Hey all! I've been away for a couple of days--so sorry to everyone who emailed worried that something was wrong. I'm back now, though, with a cool garden...
I've known Billy Goodnick (check out his website HERE) for many years from my editor days. He's a designer, landscape architect, and garden coach out in Santa Barbara, California, and one of the most entertaining guys you could ever meet. His outgoing personality, jaunty fedora, and ever-present red Crocs might make you think his gardens would be wild and wacky, too, but I've seen enough of them to sense a trend: understated sophistication. Today's garden is no exception. It's a small project he designed for a client. He says, "This small-scale front yard project sits about a half-mile inland from the Pacific, in the beach town of Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara and 100 miles north of Los Angeles. When I arrived for the initial interview it was a scruffy, weedy “lawn” visible from the family room but offering nothing of interest. The garden needed to be very low-water-using once established and low-care. The entrance to the house is along the side of the house and requires guests to enter the property via the driveway, a less than ideal approach.
The owners had already planted a dense hedge of Afrocarpus gracilior (formerly Podocarpus) to screen the front yard from the street traffic, so the garden would be concealed from the street. The garden was planted last fall, so it’s had about a year to fill in.
The key elements for the design were centered around multiple important views:
Arrival: The garden needed to present itself to incoming guests (and the owners), which required placing plants along the front, north-facing elevation of the house, but not blocking the views out the windows. The focal point plant for this job was Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ (1&2), a large but wispy shrub we’ll be able to keep open through selective pruning. Since this is the north-facing side of the property, shade-tolerant plants were needed to finish out the bed. That job fell in Juncus ‘Elk Blue’ filling the gap leading to a mature Camellia japonica.
View from the House: Unfortunately, the view from the windows included a gaping view of the street. I chose Agonis flexuosa ‘Jervis Bay After Dark’ ('Jervis Bay' peppermint willow, 3&4) as both a focal point and a light screen that would slightly intrude into the view. Additionally, its deep burgundy foliage afforded a bold color to echo in other parts of the garden and also tied the new planting to the existing Syzigium paniculatum (eugenia) hedge along the side of the yard. More bold color came from the dagger-shaped leaves of Phormium ‘Sundowner’ (New Zealand flax, 5) and hot orange flowers of Cuphea ‘David Verity’ (6). The owner was infatuated with Imperata cylindrica (Japanese bloodgrass, 8) so I found a home for that as well, although its water requirements are a bit higher than I’d like.
Invitation View from the Driveway: The garden felt as if it needed an edge with a welcoming opening, but a traditional clipped boxwood hedge was out of the question. I decided to informalize the edge by using Dianella tasmanica ‘Silver Streak’ (variegated flax lily, 7&9) which brought a bright touch to the garden in a few locations. The path pulls people in, though the execution (10), done by the owner, was not to my liking -- too many small pieces and very chaotic looking. They will be replacing it in the fall. The path is edged with Dymondia margaretae (10), a silvery carpet with tiny yellow flowers.
The owners didn’t want to lose the openness of the former lawn, so I kept the massing low in the center of the garden, using Carex flacca (blue sedge, 8&11&12) as a meadowy lawn substitute."
Beautiful, Billy, truly. Send in more projects, would you? **Billy wrote a cool book on yards--check it out HERE!**
Send in pics of your gardens and garden travels, everyone! firstname.lastname@example.org.