkers,” Brittany Ryan, sculptor, LCAD Main Campus, 2222 Laguna Canyon Road; “777,” aka Art-A-Fair, Okuda San Miguel, artist, exterior murals, 777 Laguna Canyon Road.
Special Award: Harry Lawrence Award Winner, Keith Kesler, Community Beautification Service.