Modern Family

Had a blast working on this mid-century home for a young family on the Central Coast. With a toddler and infant in tow, play space was at a premium for this 1,200 sq. ft. house. At the same time, we would all prefer our houses didn’t have to look like a play space 24/7. To solve this, many spaces take on multiple uses:

Sandbox by day:

Fire Pit Lounge by night:

Other play activities in disguise included a race track front yard, “walk the plank” and tunnel / seat wall, and an adventure meadow complete with boulders to jump from and climb on.
I actually owe the tunnel detail to my three-year old son. We enjoyed a fun morning together, with him on my lap, and helping me style the SketchUp model with the appropriate sand toys, tricycles and play opportunities. Best design collaborator ever!
Check it out, the “Walk the Plank” Seat Wall looks way better (and more fun) with a tunnel through it:

 And no race track is complete without a race car!

Major, existing concrete decks were left in place and amended with modern detailing. Wood decking was selected as an easy DIY solution to improve the usability and character of this landscape. At the end of the day,this landscape will make a great place for everything from play time to large parties for entertaining.


May 8th, 2014 | Comments (0)

Native Gardens Done Right

Nestled between the fairytale land of Solvang and the warm, golden hillsides of Santa Ynez, the Chumash Casino and Tribal Hall grounds are a delightful surprise. Instead of perfectly trimmed, evergreen hedges and monotonous landscaping that is typically found in commercial developments,  the landscaped areas here, are heartwarming with their predominantly native plant palette.  It was only natural that the Chumash people celebrate the cultural attributes of the native flora.

Flanked by creeks on both sides, Heteromeles arbutofolia (Toyon) and Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp aspleniifolius (Catalina Ironwood) are the main caretakers for the steep slopes. Cercis canadensis (Western redbud) and multiple varieties of Arctostaphylos (Manzanita) provide textural accents and seasonal interest.

While the distant hillsides carry the golden tones of summer, the Casino and Tribal Hall grounds will surprise you with the beat of bursting perennial color and an intriguing variety of height and texture. Eriogonum, Zauschneria and countless Salvias are alive with luscious flowers and the company of hummingbirds. These landscaped grounds are a wonderful representation of native plants and beauty in the garden.

If you can’t make a personal visit, you can find out more about a Native American people’s dynamic relationship with the natural world, by reading “Chumash Ethnobotany: Plant Knowledge Among the Chumash People of Southern California” by Jan Timbrook.


June 25th, 2013 | Comments (0)

Confessions of a Landscape Architect

I’m a terrible gardener. Only the toughest plants survive under my care. (I swear this usually serves as a selling point for my clients, because I can identify the most bulletproof of plants for their garden.)

Contrary to popular opinion, landscape architects are not trained in gardening. Apart from design and engineering classes, my plant-specific education was limited to botany, soil science, a few plant identification classes and one class that I do actually reference on a daily basis; California Native Plants with Dave Fross. So, after years of drafting, computer screens, reviewing industry-standard specifications, and basically just lines and words on paper, I’ve decided that its time to take a more active role in the garden.

While browsing the garden center at the Morro Bay Miner’s I noticed a dusty collection of “Central Coast Gardening Essentials” books by Joe Seals.  At first glance, the use of papyrus font on the cover and the lack of glossy plant photos in the body turned me off.  But then I flipped through the “Top Myths and Bad Practices of Gardening” section… I was sold at “DON’T put kitchen waste in the compost pile,” (put them in a worm box instead!)

Seals had me hooked immediately with his accessible, common-sense approach to gardening. Not only does he break down 10-weeks of soil science instruction into a few pages of clear, to-the-point, useful tips, but he continues to address all the factors affecting plant health, including water, wind, light, temperature and more, into simple, quick-to-grasp guides. When plants are failing in the landscape, it is important to address all factors. Matching the right Sunset zone or picking whatever is in your local nursery, does not equal success. The best part about Seals’ handbook is its focus on the Central Coast climate specifically. While key parts of the book can be applied  to gardens nationwide, there’s nothing more helpful than a comprehensive, on-the-ground knowledge of our specific region.

I had grand plans this weekend, to clear out my dilapidated garden and get started on some fresh plantings, but now I’m holding off until I finish this book! I’m half way through and want to make sure I read the chapter on “Weed Management”  first, because do you “ever wonder why people who pull weeds are always pulling weeds?”

Seals will also break down popular conceptions of soil amendments, landscape fabric (causes more weeds), and drip irrigation (does not help build drought-tolerant plants)! I’ve enjoyed finding validation for some of my personal opinions and greatly appreciate his straightforward and intuitive approach to successful gardening on the Central Coast.

If you disagree or have differing experiences from what Seals prescribes, I would love to hear your comments below.


August 26th, 2012 | Comments (0)

The Woolly Test

As a landscape architect I don’t get near enough opportunities to get my hands dirty. Last week I stumbled on Woolly Pockets at 50% off and decided to give these vertical gardening vessels a test run. I’ve seen them in numerous garden and design magazines in flashy(electric blue) and neutral (camel, see below) colors.

After a trip to Miner’s, I grabbed two 6″ pot hanging plants, including Senecio rowleyanus String of Pearls to help green the face of the pocket and a small, upright, 4″ pot Rex Begonia.  The lush 6″ pots were easily split into two and three parts. I found a small bench to keep the pocket upright during planting. I ended up putting 8 quarts of soil in the pocket which looks to be a bit much. The substantial soil profile however, is the largest I’ve seen in vertical gardening products.

Within 15 mins, I was ready to mount the pocket to our office wall. I propped the pocket upright with some books and was able to easily screw into place without any additional hands.

Woolly Pocket (single) Retails $39.99 (Bought for 50% off from Farm Supply)
Two 6″ pots, One 4″ pot  $20.97
8 quarts potting soil $3.99
Total Project Cost:  $54.94

The project was quick, simple and easily brought some green into a small work space. I look forward to seeing how this breathable pocket  will contribute to the lifespan of my indoor plant collection.

August 25th, 2012 | Comments (0)

Walk the Line

This is what a landscape architect does in order to keep her kid entertained on the beach. Bonus points for developmental skills training and temporary land art!

May 13th, 2012 | Comments (0)

5 for 1

Hire a landscape architect and you get five gardens for the price of one! For every design, considerations are made for when the garden is installed, at 2 years, 5 years, 10 years and 20+ years of age.

May 3rd, 2012 | Comments (0)

Building Community

For the past four years, I’ve dedicated a good portion of my spare time to the communications committee of C4, the local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. For the past four years, I’ve apologized for being “just a landscape architect” as I tackled the tasks of graphic design, web design and social media. What I’ve only now realized is that all these tasks are a natural fit for a landscape architect. The skills I have been trained for and find the most crucial to my job description, are those tasks which contribute towards building community.

As a landscape architect, my greatest passion is for creating communities and environments where people can connect and thrive. As the digital world becomes further integrated with our daily, hourly and constant routines, I can only imagine the digital landscape becoming another tool or platform for landscape architects. My definition of landscape architecture is not limited to plants, soil and hardscape. My definition of landscape architecture includes passion, community and people.

August 26th, 2011 | Comments (0)

Singularity is Near

When my neighbor’s Queen Palm died, they decided to cover the remnant stump with a steel wireframe version of a palm tree… this thing is even equipped with solar lighting!

I really hope this is not an indication of the future of landscape architecture. I’ll place my bets on living plants;  they have the regenerative capabilities which manufactured objects can only envy… for now…

August 9th, 2011 | Comments (0)

Small Garden, Big Fun

Play lawn, kitchen garden, cutting garden, built-in bar and bar-be-que, fire pit, green walls, lounge and dining area… yes! You can have it all in 600 square feet.

The secret here was to first relocate the rear gate in order to minimize circulation paths and keep larger function areas from getting chopped up by pathways. The same way you might want to minimize hallways in a house– by aligning pathways with compatible functions, we were able to maximize our available square footage. By using concrete steppers through the lawn, we were able to make the lawn feel larger but still have an all-weather pathway. Near the rear gate, bar stools are allowed to encroach into the pathway, but can easily be pushed aside for intermittent access.

A small space can also be maximized with multi-use and built-in furniture. A built-in bench seat means you don’t need room to pull out chairs or walk around them and results in a smaller space requirement for the dining area. The built-in bench seat can also quickly transform to a second lounge area by sliding the table away and replacing it with a portable fire pit. Instead of having a full chaise lounge, use a chair and ottoman combo so you’re ready for sunbathing with a friend or a fire side chat for two couples.

When finding the perfect spot for all your favorite amenities, don’t forget to save that sunny spot for your raised kitchen and cutting garden. Vertical plant and architectural accents complete the privacy requirements and this backyard is ready to host a party!

May 21st, 2011 | Comments (0)

Trend Alert: The Classic Rose

If one theme has remained constant throughout my recent projects, it’s been the demand for roses in the residential garden. The projects have covered the spectrum, from California Ranch to cutting-edge modern, tropical to succulents, rural acreage to urban backyard. Each time, the client pulls me aside, and confesses, “it might not match the design style, but please make a space for my roses.” By the third time hearing this request in less than a month, they’ve finally grabbed my attention.

The ubiquitous rose… once associated with your grandma’s cottage garden and high maintenance is now recognized for its countless, timeless benefits. It’s actually a lie to call this a recent “trend alert.” The classic rose has been around for ages and has so very much to offer… beauty, durability, versatility, cutting flowers in hundreds of colors and varieties, the champion of scented flowers, medicinal uses and secret recipe ingredient. All these benefits come in a multitude of convenient shapes and sizes… sprawling vines, groundcovers, shrubs, and more. There really isn’t any other plant that comes close to providing in so many ways.

And in regards to maintenance– I snapped the above photo from my own backyard, which I haven’t set foot in to maintain or water since the first trimester with my 9-month old son. They are a remnant from the previous homeowner and I was considering having them removed. I was concerned they made my backyard look like grandparents lived here. I may have to reconsider…

April 23rd, 2011 | Comments (2)