ISSUE 3  |  Tropicana

Garden Visit: Drought-Tolerant in Southern California

January 23, 2014 11:30 AM

BY Meredith Swinehart

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The governor of California just declared a drought emergency; here’s a low-water garden by Bonnie Bridges and Seth Boor that will survive beautifully.

The pair comprises Boor Bridges Architecture, members of the Remodelista + Gardenista Architect/Designer Directory (and designers of Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco). After the couple collaborated with their friend and gardener extraordinaire Grubb, the three began designing a garden on a newly expanded landscape belonging to a family of four in Southern California. Soon, however, the family home began to crack, and the program grew to include a new landscape and house. 

In the end, Boor Bridges designed both, and created a light-filled home that’s private on one side and wide open on the other. When it came time to design the surrounding landscape, budget restrictions led the owners to retain ten mature trees from the existing garden, and add small and fast-growing plants everywhere else. The result? The perfect definition of California indoor/outdoor living.

Photography by Bruce Damonte and Boor Bridges Architecture.

Above: A lush front garden provides texture and color against the sleek, private facade. Cordelyne renegade, a purple flax-like plant, and Senecio mandraliscae kleinia, a blue-gray spreading succulent, flourish in a container garden at the front of the house. 

Above: Calandrina, a pink flowering succulent, blue fescue grass, and kangaroo paw thrive in the front garden. Just behind are fast-growing shoestring acacia trees, which architect Bonnie Bridges says help to soften the edges of the house.

Above: The garden features native plants, but not exclusively. Bonnie Bridges believes that natives are a good place to start when designing a garden maximally suited to its landscape, but finds that an all-native approach is oxymoronic because plants have always migrated via natural methods. “Gardens are about growth, change, and discovery,” says Bridges. “A pure native approach limits the imagination.”

Above: The facade is a marked contrast to the backyard’s full-height walls of glass. The front is totally private, but still lends design interest to the neighborhood.

Above: On the back of the house, dramatic full-height windows and wood paneling envelop the outdoor living space.

Above: Dymondia, a drought-tolerant ground cover, is planted as “grout” between large paver slabs. The low-maintenance garden requires only a weekly leaf pruning and annual cutting back of grasses.

Above: The home is designed around a single great room. All the private spaces (bedrooms, offices) connect to the great room, which opens onto the generous outdoor living area.

Above: The homeowners like to host large parties, and a backyard concrete bar provides a perfect surface for outdoor entertaining. Cabinets built into the bar store entertaining accessories and gardening tools.

Above L: The house is oriented to maximize views of an adjacent park. Above R: Every room in the home benefits from natural light and ventilation, including the master bath.

Above: A plan of the house and surrounding garden.

Visit other residential landscapes with native plants in Before & After: A Brooklyn Townhouse with a Double-Wide Garden and Landscape Architect Visit: A Historic Farm, Ocean Views Included