an abbreviated look at the 4/17/2016 Los Angeles APLD tour

Of the eight gardens on the tour, divided into four in the morning, four in the afternoon, I visited six and drove by all of them.
I’m including photos of just three gardens from this tour themed “The Watershed Approach to Landscape Design.” (Another garden I visited was posted on here.)
This excellent tour was well organized, with the designer and owner available for questions at each garden. Smart phones and clear maps make driving tours like this a breeze now.
The tour occurred mid-day during another record-breaking heat wave, which meant a strong sun, deep shadows. I was mostly looking and listening, with the camera idle at my side.
Marty has always said I’ve got good “radar,” a trait that renders me a sometimes silent companion when dining in a restaurant.
For example, I can suddenly seem to go catatonic, staring off into the mid distance as I focus on an interesting conversation. (Eavesdropping, some might call it.)
During the tour I eavesdropped on questions asked of the designer or garden owner, figuring it would spare them answering the same questions from me.
I noticed that the owners were often blissfully unaware of plant names, irrigation systems. They loved their gardens as a whole and didn’t obsess over the components.
Once again, that relationship of trust between designer and client was an impressive thing to behold.

And sometimes the designer and client nail it, that chimerical vision of the garden-to-be, from inception, like the first garden on the tour.
Designed by Joel Lichtenwalter & Ryan Gates/Grow Outdoor Design, “Brentwood Mid-Century Woodland Garden.”
Everything was exactly the same as when I first toured it three years ago (here).
Which speaks volumes about the powerful mind meld that is possible between client and designer.

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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.”