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California gardens are only a Slice of Paradise

The formality of 17th and 18th century European gardens is a reflection of people’s desire to control their environment and the natural forces around them.  They were still surrounded by wildness.  The comfort of a garden with lines, hedges, and geometric shapes was their safety.

Today people yearn for the natural.  We are surrounded by non-nature, non-wildness.  We all want contact with what we cannot control.

That is why my clients, as a general rule, all say they want a ‘natural’ looking garden.

Having lived in northern California for so long, gardening was my salvation.  I spent my childhood summers in the San Bernadino mountains and backpacked the Sierras and Rockies in my teens.  I always yearned for that feeling of being ‘lost in nature’.  I understood my clients deepest longings.

This week visiting some clients and potential clients, I was pleasantly surprised with some of my installations from last spring.  As a general rule, I need to wait at least 3 seasons to take photos.  But here are a few photos from last years installations with comments below.  Besides, I bought a Nikon P90 and I’m loving it and excited to post some of the photos.  Its really lightweight too so I can carry it in my daypack.

For more information on how you can design your own dream garden see my ebook on Design.

This yard began as a flat rectangle.

This yard began as a flat rectangle.

This is a gravel garden.  See Beth Chatto's gravel garden.  Arbor/fence existing

This is a gravel garden. See Beth Chatto’s book on gravel gardens. Arbor/fence existing

Very small patio with grand view

Very small patio with grand view

Decomposed Granite sunken patio edged with stone and Ryerson's header.

Decomposed Granite sunken patio edged with stone and Ryerson’s header.

Decomposed granite patio using a creative mix of fines to achieve our color

Decomposed granite patio using a creative mix of fines to achieve our color

Decomposed Granite patio with Lots of natives with view

Decomposed Granite patio with Lots of natives with view

Decomposed granite patio with flagstone shower

Decomposed granite patio with flagstone shower

The view from all patios.  These are drought tolerant plants, mostly natives, on an Oak woodland interface

Decomposed Granite steps with headers. The view from all patios. These are drought tolerant plants, mostly natives, on an Oak woodland interface

This is a different property with a great view of SF bay

This is a different property with a great view of SF bay

Plants as Sculpture.  Each pot has a different architectural plant

Plants as Sculpture. Each pot has a different architectural plant

New plantings, the owner choose the chess set.

New plantings, the owner choose the chess set.

Except the small lawn, the beds are all low water, mostly succulents/natives

Except the small lawn, the beds are all low water, mostly succulents/natives

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5 Responses

  1. There is, of course, a vast literature of how the high-maintenance garden (including the English grass lawn) came to be enshrined in Western Culture. Sustainability (and the increasingly high cost of water here in the West) is starting to reform our values. Let’s hope it’s not too late.

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  2. Hi Eco, ‘sustainability’ has become a buzzword in my industry and frankly I find it mostly meaningless. There are some good practices that have come out of that, but mainly its a new gimmick for people to make money with. The West in general and California in particular is in trouble with water. People still haven’t really gotten it or I wouldn’t have picked up an article last week at the doctors office in Architectural Digest entitled “Classical forms rise up in a once-arid corner of Northern Mexico”. I would assume that area is still arid, despite the designer’s lawns and high water garden.

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  3. Amazing pictures here! California gardens combine the beauty of native plants and efficient use of water outdoors. Using drought-tolerant plants too help! Many households use a lot of water for gardening and landscaping; http://j.mp/1aRMnV will help in estimating the right amount of water to give your landscape or garden every week.

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  4. What’s a Ryerson’s header? Is there a steel frame inside the curved wall or something?

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    • Ryerson’s header is a very thin steel edging, about 16′ long and several inches depth and maybe 1/8″ wide. It is bendable and is used for edging a lawn or a pathway to keep the material in. Your local landscape materials store should have it, but they might have it under a different name. It also comes with its own steel stakes.

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