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Case Study: Backyard Lounge, Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles 90068

Believe it or not this residential backyard used to be covered in a wall to wall backyard putt-putt course! I guess some lucky kid must have asked for that instead of a pool back in the 1980’s. Time had not been kind to the putt-putt course and it was getting kind of post apocalyptic looking. So we got out the jackhammers and ripped out all the concrete, except for a long low retaining wall.

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We turned the retaining wall into a built in 40′ long bench that acts as seating for the dining area and a transition to the lawn level. It also allows you to hang out and really appreciate the succulent collection close up.

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Agave attenuatta, lavender, aeonium and senecio act as a transition between the gravel zone and the lawn.

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Outdoor dining are is flexible for hosting small or large groups.

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I love how different the chairs are. You don’t want things too matchy-matchy.

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We are working on designs for the front yard right now that will pick up on some of the themes in the backyard. Stay tuned.

Exploring the Moorten Botanical Garden – Palm Springs

Jonathan and I spent a cold & rainy New Year’s in Palm Springs this year. Instead of hanging out by the pool, we bundled up and headed out to look at desert plants.

I had heard about the Moorten Botanical Garden for years, but it wasn’t until our last trip out to Palm Springs in October that we found it when we were doing an architectural driving tour with my grandparents. It is only a few blocks west of the Ace Hotel and Pool Club, where we have been hanging out for years.

IMG_1519Started in 1938, many of the 3000 desert plant varieties are large and mature. I think of the Moorten as kind of a scrappy desert cousin to the Huntington rare cactus and succulent garden in Pasadena.

There is a $4 donation requested for entry. They have a nursery when you can buy small cacti and succulents. And they rent out the garden for special events like weddings.

IMG_1484It is staffed by a group of plant loving senior volunteers. I laughingly told Jonathan that I was seeing my future. I predict we retire to Palm Springs someday and that I spend my golden years volunteering at the botanical garden.



Upside down hanging cacti in the cactarium!


Next time you in Palm Springs, save an hour or two to visit the Moorten. And bring home a little cacti to remember your visit!


Case Study: Turf Free Backyard, Pasadena, CA 91103

Here is a sneak peek at our new project in Pasadena. We removed the backyard turf and made a new poured in patio and farm/garden area. Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 8.16.52 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-05 at 8.17.19 PMWoolly Pocket green wall.Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 8.17.03 PM

Custom planter wraps around corner of house. Plants will be visible from dining room inside.


CB2 furniture.


P1050313Deluxe chicken coop. Bought as a kit and assembled.P1050321


The side yard was cleaned up to make space for an outdoor grill and dining area. A wood topper was added to the brick wall to create more privacy. The table and benches are second hand from the Rose Bowl Flea Market. The red chairs were on sale at Overstock.com.

Thinking of re-doing your landscape? Sign up for our newsletter to get inspiration

12 Awesome Outdoor Couches


Above: Ebb Outdoor Sectional by CB2. Designed by Amanda Ip of Slate Design. $1077 this configuration.


casbah-outdoor-sectional-piecesAbove: Casbah Outdoor Sectional from CB2. Designed by Francesca Braga Rosa + Ivano Vianello = ivdesign.it. $1796 this configuration.



Above: Java Sectional Outdoor Couch by CB2. This is backordered right now. Some pieces may be available. Several of my clients have bought it this season and really liked it.



Above: Montacito Daybed by James Perse. Call for pricing.



Above: Haringe Outdoor Couch by Joacim Wahlstrom and Carl Jagnefelt for Skargaarden. $2601 this configuration. Cushions sold separately.



Above: Finn Three Seater Sofa by Design Within Reach. Teak frame and Sunbrella cushions (white or black).

applaro-hallo-seat-sectional-stool-outdoor-brown__0257317_PE401341_S4Above: Applaro by IKEA. $840 this configuration.

arholma-seat-sectional-stool-outdoor-brown__0124384_PE281002_S4Above: Arholma Sectional by IKEA. $795 this configuration.



Above: Tillary Outdoor Sofa from West Elm. $575$1,438.




Above: Palmetto All-Weather Couch by Pottery Barn. $849$2,399.




Above: Madera Teak Sectional by Pottery Barn. $99.99$1,844. Lots of Sunbrella colored cushion choices!

jibe-modern-outdoor-left-sectional-sofaAbove: Jibe Outdoor Sectional from BluDot. $3,998.

Do you have other favorites? Let us know! 

8 Easy Ways to Improve your Curb Appeal


1. Paint your front door a fun bright color. It makes the house look well cared for and adds a pop of color.

2. Replace dated address numbers and/or mailboxes.

3. Trim back or remove overgrown trees and shrubs that are hiding the charming architectural details of your home.

4. Add some landscape lighting to you front path to make the house more inviting at night.

5. Add an outdoor bench to your porch or entry sequence. It is inviting place to wait for someone, put on shoes, leave packages, use as a plant stand. Think of it as your outdoor landing strip.

6. If your parkway is empty, consider adding shade trees. The city of Los Angeles gives them away free.

7. Add some potted plants, hanging baskets or window boxes to you front porch/steps.

8. Re-mulch all your front plant beds. The city of Los Angeles gives mulch away free.


Way Way up in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, White Mountains, Inyo County, California


Last week, while we were up in Bishop, California to attend Mule Days, Jonathan and I made a day trip up the Ancient Bristlecone National Forest in the White Mountains to see the oldest living non-clonal organisms in the world.


On our drive up to Schulman Grove we stopped to see some other type of pine.


Up at Schulman Grove it was colder than I expected and I didn’t have gloves with me. The metal interpretive signs were surprisingly hot baking in the sun — so I stopped at each one to warm my hands.


We started our main hike at 10,000 feet above sea level. It had just snowed that morning and it made everything seem particularly epic. One of my friends on Instagram said it looked Gameofthrones-ish.


The oldest living tree they have dated in Schulman Grove is over 5,000. It’s the world’s oldest recorded living non-clonal organism. There are also a number of dead trees and some of them have been dated back as far as 12,000 years.

I did some Mitochondrial DNA testing a few years ago, and that was back when some of my ancestors (soon to be Scandinavian vikings) were still living in modern day Turkey. 12,000 years in human history is a really long time ago. But geological time barely blinks.


Up close grain of the wood. It can survive with most of it’s bark gone.


The interpretive signs said that most of the trees eventually die because erosion uncovers their roots and exposed them to root diseases. In a few thousand years over 2′ of soil may erode due to wind, etc.


The needles are surprisingly soft, it was like shaping the hand of a muppet.


In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

-John MuirP1040853

One of these trees might be the oldest tree they have identified. To protect the tree from vandalism they intentionally don’t mark it, but it is in this area.


My husband playing in with snow. He is adorbs.


The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

-John Muir

And then…. the next day….. we went petroglyph hunting in Red Canyon.

Photos of that next week!

Photos from my Visit to Roberto Burle Marx’s Estate in Brazil


Back in fall 2009 Jonathan and I went to South America for a month. While we were in Brazil we went to visit the Sitio Roberto Burle Marx about an hour outside of Rio de Janeiro. Roberto Burle Marx is one of the greats of landscape architecture, known for creating bold, colorful landscapes using the native plants of South America. He is one of my favorite designers and I always find inspiration looking at his work. The large estate served as his home, studio, test garden and plant nursery. The tours of the estate were only in Portuguese so we couldn’t really understand anything they said, but the place really speaks for itself. Here are a few of the 500+ photos I took:


















If you’re ever in Rio, go visit!



A Month in Photos: Walls & Hedges


The Ace Hotel & Swim Club, Palm Springs. We had our “rehearsal dinner” right here by this wall in 2010. The hedge is a Podocarpus a.k.a Hedgezilla.


More Ace Hotel, they have great walls.


There are a lot of tapestry hedges (hedges made up of multiple shrubs/vines) in Echo Park, Los Angeles. This one has multiple kinds of bougainvillea and boxwood.

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This ad for High Maintenance (a web series) is hand painted on a wall in Echo Park, CA. If you haven’t seen the series, you should download it ASAP. The main character is a pot dealer in NYC that delivers via bicycle. Each episode is about a different delivery/client. Incredibly well done. It’s one of my new favorites.


Hungry for Plants at Flora Grubb Gardens, San Francisco


 The often Instagrammed chair wall at Flora Grubb.

Jonathan & I popped into Flora Grubb Gardens last week when we were in San Francisco. If you are into plants/gardens this is a place of lust & pilgrimage. I’ve been wanting to go there forever. It’s in a light industrial section in Bay View, which is east of the Mission district. They have a beautifully curated nursery and all the coolest outdoor accessories: pots, chairs, arbors, green walls, heated outdoor couches, fire pits, etc. It’s like Epcot and Sunset Magazine had a baby.


I loved the unapologetic shaggy-ness of this Woolly Pocket green wall. Many of you know that I use to be the in-house designer for Woolly Pocket, so I have designed my fair share of green walls. I didn’t do this one, but I really liked the palette. They did a great job of hiding the pockets, so you don’t see the structure.

Pro tip: You can recreate this look with bromeliads, phormium, pothos, philodendrons, grasses and fish hook senecio. This sized wall can be made with (2) 4 – packs of pockets, I recommend using the Chocolate colored pockets since they disappear best and looks like soil.



We have one of these aloe trees in my side yard. Ours is only about 4′ tall so far. This one was more like 8-9′ so it was like looking in to the future.


Flora Grubb really gets color.  They stock all their outdoor accessories in a rainbow of colors.


Love these stunning burnt orange pots.P1030921A giant Furcraea macdouglii – I was excited to see this big guy. We have one growing in our front yard in Echo Park. It’s still pretty small but it will eventually turn into a tree like this. Hopefully it takes 50 years to get this big.


Japanese maple saplings and a baby sago palm.

P1030948They had lots of experiments with succulents on display. I like this large green wall made up of a mosaic of tiny cuttings. I can imagine something like it hanging on the side of  our shed. They also had hearts and wreath sized alphabet letters that you can plant with succulents that looked like great gifts for Mother’s Day.


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