enter the dragons

What they say about good bones for faces and houses applies to gardens too. Good bones will see you through some tough times. I’ve posted just a couple photos on this sweet little house and garden before. The front facade is entirely of glass, so one can’t be too obnoxious with the camera under such circumstances. But walking Ein on the park across the street from this house a couple days ago, I noticed that the landscape was being worked on, and heaps of aloes and agaves were strewn on the walkways. I gave the leash to Marty and looked closer. The house was empty. No more George Nelson bubble lamps or butterfly chairs on the balcony. The house had sold! And what on earth were the new owners doing to the garden? Did they have a deep-seated aversion to desert plants? If so, I needed to talk to them about those enormous Yucca rostrata ASAP.


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Yucca rostrata March 2012, presale


I am normally not an overly bold person, but I found myself striding across the street and up to a couple of surprised men standing amongst masses of discarded Agave attenuata. It was the new owner and the gardener, who wasn’t removing the plants but merely thinning them. The owner was an architect and loved the house and garden but said both were in terrible shape. He told me he had been seduced by the furniture seen through the glass wall, too, but when it was all removed and he gained ownership of the house, his heart sank. The magic was gone. Now he wondered if he hadn’t made a terrible mistake. The place was a mess and had not been well cared for. Amazing what a spell all the classic mid century modern furnishings had cast, and how well even a neglected desert garden looks after itself. I told him it had always been my favorite house among the much bigger mansions that lined the street opposite the park, and this seemed to brighten him up considerably. He even showed me into the backyard, which was graveled and already had mature privacy screens of clumping bamboo. It was a gem, even if the interior’s cork floors were in terrible shape. The new owner was knowledgeable about plants (clumping vs. running bamboo) and energetic. There might be a few more dragons to slay than he bargained for, but the house and garden would no doubt surpass what was here before.


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March 2012, presale
One of my favorite houses on the street opposite our bluff walk. Yucca rostrata, butterfly chairs, and George Nelson bubble lamps. Note glimpse of baby blue piano through the window.”


As I was leaving, I stopped to admire again the work already done in the front garden. The trunks of the multiple Yucca rostrata had been cleaned of dead leaves, the underplanting thinned. It was going to be fabulous. And then I saw the dragon trees set back deep in a recess between the balcony railing and the house. I hadn’t noticed them before. The owner said the dragon trees had been completely buried, probably under the pittosporum that was still peeking through the trunks. The dragon trees had been cleaned up, too, and the burnt orange trunks gleamed against the blue leaves sunning themselves luxuriantly as the sun set over the harbor. I asked the owner’s permission to take a couple photos.

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There’s lots of work still to be done. And I think the dasylirion leaning at the base of the dragon trees needs to go. It has not fared well being buried under the pittosporum. I’d ditch the pitt too. But with the dragons set free, this little house and garden are on their way to being reborn. Walking Ein at the park across the street, it’ll be exciting to watch its progress.