By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Recommend: Matilija Nursery, 8225 Waters Rd., Moorpark, (805) 523-8604,www.matilijanursery.com; Seeds of Change,www.seedsofchange.com; University of California Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County, 4800 E. Cesar Chavez Ave., L.A., (323) 260-3407,http://celosangeles.ucdavis.edu (click on “Common Ground Garden Program”).
Melissa Hoffs, writer, & Stuart Swezey, Sci-Fi Channel development executive, with son Victor, Hermon
STUART: Dr. Seuss was an inspiration. We have all these weird fanciful plants — whether they be dry- or wet-climate — and they create this extraterrestrial vision that we were looking for. We wanted to put our imprint on the landscape. And I’ve always liked tiki culture, tiki bars — I did a tiki nightclub called Mecca — and I love the idea of making the hyper-real feeling of a black-light tiki bar in the garden. We wanted an area that would be reminiscent of the exaggerated tropical feeling.
MELISSA: I like the meditative feeling of the desert. And we were interested in blending the two environments — desert and tropical. There’s a transitional area of drought-tolerant plants that look tropical. The coral-reef garden in between pulls the two together.
STUART: At first the coral reef was just a bunch of succulent plants that looked to us like underwater plants. Then eventually we went out to this quarry in Irwindale where we got a lot of the rocks. They had lava from Mexico that had actually been underwater, where the lava hits the ocean.
MELISSA: I grew up for a while in a really crazy garden environment. I’ve seen pictures of my mom tripping through the garden with the kids trailing behind, and I think there’s some sort of ideal to being in a place to raise your kids that has secret spots in it. At some point we realized that we had all these interesting sculptural plants, but that grotesque and fantastic plants alone did not necessarily make for a place you actually want to hang out. Neither of us knew anything about “bushes” — now we call them shrubs! Bushes just seemed boring, but Stuart discovered some Australian and South African plants on a Web site that led us to finding shrubs that we love. We knew we needed to walk through a place that had green things that rustled, and that you could smell.
STUART: It’s definitely changed my perception of backyard from when I grew up — what I associated with backyard was overgrown grass with dog shit in it, and it was my job to pick it up and mow the lawn — which I would put off until my dad would yell at me.
Recommend: Sunburst Decorative Rock, 282 Live Oak Ave., Irwindale, (626) 446-4994; Mimosa Nursery, 6270 Allston St., L.A., (323) 722-4543; San Gabriel Nursery and Florist, 632 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 286-3782; Australian Native Plants Nursery,http://www.australianplants.com/; Hidden Garden, Inc., email@example.com.
Pat Loud and Bill Loud, retired, Larchmont Village
PAT: This really isn’t so much a house as it is a cottage, a tiny little place with a tiny little space in the back and on the sides. The backyard makes the house workable. We’ve turned it into a room. We have breakfast out there every morning, and we have people over for dinner on the weekends. We entertain a lot — there’s a fireplace in the yard, so we can use the space most of the year. It’s pleasant.
BILL: The fireplace we got from our neighbor Jason — hello, Jason! — when he sold his house. Apparently he shouldn’t have given it to us, but then it was too late — it had been red, but I painted it white. Everything comes with a little story.
PAT: We had to go vertical in the back — there’s not enough horizontal space there. On a whim we decided to try a potato plant out there, and it worked like a charm across the back of that fence — all the vines growing up it gave it a lot of character. I really like color, and the backyard is one place where you can put it to use. It’s part Mediterranean and part English garden. I lived in England for a number of years, and I’m a great Anglophile, but we don’t have enough room to do a proper English garden, so we compromised with a little one in the corner, but it works for us. It always reminds me of England.
BILL: Pat is a great gardener — she does the direction, she’s the director.
PAT: Thank you. I thought you were.
BILL: A lot of things are from where we lived at one time or another. I brought the Ming dynasty horses back from Taiwan in the 1950s or ’60s — a gift from someone I was doing business with. The Roman busts Pat brought back from Bath, England.
PAT: I visited friends in Montana and brought back the horse and skull, and my son Lance and I got the bust of Alexander in Palm Springs one time when we were visiting. Everything has a connection to someplace we’ve been or someplace we’ve lived. It’s all part of our past.
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