Debra Prinzing

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Mostly native plant list for a modern California garden

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

A stand of cape rush adds a semitransparent layer of privacy between sidewalk and front garden.

Joel Lichtenwalter and Ryan Gates of Grow Outdoor Design, based in Los Angeles, have introduced me to some really creative gardens they have designed. And what strikes me when seeing these mostly small, urban landscapes, is how well plants are used as architectural elements within the spaces they reside.

Designers Joel and his client Scott can be seen in the distance, conferring on some of the planting designs.

You won’t see fluffy cottage gardens with English-inspired perennial choices in Ryan and Joel’s gardens. Yet even when they design for bungalow-scaled residences, some of the same intimate, cottage garden experience occurs for the humans who occupy them. That emotional sense of being surrounded by plants, layers of textures — and even color in a tonal, modern sense –happens in their gardens.

I wrote about one such place recently and you can follow the links to the Los Angeles Times story here, including an extensive web gallery.

For those who ask: What plants are appropriate for a lush, low-water landscape? I think you’ll appreciate Ryan and Joel’s plant list for their clients’ lawn-free front yard now filled with native and Mediterranean grasses, shrubs, ground covers and trees, many of which display multi-season beauty:

A shopping list of California native plants and their Mediterranean companions
Ceanothus griseus horizontalis
Yankee Point
Cercis occidentalis
Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’

Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’
Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’

Muhlenbergia rigens
Platanus racemosa
Carpenteria californica
Eschscholzia californica
Juncus patens

Sisyrinchium montanum (Blue Eyed Grass)

Arbutus ‘Marina’
Agave bracteosa
Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’

Agave vilmroniana
Olea europaea
Chondropetalum tectorum

Composite decking (raised deck and boardwalk)
Square pre-cast concrete pavers
Poured-in-place concrete bench
‘Del Rio’ gravel
Decomposed granite (DG)
Shredded tree mulch