ISSUE 49  |  Utilitarian Glamour

Designer Visit: Grow Outdoor Design’s Drought Tolerant Garden in Bel Air

December 09, 2014 11:30 AM

BY Cheryl Locke

There’s no lawn in this ranch home in Bel Air, and it’s not missed. From the front lines of LA’s drought-conscious, low-water garden movement, landscape designers Ryan Gates and Joel Lichtenwalter of Grow Outdoor Design give us a lesson in planting for native habitats, “without sacrificing design.”

The result is a water-saving garden of succulents that seamlessly blends with the surrounding landscape. Translation: No views were blocked while planting. 

Photography via Grow Outdoor Design.

Above: A gate, made of ipe wood, found on fishing boats, and prized for its rot and fungus-resistant properties, encloses expansive walls of glass. It provides privacy from the street and with hardware kept to a minimum, it continues the clean lines of the mid-century home.

Above: Spiky, sculptural agaves and Palo Verde trees, both California native species, were planted in front of a white stucco wall for shadow play by sunlight and landscape lighting.

Above: “We wanted to limit our colors, and opted to create textural interest instead,” says Gates. The result is a judicious set of grays and greens, save for pops of red, in the kangaroo paws.

Above: In contrast to the spiky, sculptural shapes in the front yard, Gates and Lichtenwalter chose “quieter and softer” plantings in the inner courtyard with low grasses and variegated succulents.  

Above: The backyard, a mix of ground covers, succulents, grasses, and native manzanitas, “harmonizes with the borrowed landscape of the canyon,” says Gates. “All plantings were designed to be viewed both from inside the house, as well as from outside in the gardens looking into the house.”

Above: Architecture firm Koffka-Phakos Design, a frequent collaborator on projects with Grow Outdoor Design, designed a newly built  addition to the home, a gym overlooking the Los Angeles basin,

Above: A space made for entertaining. Gates and Lichtenwalter chose decomposed granite, that’s semi-permeable for less run-off, and reflects the natural surroundings. However, says Gates, “it does stick to the bottom of your feet when wet, but it hardly rains in California.” 

Above: A view from the living room. The pool’s corners were straightened to make the cover fit better. 

Do you admire the aesthetic of Grow Outdoor Design? See another project from the firm at Before and After: Transforming a Tangle into an Elegant Entry

For more ideas on indoor-outdoor California style, see: