Ocean View Villa


Unlike the Beach Bungalow, the Ocean View Villa home has adequate space to emphasize a grander garden scale for both hardscape elements and plant materials. Whether your home is on the beach, or perched on the bluffs above the ocean, a sense of outdoor comfort and family tradition is always featured in the Ocean Villa design.

Entertainment areas feature custom furniture pieces and cushions that are surrounded by garden accessories. Benches and seat walls face the majestic ocean. A loggia next to an outdoor kitchen features a bar and big-screen television. Strategically placed shrubs and soft hedges provide relief from the daily winds while soft, wispy grasses catch the ocean breeze.

Many ocean homes feature an interior courtyard or a glass atrium—a focal point combining indoor with outdoor living spaces for a simple, relaxing lifestyle. Don’t forget a back yard hammock to unwind and enjoy the magnificent view.


Ocean View Villa Elements: To compliment the multi-colored furniture, light-colored walkways and patio surfaces (representing the sandy beaches) made of exposed aggregate, natural stone, and custom, random-patterned brick contribute to the atmosphere of living close to the ocean. Marine artifacts, tastefully placed, can add a marine theme to the overall design. Fire pits, fireplaces, and fountains with fire, along with dramatic outdoor lighting, create an inviting environment during the cool evening hours. Simple design, not overpowering elements, must be the theme. The focal point is, after all, the neighboring ocean.


Ocean View Villa Plants: Groupings of natural flowing shrubs and herbaceous perennials that move freely in the ocean winds include ornamental grasses and plants with tall flower stalks.  If a formal design is chosen, sphere-shaped foundation plants with accents of dramatic leaves and sword-like succulents do nicely. Specimen plants include Dwarf Aloes, Dwarf Agave, Echeverias, and groupings of low-growing Sedum, Senecio ‘Blue Chalk Sticks’, and Crassula ‘Campfire’.  Salt, wind, and challenging soil conditions demand that the right plants be selected.






Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden

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The garden that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies is both attractive and a benefit to the environment. Often, this garden is designed as a “mini-garden” within one of the other styles. Although a “plant-driven” landscaped area, there are also elements such as water, rocks for sunning, and sheltered areas that enhance the bird and butterfly experience. There are many plants that provide a food source and are useful for attracting these flying friends. Make sure the areas are open, yet protected from the wind, especially near the coast. Water is an important element to the garden. Designs include everything from a simple bird bath to a rustic wall fountain to a natural stream and waterfall system.


California Native Garden

Many Californians love their native gardens. Typically an informal look, this garden is not for everyone. There are times of the year when some plants go drought deciduous and other times when heading back of plants is necessary. In other words, the Native Garden looks extremely natural and informal based on local climate and weather. The native garden will attract many birds and butterflies. Since plant water consumption is the lowest of all the gardens, the use of water with bird baths, fountains, and small streams are appropriate.

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Xeriscape Garden

Although similar to the California Native Garden, this drought-tolerant, water-conservative garden features plants from all the Mediterranean regions of the world. Sustainable plants and sustainable hardscape elements are the focus of these gardens, including eco-friendly and green technologies such as rain water collections devices, permeable surfaces and minimal, if any, lawn. The lawn must be designed for the recreational family areas (back yard), not the non-recreational areas like your front yard. The use of low-growing lawn substitutes is recommended. The native garden will attract many birds and butterflies. Bird baths and small fountains are appropriate, along with a dry-stream bed with native rocks and gravel.


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Beach Bungalow Theme



With garden space at a premium, placement of the landscape elements and plants is critical to the functionality of the bungalow’s outdoor environment. Depending on the architecture of the home, a formal or informal theme should be established. Most bungalows feature a quaint, traditional family feel to the garden. This is accomplished with meandering pathways of brick, flagstone, limestone pavers, cobblestone, decorative gravel, trellises, and select water features, accompanied by flourishing fragrant flowering shrubs, vines, and small patio trees. Intimate seating and dining areas, a fire pit or fireplace, perhaps a water/fire fountain, is a must for the Beach Bungalow garden. As space allows, an organic spa or plunge pool adds the final touches to the cozy environment. Custom light fixtures makes evening activities and dining a pleasure. Plants should include soft foliage that moves with the ocean breezes.

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Beach Bungalow Elements: In addition to the hardscape elements mentioned above, essential bungalow outdoor décor includes garden furniture such as a decorative table, chairs, benches and built-in seating areas with colorful cushions and accessories. Ornaments that catch the ocean breezes are attractive, as are small wall fountains, bird baths, and sun dials/sculptures/statures that remain in scale with the yard.

 Beach Bungalow Plants: Pathways and walks are to be lined with small groupings of dwarf plants and non-creeping groundcovers. The Sea Pinks and Dwarf Mondo Grass foreground plants give way to Floral Carpet Roses, Gardenias, and flowering dwarf foundation shrubs. Vines and espaliers are an excellent choice to soften structures and walls.

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As you can see by the short description, it’s not the amount of elements and plants that make the Beach Bungalow a success, but the placement of those forms that creates an inviting, tranquil garden.

Rock Gardens

Coastal Rock Garden

Although this garden style title emphasizes rock gardens along coastal areas, these dramatic landscape statements can be incorporated into most garden styles, including slopes (see Slope Rock Gardens below). Many Southern California areas have native boulders in the areas surrounding the home sites or on the property itself. The Coastal Rock Garden is best used if you wish to have your landscape reflects the natural look of the area surrounding your home. Whether you live in a patio home or an estate, there is a place for a relaxing rock garden in your life. The rocks may be small and flat, or large angular specimens of various shapes, textures, and colors. Rock gardens incorporate a variety of low-growing, flowering shrubs and herbaceous perennials that become a secondary focal point for any garden. Artificial rock is also an excellent alternative, especially if a stream with cascading waterfalls is planned. Or, add a dry stream with rocks or decorative gravel meandering through the rock garden.

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Rock Garden Elements: The best choice for a rock garden style is an informal, flowing landscape theme. However, rock gardens may be formalized, especially when used as retaining walls, garden walls, or at the bottom of slopes. The main elements are properly placed rocks/boulders featuring elevations changes, however slight. Depending on the scale of your yard, the correct rocks/boulders are must be selected. Not to big, not too small. Natural looking, like you built the home around them.

Rock Garden Plants: The best  rock gardens feature small, low-growing plants in groupings such as Creeping Thyme, Sea Pink, Dwarf Mondo Grass, Alyssum, Snow-In-Summer, Blue-Eyed Grass, and Floral Carpet Roses with herbaceous plants such as Iris, Dianthus, and seasonal bulbs.

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Fantasy Rock Gardens

Fantasy ornaments give your garden a “fairy tale theme”. Examples are miniature statues, castles, paths, caves, and bonsai trees with cascading water. The fantasy features must be the same scale, including the plants. Think of Walt’s miniature gardens at Disneyland®. There is no reason why your yard can’t look like a scaled-down version of the Magic Kingdom®.

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Slope Rock Gardens

A rock garden on a slope looks beautiful, in both the front and back yards. The rock garden combines color, texture, and slope stabilization. The best slope rock gardens occur on the bottom third of the slope with groupings of exposed rock in groupings on the upper slope. Maintaining low shrub masses affords slope stabilization and “shows off” the rocks.

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My Garden

Patio Garden: Small Space Oasis

Patio Garden: Small Space Oasis

Many California homes have small space gardens in the front and back yards. Whether you live in a condominium, patio home, or a high density housing project—large home on a small lot—your goal is to make the most of your premium space. Whether it’s a simple wall fountain with lush, flowering plants, or a unique pool and spa with waterfall, your landscape plan must use the limited space properly, or your garden experience will not be a positive one. Whether you select a formal or an informal Patio Garden theme, the repetition of plants, hardscape elements, colors, and the balance of bold, bright features with fine, muted features must be consistent. Directing the viewer’s eye to a focal point, while making gradual changes in the height and color of the plant material, promotes visual depth to a cozy patio environment. Softening walls and structures with vines and espaliers makes the garden feel spacious. Outdoor social areas—gathering places—such as patio tables, benches, fire pits, and fireplaces with seating all add elevation changes. These elements are to be complimented with fragrant plants, various leaf textures, and garden sounds such as falling water.

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Patio Garden Elements:

Staying in scale with the space afforded is critical to the success of the Patio Garden. Install wall fountains / statues / sculptures / bird baths / urns with running water / fountains with fire and water / patio deck materials that compliment the inside flooring of the home / outdoor kitchen in scale with the yard / walkways that “disappear” behind foundation shrubs, giving the illusion of depth / seating and benches that add elevation change / containers of various sizes placed in groupings.


Patio Garden Plants:

The plant selection must be trees, shrubs and groundcovers that stay in scale, that is, do not grow too large. Successful plant choices include small foreground plants such as Sea Thrift, Dianthus, and Blue-Eyed Grass. Dwarf foundation plants such as Dwarf Daylilies, Salvia ‘Santa Barbara’, and Dwarf Kangaroo Paws add texture and color. Annual color is used as part of a focal point, an entry, or in containers. Perhaps a fruit-bearing Dwarf Citrus espalier against a wall, or dwarf flowering tree in container, suits your lifestyle. A side yard with appropriate sun exposure may be the perfect spot for a raised vegetable garden. Another consideration is mounded areas with succulent and rock garden plants. Mounds give a feeling of depth. Think of Disneyland®, where Walt placed a gigantic mound, or berm, around the entire park to make visitors feel they were surrounded by lush vegetation.

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My Garden

My Garden Blog

My first twenty-one posts will feature the 21 Garden Styles.

Although several landscape ideas might appeal to you, your favorite garden will be easy to identify based on your personal energy—likes and dislikes—your home’s location and architecture, and your lifestyle. From experience, I know you will select the right garden for your home and your family when you see it, read the descriptions, and visualize your new exterior living space.

By selecting a garden style you truly like, the landscape design process begins with positive energy. You and I now have a starting point that will grow into the quintessential garden of your dreams—a beautiful and tranquil outdoor environment.