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California Cool: A Photographer’s Ojai Oasis, Inspired by an Iconic Garden in Provence

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California Cool: A Photographer’s Ojai Oasis, Inspired by an Iconic Garden in Provence

July 2, 2019

Last month, we took a tour of California-based photographer Victoria Pearson’s airy studio-slash-guest house over on Remodelista; now, with summer in full swing, we’re taking a virtual walk through the lush gardens that surround it.

When Pearson moved in, the garden had good bones—but, like the interiors of the studio, badly needed simplifying and paring down. “It was over-filled, but had so many great plantings such as old olive, citrus, and pepper trees, cacti, Fuerte avocados, Matilija poppies, agaves, oaks, and a native sycamore—my favorite tree.” Pearson called in Ojai-based landscape designer Paul Hendershot to work on re-designing the plot two decades ago, and has continually tweaked the gardens herself since then, inspired by a trip to see Hèrmes designer Nicole de Vésian’s iconic La Louve garden in the south of France. Today, the garden is a vibrant palette of greens, with plants given to Pearson by friends, stones collected from her travels, cool gravel paths, and a pool, for respite from the heat.

Join us for a walk through.

Photography by Victoria Pearson.

The exterior of the studio. Just as she did inside, Pearson kept the garden simple: &#8
Above: The exterior of the studio. Just as she did inside, Pearson kept the garden simple: “I like the calm of a limited palette of plants and colors,” she says.

“I did lots of color in the beginning because I had never had a big garden and wanted to try everything. Over time, it felt more peaceful to edit. Olives, boxwood, rosemary, cactus, succulents, fruit trees—and all green and whites. The only exception is the rose garden which has all shades of apricot, yellow, and orange roses, and some wild cards of magenta and striped roses.” Cool, low-maintenance gravel paths lead all through the gardens.

(For the full tour of the studio, see Kitchen of the Week: A Photographer’s Flexible Studio Kitchen in Ojai Valley.)

The layered textures and shades of green provide privacy (here, for the main house) and evoke both California (palm trees) and the south of France (topiary).
Above: The layered textures and shades of green provide privacy (here, for the main house) and evoke both California (palm trees) and the south of France (topiary).
An outdoor shower off of the studio has a stone floor and a privacy enclosure, for rinsing off in the garden.
Above: An outdoor shower off of the studio has a stone floor and a privacy enclosure, for rinsing off in the garden.
Above: The pool was existing: “I wasn’t sure I needed one… Now I realize we did, with very hot, triple-digit summers,” Pearson says. It’s surrounded by sculptural, de Vésian-like topiary.
The garden is lush with fruit and citrus trees: &#8
Above: The garden is lush with fruit and citrus trees: “Orange, tangerine, grapefruit, lemon, pomelo, pear, peach (from a peach someone ate—they spit the seed out in the dirt!),” Pearson says. There’s so much citrus, in fact, that Pearson was inspired to create a cookbook: Citrus: Sweet and Savory Sun-Kissed Recipes.
An old tree provides respite from the summer heat.
Above: An old tree provides respite from the summer heat.
Above L: A rain chain—a good-looking solution for water runoff—ends in a pile of smooth stones. Pearson collected all of them: “Some I literally dragged home in my suitcase from the beach in Scotland,” she says. Above R: A Matilija poppy in full white-and-yellow bloom.
Plantings frame views of the valley beyond.
Above: Plantings frame views of the valley beyond.
Cacti of all sorts—an element more Californian than French. &#8
Above: Cacti of all sorts—an element more Californian than French. “They were all existing, but I also add to them. I’m given plants by friends,” Pearson says.
The cacti in summer bloom.
Above: The cacti in summer bloom.

For gardens equipped to take the heat, see 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from California. And take a virtual walk through more of our favorite California gardens:

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