Walk us through the space. How many rooms are there in this garden?
Between the parking court, entry garden, hello and goodbye garden (by the front door), a couple of courtyards, the fireplace garden, and a pizza oven garden, there are at least 8 strong outdoor rooms. Each room in the house has a garden view. Taking cues from the style and character of the house’s architecture and interiors, we carried elements from inside into the landscape.
What are some of the elements that connect the garden to the house?
The style of the house is Mediterranean and the interior designer, Erin Martin, kept to a disciplined palette of dark tones with pops of white, encaustic cement tiles and Moroccan details. Creating a seamless transition from the house to the garden started with the herringbone pattern walkways.
I work with a company in Los Angeles that works with the oldest terracotta producing family business in Italy. My job gives me great opportunities to work with talented creatives and creative colleagues to explore things that are bigger than me and my work. This Italian-based company invented a process of mixing coal into terracotta clay in the kiln to make a material that has all the properties of terracotta but with a beautiful shade of grey. They cut that into the tiles that we set in a herringbone pattern. The effect is that stepping through threshold from the house into the garden, there are no abrupt changes--it feels effortless.
Even though the style is "Modern Moroccan", which suggests plenty of color, you hewed to a simple color palette in the garden.
I wanted to bring some of the essential elements of an Islamic or Moroccan garden—water, strong lines, pathways, scented flowers and Moorish shapes—without the riot of color than can define the style. That carried over into the choice of plants which are mostly in soft gray, deep green, or with white flowers. The color comes from subtle pops such as the potted kumquats and the occasional pink or purple flower.
In this garden you used lots of "traditional" landscaping plants such as boxwood, privet, redbud, and ornamental grasses. When choosing plants what do you take into consideration?
Structure is critical to creating a garden that stands the test of time and gets better with age. Sturdy woody shrubs like the classic ones in this garden provide a backdrop for more showy elements. You need to start with the best plants, carefully grown for your climate and conditions. When thinking about plants, choosing a limited color palette and repeating a limited variety of plants throughout the space keeps it simple and not too crazy. At the same time, you need to think about more than what the garden is going to look like, you have to think how it’s going to function. Plants are part of that. Trees that create a "roof", hedges that make a space feel private, plants in pots that can be moved around as needed—all are important.
We love the pop of color from the early spring blooming redbud trees in the courtyard. How do you design for spring beauty without falling into the trap of blowing out all your best bloomers early in the season?
Creating a landscape that provides a sequence of bloom across seasons just takes some planning. Here in Southern California we are more limited for options than in other regions, but flowering cherries, flowering plums and flowering crabapples that start early followed by fruits such as apples and pears and later by dogwoods are a great combination. If you don't have a lot of space, put some early bloomers in containers and move them in and out when they are done. Those Forest Pansy redbud trees were chosen for a seasonal change and a spot of color in very early spring. I love how they come with very dark burgundy leaves that slowly turn more green toward the end of summer before they turn yellow and then are bare during the winter—it’s a nice way to experience seasonal change in warmer climates when most trees keep their leaves and are mostly green. These trees are uplit at night to add drama to the space.