ISSUE 94  |  October Moon

LA Confidential: A Private Courtyard Garden Goes Luxe on a Budget

October 18, 2013 7:00 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

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You’d never know LA’s Melrose Avenue shopping district is a block away. A sound-muffling high hedge encloses a velvety green courtyard garden created by LA-based landscape designer Naomi Sanders. Step through the gate and into a different world.

Photographs courtesy of Naomi Sanders Landscape Design.

Above: Seen from the street, a freestanding ficus hedge plays fence, to hide the facade of the Spanish revival style house. “The hedge existed already, but we took out the grass in the enclosed front entry court,” says Sanders. “I wanted the garden to welcome you to the home, so I wanted it to be really soft.”

Working within the client’s budget, Sanders softened the look of the front walkway with a path of pre-cast concrete step stones set in crushed stone gravel. “It’s a totally budget friendly choice,” says Sanders.

The pavers are 18-by-18 inches square, set in 3/8-inch gravel. “The size of the gravel is a really nice scale that works well between the pavers,” says Sanders.

Above: The other side of the gate. Inside the courtyard, plantings are lush but water-wise. The plant list includes drought-tolerant lavender, native California irises, agaves, Iceberg roses and, at the base of the fountain, silvery Santolina.

The fountain is a ready made piece from Inner Gardens that Sanders helped the client select. The infrastructure and pump are hidden below. “It appears in the space as if the bowl is floating within the gravel,” says Sanders. “There’s a slight bubble to it, on the surface, but it’s more for the sound,”

Above: “The hedge provided a lush green backdrop, so we used a lot of blue-gray greens because they really pop in front of the ficus,” says Sanders.

Above: Another gate leads to a side yard. “It’s a very decorative gate because it’s so visible a part of the garden,” says Sanders.

Above: An agave in the courtyard.

Above: Behind the house, the wall of an adjacent neighbor’s garage was painted orange as a backdrop for a private meditation garden with another fountain.  A stand of Alphonse Karr bamboo grows against the wall. Other plants Sanders chose include clivia (“to bring out the orange on the wall”) and ferns.

“These photos were taken about three months after we installed the garden, with the expectation that a lot of these plants would grow in and fold into each other and that the succulents would be focal point within a very loose design of plant material that was layered,” says Sanders.

Are you inspired by the look of Southern California gardens? See one of our favorite Santa Monica edible gardens at Shiva Rose’s Rustic LA Garden.