Debra Prinzing

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An award-winning Los Angeles garden inspired by Morocco and India

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Sparkling and serene, this is a tiny garden that oozes romance and mystique (design and photo, Laura Morton)

I believe that the paths we walk lead us to the people we need to know in our lives.

Case in point: A week or so after I insisted that my friend Shirley Bovshow, an LA garden media personality and talented designer, bunk with me for 2 nights at the Portland Garden Writers Association annual symposium, she invited me to join an Association of Professional Landscape Designers’ lunch meeting at her home in Woodland Hills. Since Shirley and I live relatively close to one another (by LA standards), I took her up on the invite. The other guests were fellow members with Shirley in APLD’s LA chapter. Plus, Shirley’s garden is a wonderland of plants and design ideas.

The Association of Professional Landscape Designers is an impressive organization. I have met, interviewed and written about APLD members (and their work) in many venues, including Seattle, Los Angeles and beyond.

The September gathering introduced me to several Southern California garden creators, including Shirley (Edenmaker), Jennifer Gilbert Asher of TerraSculpture (I’ve recently written about her work), and Laura Morton of Laura Morton Garden Design.

When Laura casually mentioned to me that one of her projects won the 2008 APLD “Gold Award” for residential landscape design, I went a little crazy. “Has it been published?” I quizzed her. “No,” she admitted.

No sooner than I heard this – and no sooner had Laura sent me several photographs and a little movie about her design for Mala Vasan’s Hollywood Hills backyard, than I was on the phone to LA Times HOME section editor Craig Nakano. As I suspected, he was very interested in seeing what Laura had to share.

Open air living: Designer Laura Morton changed a plain backyard at Mala Vasan’s home into an Indian-tinged outdoor living room with a reflecting pool, fire pit and garden (Laura Morton photograph)

The story about Mala’s garden, inspired by her own multicultural interests and designed by Laura Morton, appears in today’s LA Times Homes section. Here are the opening lines:

HER PASSAGE TO INDIA: A Hollywood Hills bungalow’s small backyard is transformed into an exotic, cozy retreat and social spot.

If you’re looking for a good excuse to invest in landscaping, Mala Vasan’s is hard to beat. She credits her dreamy mix of Indian and Moroccan inspiration for seducing her sweetheart.

“My garden brings out an inner magic,” says Vasan, a producer of TV commercials who was going out to eat with screenwriter Brian P. Regan when he saw the enchanting outdoor space and said, “Forget it. Let’s stay here and order Chinese food.”

With scented blossoms, dancing flames, the sound of spilling water and chaises large enough for two, the intimate setting is, indeed, full of romance. (“Our first dates were on those couches,” Vasan says.) The garden also is an artful antithesis of what it used to be: a driveway too small for a car and a 560-square-foot backyard dominated by a wobbly brick patio and views of a boxy air-conditioner hanging from the neighbor’s garage.

The transformation of this Hollywood Hills property earned its creator, Laura Morton of Laura Morton Design in West Hollywood, a gold medal last year from the Assn. of Professional Landscape Designers. For Vasan, the thoughtful design was proof that tiny details and a vivid imagination could turn a prosaic space into a pretty and practical retreat.

The Times’ online photo gallery features several before-and-after shots, including a darling photo of designer Laura Morton and client Mala Vasan, seated in the garden. You can see the gallery here.

Here are a few more photographs, courtesy of Laura Morton. Visit her web site to see many more of her projects – inspiring and alluring spaces that will get you thinking about turning your own backyard into an exotic oasis with plants, cushy textiles, the presence of water, candles to illuminate and other sensory pleasures.

A curtain of water spills over the reflecting pool’s tiled edge into a hidden channel behind the fire pit (Laura Morton photograph)

Romantic chaises, piled with textiles and cushions, create a luxurious outdoor living room (Laura Morton photograph)

In my interview with Laura, she described how a feeling of intimacy can be created in a garden:

“Enclosed spaces instill a sense of intimacy, and within that, your own sense of paradise is possible.”