Thursday, May 28, 2015

2015 Garden Conservancy Open Days ~ Pasadena ~ The Reardon Family Garden

“ I associate the word "wild" with wildflowers, wild roses, things in fields that haven't been hurt yet! So let's be things in fields that have healed and that have grown. Let's be wild.” 

Loads of dirt and recycled concrete were brought in 
You gotta love Google Earth.  In 2011, their cameras documented that moment in time when the outline of a new garden to surround to the 1926 South Pasadena home of George and Susan Reardon was fresh. "The bones" preserved for posterity.  

Espalier apples and sages hint at the abundance beyond 
Fast forward to 2015. The design by Marco Barrantes of La Loma Development Company filled out like Marilyn Monroe.  

Open Garden Day-   The infamous L.A. smog washed away by rain the day before.  Walking from where I had parked- I noted  the air was warm and scented with roses, sage and freshly mown grass. This must be one of the best smelling neighborhoods in America.  A bouquet of freshly picked flowers graced the check-in table.  Things have certainly changed since a sloping lawn was replaced with a wild garden. 

Pass through rustic redwood gate hung from pillars of river rock. Let your imagination run wild at the delight of countryside established on what was once a large- but ordinary- suburban lot.

Despite a dignified exterior- this a garden where the wild heart flourishes. 

With irrigation lines laid below grade level, the efficiency of water works unseen. 

Blueberries inter-planted with fennel- who'd have thunk? Lovers of nature. People who revel in perfume of place.  

 George says he "Lets the garden do its thing." With California poppies, fennel, lettuces and onions free to re-seed where they are happiest, this garden is optimistic- and lower maintenance than one would imagine from the visual abundance.  

Succulents form a tapestry along the transition from front to back gardens
Recycling goes chic. Urbanite- recycled concrete- generously forms walls and pathways.  

A yellow stripe hints at the provenance of this stepping stone.
George remembers the craftsman in charge of paving. He worked with pride. Picking pieces carefully; chiseling profiles and...   

Decomposed granite between steps 
Sometimes reversing top to bottom for artistic effect. 

A trip to Italy was the inspiration for a fully retractable patio sail. 

On the  patio table  were the official before and after garden photos. While before was perfectly civilized-  the wildness of the after is more compelling.  

The wildflower meadow is at its springtime height of beauty. Full of life. 

A dragonfly

A bee 

 But the piece de resistance- a standard pool was re-imagined as a dipping pond. The owners' son promising he likes this better.  "It cools the temps." This is a favorite spot to "Bring your book when it's a 110 degrees and just sit on the rocks." Or jump in. 

His father explained the pool is still under there somewhere. The new bottom is lined with a rubber gasket. The coping hidden beneath a berm through which water is filtered and recirculated 

 There is a magic in this place. It is very eco-correct. But that isn't what I thought of. What I thought of is the romance of walking out the door to pick  greens for salads, herbs for dressings and fresh flowers to fill vases. I thought of all the novels such a garden could inspire- everyone of them with romance at the heart of the story. 

 Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

2015 Garden Conservancy Open Days~ Pasadena~ The Parterres

"What I gained by being in France was learning to be better satisfied with my own country." 
~ Samuel Johnson 
(1709- 1784) 

The current owners are caretakers of the home's history

WWI. Katherine Kissinger served our armed forces as an ambulance driver. In France, she met Lt. Colonel Lansing Beach. After the war, the newly married couple settled into happily-ever-after in Pasadena, California. 

It was 1927, the heart of the Period Revival Era. The ambiance of the Arroyo, graced with with craftsman houses and an abundance of trees, was the perfect locale to spend the rest of their lives together. 

The architectural team of David Witmer and Loyall Watson were hired to bring the charm of where the couple fell in love, French Countryside. to the home. Witmer, with military connections, was co-chief designer of The Pentagon.

Imagine looking down on the orderly abundance of the garden from the second story
The simplicity of design is the perfect foil to what my friend Alexandra, who lived in France for several years, describes as modern French  fashion aesthetic. The emphasis of is on the quality of materials, eschewing superfluous  ornamentation.

In 2011, Rhett Judice and Brad Hanson bought the structurally sound home  and set about restoring the homes and gardens. Ever respectful to the past, the home's signature graciousness is ever-modern.

The dining room features hand painted walls by Rhett Judice

Muted colors and views to the garden enhance the friendliness of the living room
A library with a view to the garden

Parterres comes from the French word for "on the ground". This formal style of  largely level and symmetrical gardens designed on axis  where the geometry is defined by gravel paths is largely credited to Claude Mollet.  

That was 500 years ago. The style's straightforward clarity of design makes it relatable across millennia.

The deep blue adds dramatic input to the space
A garden should never be viewed in one go. Like an interesting person, it should have a bit of mystery. Little nooks, such as the walkway toward the guest house, offer delightful diversion.

The Parterres offers several lessons in the opportunities for successful artistic garden expression.

Foreground. Middleground. Background. The elements of this vignette extends the visual size of the scene past the global armillary, through the arch, letting the eye rest on the donkey's tail sedum.  

The grillwork opening in the garden wall allows the garden and home to literally be seen as a framed work of art. 

The service area at the end of the gravel driveway is treated as a destination point. All gardens have storage best kept out of site. The curtains on the right- inexpensive and effective.

In 2014, the City of  Pasadena recognized the ongoing importance of the property with a landmark decision under the Mills Act.

Rhett Judice specializes in Interior Architecture and Design.  He is well-known for his restoration and decoration of church interiors. He can be contacted here

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful. 


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain~ Sneak Peak of The 2015 Elegant and Enchanting Garden Tour~ Part III

"You can't really have a relationship with God unless you have your hands in the garden."

~ Georgia S. 

The garden is like Georgia, effervescent
Meet Georgia. Once a chef in one of the most celebrated restaurants in the world, it is the San Clemente garden she shares with her husband and two daughters which gives her the most joy. 
Before- a yard
Once a resident of Chicago, while she does not miss the frigid winters, her landscaping aesthetic was honed wandering about dazzling displays at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  When she and her husband, Allan, looked for a home on the southern coastal tip of Orange County- they wanted a home with a decent-sized yard.   When it came time to make the garden their own, her husband said

"Do it right. I don't want you to ever look back with regrets."  

Rhythm and texture  
Down went the block wall, out went the grass. In came the creativity of someone used to creating recipes where the sum is more than the individual parts. 

After- a garden
The look is lush- but the environmental footprint is light.  Georgia believes  "You can't waste water when watering by hand because you have to be honest with yourself about how much is used." 

The lounge chairs were sourced off the Internet. That they were made from wood reclaimed from waters where timber operations once floated lumber to market: a lesson in miracles made real from unlikely sources. 

 A lesson in gratitude courtesy of feathered friends: Birds don't need fancy houses. Use what you have  on-hand.

 A pond features two small waterfalls at each end. Using solar power and managing the hours it runs in daylight to when they are outside reaps the most enjoyment at the lowest cost.    

Roses are selected so even a lazy-man can have
"Pretty is very important." Smart is equally so. The homeowners' obsessive attention to detail makes this garden both. For example- the low retaining wall is more conducive to efficient use of water than slopes.  It also creates a visually cohesive match to the elevation rise required for the waterfall at the garden's edge. 

Locally- Georgia recommends the Lake Forest/ El Toro Green Thumb Nursery  as having the best selection in pond supplies. 

Home-schooling Clarissa and Audrey, Georgia uses the garden to enhance lesson plans and draw the family together. This is a family garden. One where on Sunday pizza is made on the barbecue.

Mandevilla trained beneath barbecue island  

Meet Clarissa. A Renaissance-woman in training. At 4 minutes into the video you'll see the sisters bonding over pizza. 

Little sis' is pretty good with designing fairy garden and cooking. Check out her food blog here

There is more to this garden- but you MUST simply come to the Open Garden Tour to experience what a treasure this family has created. 

Until we meet again- Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful.

This family garden is just one of five gardens The Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain is featuring in support of Plant Biology Science and Horticultural Scholarships at local universities and colleges. 
Date: Saturday, May 09, 2015
Time: 10 AM until 4 PM

To order Tickets for the self-guided tour, or for more information, please click here, or phone (949) 837- 2141. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain~ Sneak Peek of The Elegant and Enchanting Garden Tour 2015~ Part II

 A tiny hummingbird rests on a gurgling fountain

"There is not a fragment in all of Nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself."

~John Muir

European Country architecture embraced in California
Fire~Water. Sunshine~Shade.  Active~ Passive.  Hilltop~ Valley. Walk through a garden of seeming contrasts bound into a harmonious whole.

It wasn't always so. Like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, this was a garden in need of someone with vision and tenacity to take charge for it to maximize its potential.  

Enter Michel and Jo Faris. They looked past obvious difficulties (steep terrain and ivy strangling gardens composed of hodgepodge plantings) to the lists of assets.  Mature trees- there were already towering redwoods, ancient coast live oaks and monumental eucalyptus. The plant collections (camellias, roses and azaleas) were impressive in number. 

This was a garden meant to multi-task. It was graced with space and a sense of place. The couple decided they wanted to take on the task. They would guide Le Reve (The Dream) to its best possible self.

Here follows a sampling of how they filled weekends for the last eight years:

A gently arched rail echoes the window detail on house
When the rains come, water tumbles down a seasonal stream bed. The element of water is not just liquid- it is an auditory  connection to earth. 

The borrowed landscape has a wildness to it, enhancing the sense of space

It dissipates through a neighboring field of wild nasturtium. 

Existing roses were moved to sunnier locations
Like solving a Rubik's Cube, Michel enacted a plan which respected "what works best in which areas."  He made note of the mini-ecosystems and determined which were friendliest to specific plants, then went to work. Roses,  lingering unhappily in shade, were gathered and moved to higher, sunnier spots. The camellias are happier where  roses pouted. 

The shaded lower elevations are naturally moisture retentive. Filling in along pathways  with groupings of ferns and hydrangeas maximized the potential for long-term success. 

A most delicious groundcover- mints are allowed to run free in one corner of the garden
Mint is a rather loved as shade-tolerant  ground cover to tip-toe through. On occasion,  as Michel shaves them short, the scents of some half-a-dozen varieties  are released into the air. 

Passing by a leptospermum (so large and floriferous I was tempted to ask if the New Zealand tea tree was fed steroids for fertilizer), we paused at one of their fruit trees. Jo handed me a pineapple guava blossom  to taste. Oh, joy! It was like petals infused with cinnamon. 

 Conservationists at heart, not much is torn out of the garden. A tree fern dies: the trunk is reincarnated as snag to hang a lantern from. 

Rocks reclaimed from site enhance the "not too new" ambiance

Jo is convinced. When she told her builder to "clean off the rocks and use them" for the backwall of the pool, "the contractor must have thought I was crazy."

Colorful lanterns add charm 
When an over-shaded spot of  lawn was removed from the vale, much more practical decomposed granite became the flooring for a newly developed greet-and- eat space. 

The table is a braai- the lid lifts to expose a barbecue grill.
For this couple, South Africa is more than an abstraction. It is a place embedded in their hearts. Not only is it where Michel was born, they were married on the shores of the Crocodile River.  Their home and garden are filled with references and remembrances this other land they both love. 

Jo spent months hunting on the internet for a braai- Afrikaans for the favored barbecue in her husband's homeland. This style of casual entertainment fits perfectly in  Southern California. 

We leave you with scenes from where they start the day. On the stoep. The Afrikaans nomenclature for the small porch  where coffee is sipped and the joys of nature marveled at.

What they see~ One day, hummingbirds may be dancing for position at the feeder. Another day, a Cooper's hawk may be nesting nearby. Everyday, there is a good deal to be said of the virtues of a garden such as this.  

Isabella and 'Bandit' at home 
None more important than the values it imparts to a child. 

A shower curtain for a door to playhouse was mom's idea.
By what she sees her parents create, this daughter of good fortune will grow to know that for success, hard work is not an option. Beauty is born of blood and sweat. In patience and pride.

Next up is a totally different, but equally wonderful garden, in San Clemente. 

Until we meet again- Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful.

The Faris family garden is just one of five gardens The Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain is featuring in support of Plant Biology Science and Horticultural Scholarships at local universities and colleges. 
Date: Saturday, May 09, 2015
Time: 10 AM until 4 PM

To order Tickets for the self-guided tour, or for more information, please click here, or phone (949) 837- 2141.