Bold shapes and patterns make this garden striking from every angle
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Many gardens are viewed from above only during the planning process—as a drawing on paper. But when landscape architect Mark Tessier designed this front yard in Manhattan Beach, CA, he had both the bird’s-eye view and the eye-level one in mind. “I wanted the clients to enjoy the garden as much from the windows upstairs as they would from the ground,” he says.
From above, the 720-square-foot garden has a Tetris-like geometry. Ipe wood insets are placed throughout the yard; “when you walk on them, you get a great click-clack sound underfoot—just like on a boardwalk,” says Tessier.
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Plants as pattern
Succulents add bold shapes, while longleaf mat-rush (Lomandra longifolia), planted along a sloping raised bed, brings motion as it sways in the breeze. And strips of low-water fescue fill the center of the garden. “Grass suddenly becomes much more interesting when it’s arranged in a graphic pattern,” says Tessier.
Finally, the designer had one more angle to consider—the street. Like many “walk streets” in the neighborhood, the pedestrian-only path facing the garden gets foot traffic from surfers and tourists on their way to the beach. Rather than walling themselves off, the residents embrace the activity. “People here practically live out front all summer—drinking coffee, saying hi to their neighbors,” says Tessier. So he kept the planting beds and gate only waist high, making the garden not only pleasing from above, but also welcoming to everyone passing by.
Framed in stainless steel, the waist-high gate of ipe wood creates a welcoming vibe. From overhead, it plays off the garden’s offset wall in an unusual way.
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Libertia peregrinans fills narrow beds. The bronze-orange grass echoes the hues of wood and rusted steel, and adds a vertical element beside the entry.
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Set flush with the surrounding concrete, 1-by-6 planks of ipe wood rest on top of a supporting frame and mask the drainage system.
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Patches of fescue are the width of sod strips sold at garden stores, so they are easy to replace—important, given that the homeowners have a dog.
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Like a living mulch, compact Spanish stonecrop (Sedum hispanicum) spreads a low blue-green carpet beneath billowy longleaf mat-rush.
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The concrete, tinted beige to match the sofa cushions, is “a tough, easy-care surface,” says Tessier—one that’s perfect near the beach.
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The pop of bright yellow adds a sunny contrast to the garden’s varied earth tones.
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Sedum and coral aloe (Aloe striata), which grow under a structural tree aloe (A. barberae), are striking from above and at ground level. The shapely leaves are set off against a soft backdrop of coastal woollybush (Adenanthos sericeus), “which has a kelplike quality,” says Tessier.
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To keep the lines clean, Tessier chose Cor-ten steel to edge the garden beds. “It’s thin enough to create beds without eating up much space,” he explains. And its reddish bronze hue complements the mixed greenery.
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Decorative, speckled gray Del Rio stone mulch keeps weeds down between beds and helps retain soil moisture. “It looks like pebbles you’d find on the beach,” he says.