Maybe it’s the air
Maybe it’s the sunshine
That gets in your hair.
These were the opening lyrics to a short-lived 1979 television show called California Fever that I am embarrassed to admit I loved when I was in high school. Following the adventures of a hip group of surfing, skating, car-obsessed teenagers in Southern California, the show lasted a mere 10 episodes, but the song has always stayed with me as a reminder of what makes living in California such a special experience.
So when fellow blogger Scott Hokunson suggested another Garden Designer’s Blog Link on the topic of celebrating regional diversity, my first thoughts weren’t about plants, but about how the weather, culture, and scenery combine to create a unique California lifestyle - and how this in turn influences my garden designs. Here are a few examples:
Herbs at Our Fingertips
Our beautiful (bug-free) evenings, perfect for outdoor grilling, combined with our amazing access to farmer’s markets (I have five to choose from in a four mile radius) makes many of us food obsessed - cooking and grilling outside is a year round practice for many of my clients. Placement of the grill is an important part of the design process, as easy access to the kitchen and protection for winter grillers are keys to making sure a grill gets used regularly.
But when possible, I go a step further and try to include a space for herbs as close to the grill as is practical. Imagine reaching over to clip a few sprigs of basil to toss on your roasting vegetables – foodie heaven! Many herbs, including rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano overwinter here, so no special coddling is required.
Shirley Bovshow recently showed this lovely photo from her own kitchen garden on her blog – the raised bed located directly across from the grill is wonderful for both easy access and soil amending, and props to her for turning the edge into a seat wall so serious noshers can be comfortable while they graze. (P.S. – Shirley, I’m available for dinner anytime!)
I also try to include a dwarf Meyer lemon (or lime for my cocktail loving clients) close to the grill for the same reason. If you’ve never had a Meyer lemon, believe me, a grocery store Sunkist pales in comparison. Believed to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange, they are much juicier and sweeter than traditional lemons, but because of their thin skins are unsuitable for commercial cultivation. They’re basically the citrus version of how most veggie gardeners feel about homegrown vs. grocery store tomatoes. In my opinion, no California garden is complete without one.
For this design installed last summer, even though there is a much more extensive kitchen garden on the other side of the hot tub privacy screen, I still included a raised planter for a Meyer lemon and room for herbs in containers close to the grill.
And We're Deep, Too
But we’re not always eating and entertaining. California’s natural beauty encourages contemplation and meditation for many, so when possible, I try to include a space just big enough for one or two people, either tucked into a secluded portion of the garden.
Sketch for a client's garden
Photo from Rebecca Sweet's Los Altos garden - in winter, no less!
And here's the tranquil view:
And Speaking of ViewsOf course, we’re not always outdoors – some of us have blogs to keep up! Our mild weather means many homes are constructed with an abundance of windows, giving us a unique opportunity to bring the outdoors in.
This tiny jewel box garden with a tropical theme is lovely to be in,
But also creates a backdrop for the living and dining rooms that no mural could hope to match.
That’s my little tour of how I celebrate regional diversity here in Northern California. To see what other California designers have to say on this topic, please visit some of my very talented fellow designer/bloggers.Michelle Derviss (Novato, CA) at Garden Porn
Laura Schaub (San Jose, CA) at Interleafings
Genevieve Schmidt (Arcata, CA) North Coast Gardening
Ivette Soler(Los Angeles, CA) at The Germinatrix
Rebecca Sweet (Los Altos, CA) at Gossip In the Garden
And once you’ve had all the California perspective you can handle, see how these designers from all over the country weigh in on the topic, then come back and share your own take on regional diversity. And if you blog about it, let me know and I'll add your link.
Jocelyn Chilvers (Wheat Ridge, CO) at The Art Garden
Susan Cohan (Chatham, NJ) at Miss Rumphius’ Rules
Tara Dillard (Stone Mountain, GA) at Landscape Design Decorating Styling
Dan Eskelson (Priest River, ID) at Clearwater Landscapes Garden Journal
Scott Hokunson (Granby, CT) at Blue Heron Landscapes
Pam Penick (Austin, TX) at Digging
Susan Schlenger (Charlottesville, VA) at Landscape Design Viewpoint