Nancy Robinson usually plays by the rules. But in her kitchen garden, in San Juan Capistrano, anything goes. Here, seasonal flowers rule―not the foliage that defines the rest of her garden. In May, for instance, pink hydrangeas and yellow and orange nasturtiums might steal the show among foliage plants like chives, oregano, and sage. And while she sticks to a color scheme in the rest of her garden, in her kitchen garden no hue is off-limits. "The palette of herbs, flowers, and vegetables is always changing in this garden," says Robinson. "And that's what makes it fun."
The kitchen garden occupies a difficult, west-facing site that gets cold and shady in winter, hot and bright in summer. But Robinson makes the best of these conditions. During the cool season, she grows things like freesia, lettuce, and ranunculus; when it warms up, she switches to tomatoes and zucchini.
What holds all these changing colors and plant palettes together is geometric order. A row of raised beds marches neatly through the narrow space. Columns of tall, narrow Ilex vomitoria add structure. And the gravel and flagstone underfoot make tidy pathways. Having established so much organization at the start, Robinson can indulge in a little playful disorder.