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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!


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.


O Montana! Glacier National Park


Glacier National Park was founded in 1910, and sits up in northern Montana and borders Canada. It’s over 1 million acres and covers two mountain ranges, 130 lakes, dozens of (melting) glaciers and hundreds of lakes.


Last summer, before we left on our big road trip, someone at a party told me that they thought Glacier National Park, is more impressive than Yosemite. I’ve also heard a few Alaskans say Glacier is prettier than Alaska. Needless to say, we were really excited to go.

When we arrived, I found Glacier to look like a storybook or a painting. Almost unreal. The scale is huge. The crystal clear glacier rivers and lakes reflected the mountains and sky. The river run fast and deep and clear. It almost looks like CGI, with everything just slightly exaggerated.


Raging streams.


We arrived in Glacier the 1st week in June, and the snow and ice was still melting at the higher elevations. Going-to-the-Sun Road, the legendary 50 mile drive through the middle (and top) of Glacier was mostly still closed because they were still clearing snow. We were able to drive up the first 17 mile and go hike before we had to turn around.

We were disappointed that we couldn’t drive the whole road, but we decided to come back someday so we could see it all. My mom and her husband recently bought an RV named Honey and plan to tour the US in 2015. We might come back and meet them in Montana.


Jonathan and I hiking at Glacier National Park.

It seems like a lot of people are unaware of Glacier National Park. It’s not a household name like Yellow Stone or Yosemite. I think part of the reason in that it is so far north and off the beater path. Less people probably make it up there. You don’t stumble across it driving cross country, like many of the national parks.


We came across a lot of wildlife. We were really this close to the deer, I wasn’t zooming in on the photo.


Watch my instagram video of the river.

Glaciers Melting & Climate Change

My favorite thing about Glacier was watching the water come rushing down narrow creeks and rivers towards from the glaciers down to the calm lakes. It was impressive, the sound, the speed of the water, how clear the raging water was, the turbulence. But that thing I loved so much is partially a product of climate change. The raging waters are melted glaciers.

It is well documented that the glaciers at Glacier National Park are quickly retreating and disappearing. They say some may last for a few decades longer, but they are going quickly, within our lifetime. The Park Service has decided that it will still be called Glacier National Park even after all the glaciers have melt.


Getting back to my roots.

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We ate a ton of huck turnovers at Polebridge Mercantile, a general store & bakery deep in the forest. It’s over 100 year old and on the National Registry of Historic Places. No cell phone reception.


Have you been to Glacier National Park? What was your favorite part?

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