a garden by Urbafloria

It’s a rare opportunity for me to be able to provide before-after photos of a dramatic garden transformation
Garden designer Jacky Surber of Urbafloria sent me this “before” photo after touring this garden on the Greater Los Angeles APLD Garden Tour 4/17/16.

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With the kids grown and the backyard no longer needed for their activities, it lost its importance in the family universe and looked like this for a while.
(There’s a very nice desert tortoise that lives in that igloo against the fence.)

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And now, garden despair happily averted.


This tour impressed me on many levels, one of which was the amazing results possible when there is a strong bond of trust between designer and client.
Living day in and out with this barren lunarscape, the owner still managed to dream big. She asked the designer to transform it into a small piece of the Arlington Garden in Pasadena, a strolling, dry garden of seasonal sights and sounds filled with California natives and mediterranean climate-appropriate plants. And within that alchemical bond that can sometimes — not always — form between designer and client, Jacky grasped her longing and made manifest that vision. The owner said she still walks her garden in wide-eyed wonder, in a “pinch me, I’m dreaming” state.

I grabbed just this one photo before racing off to other gardens on the tour. Several seating and napping areas are tucked in throughout the garden, and a small grove of the Catalina Ironwood, Lyonothamnus floribundus, are planted beyond the rose arch. If I remember correctly, the rose is ‘Social Climber.’
Rest assured, the desert tortoise is still there, a little bleary-eyed coming off of winter hibernation, but he tore into his first meal of lettuce with gusto.

Notes on this garden from the tour:

This backyard garden was inspired by the client’s love of the Arlington Garden in Pasadena. The garden features numerous seating nooks, an informal decomposed granite bocce ball court, as well as a mix of natives and other climate-appropriate plants. The main design challenge was remediating a yard that flooded every time it rained. The design solution was to create a large rain garden that is working fabulously! Planted in late 2014, the garden is growing in nicely and a small front yard was also recently installed.”

10 thoughts on “a garden by Urbafloria

  1. The reference to Arlington Garden is unmistakeable–what a clear design statement to use as a point of departure. A really pretty garden.

  2. This design’s a wonderful example of how subdividing can make a space seem much bigger. And so many times more useful!

    Makes me want to visit the inspiration garden, too… which I’ll probably have to do virtually rather than in person. Is Arlington Garden one of those that every serious SoCal gardener visits at some point?

    I lived in L.A. in the mid-1980s, I remember how immediately appealing I found Pasadena on my first encounter — I think because the mature trees and green-ness evoked home (eastern woodland) in a way I didn’t find anywhere else in the region. I’m sure some of that is rightly viewed as very incorrect garden design for the region, but also hope that the trees have been watered enough to survive this most recent bout of drought.

  3. What a beautiful garden! I understand the owner’s continued wide eyed wonder, which is a great way to feel about your garden…

  4. Looking up images of the inspiration garden, I learn it was a similar transformation from nothing to multi-delight something. This blog post from the LATimes tells the story.

  5. Imagine the tortoise waking up after a winter’s nap to see his world so beautifully transformed.

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