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Garden Visit: ‘Nuance and Unplanned Fun’ in a Landscape Architect’s Echo Park Garden

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Garden Visit: ‘Nuance and Unplanned Fun’ in a Landscape Architect’s Echo Park Garden

May 6, 2021

Last year, garden writer Jennifer Jewell published the wonderful The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants. A little over a year later, she’s come out with an extraordinary new book: Under Western Skies: Visionary Gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast (in bookstores May 11). Featuring photography by Caitlin Atkinson, it shares 36 inspired landscape designs spanning the American West. One of our favorite gardens in the book? Landscape architect David Godshall’s intimate, unpretentious property in Echo Park, Los Angeles.

David is the cofounder of Terremoto, a landscape design firm we’ve admired for a while (go here, here, and here for a sampling of our coverage on their projects), so we weren’t surprised to discover that his own garden would be outstanding. Unlike most gardens, his is entirely in the front of the home. The lot is small (just 8,000 square feet) and hilly, a challenge for most homeowners, but in the hands of David and his architect wife, Lauren, it’s become an urban oasis, one that reflects Terremoto’s signature democratic design sensibility that allows, in his own words, “room for nuance, interpretation, and gray areas because that’s where there’s dialogue and civilized conversations…. Native and non-native species can coexist.”

While most of the garden is planted with species native to the area, there are some non-native plants on the property that pre-date the couple’s arrival on the property, but they have no intention of ripping them out. “I have a giant Philodendron selloum, which I think collides poetically with the native black sage (Salvia mellifera) and yarrow (Anchillea) that are next to it. This philodendron has no business being in Southern California, and yet here it is, and it feels at home,” David says in the book.

He continues: “Allowing for nuance and unplanned fun is how I raise my children or plant a garden. It’s my way of trying to be hopeful about the future.”

Here’s a peek at the couple’s magical garden.

Photography by Caitlin Atkinson for Under Western Skies: Visionary Gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast.

The view from the street. Stairs lead to the property&#8
Above: The view from the street. Stairs lead to the property’s front gate. In the forefront are two huge Agave attenuata, which started out as offshoots from plants in the neighborhood.
More Agave attenuata at the top of the stairs, this time set among California lilacs and in front of a volunteer elderberry. On the left is an old jacaranda tree, which is native to South America but thrives in Southern California. &#8
Above: More Agave attenuata at the top of the stairs, this time set among California lilacs and in front of a volunteer elderberry. On the left is an old jacaranda tree, which is native to South America but thrives in Southern California. “It would be a tragedy born of puritanical narrow-mindedness to rip it out, so it stays,” he says in the book.
The view from inside the gate. Lining the simple boardwalk are artichokes, white sage, and black sage.
Above: The view from inside the gate. Lining the simple boardwalk are artichokes, white sage, and black sage.
A study in contrasts: delicate white roses intertwined among an Optuntia ficus-indica &#8
Above: A study in contrasts: delicate white roses intertwined among an Optuntia ficus-indica ‘Burbank Spineless.’
Yellow-flowering cassia, white sage, and black sage flank an artful piece of driftwood.
Above: Yellow-flowering cassia, white sage, and black sage flank an artful piece of driftwood.
The view from the top of the garden down to the house. To the right is the philodendron that David can&#8
Above: The view from the top of the garden down to the house. To the right is the philodendron that David can’t bear to rip out even though it doesn’t fit thematically into the garden design. It adds ” to the mash-up nature of Echo Park,” he says.
Next to the house, a place to admire the views. In the backdrop are artichokes, perennials like St. Catherine&#8
Above: Next to the house, a place to admire the views. In the backdrop are artichokes, perennials like St. Catherine’s lace buckwheat (Eriogonium giganteum) and Artemesia californica, and shrubs such as California lilac and quailbush.
At the bottom of the stairs, white sage mingles with artichoke.
Above: At the bottom of the stairs, white sage mingles with artichoke.
David, with one of his kids, in a field of buckwheat growing under the &#8
Above: David, with one of his kids, in a field of buckwheat growing under the ‘Burbank Spineless.’ The cacti were grown from cuttings.

For more LA gardens we admire, see:

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