Fill your garden with aromatic herbs

Rana Malas wanted a garden that felt like the ones she grew up with near the Mediterranean Sea. That meant aromatic foliage plants like scented geraniums, lavender, rosemary, and thyme.

Malas insisted on a few edibles, such as a fruiting olive tree. "In the Middle East, an olive tree is a lucky plant," she says. "It brings you riches." A grapevine was also a necessity. "Living so close to the beach, I knew we might not get much fruit. But I love having the leaves handy to use in cooking."

Malas's ideal garden had to include lots of clay pots in classic shapes. Many contain her favorite herbal plants, but others ― especially the large ones ― are left empty, to be appreciated for their own beauty.

Fortunately for Malas, her Mediterranean garden vision and Laguna Beach's weather were a perfect match. The plants she wanted all thrive in Southern California's climate. Her herbal garden may not be as colorful as some of the English cottage gardens in the neighborhood, Malas says, but it makes up for that by providing aromatherapy. Take a deep breath on a warm afternoon and all your tensions disappear, she says. "It's very peaceful here, isn't it?"

DESIGN NOTES

Play up details. Pay attention to compact groupings of plants or objects. Such details can enrich a garden ― especially a small one.

Use pots as focal points. Fill containers with herbs, such as oregano, trailing rosemary, salvias, or thyme. Display them in prominent places.

Soften hardscape. Plant creeping thyme between pavers, and edge paths with soft-foliaged plants such as hardy geraniums and yarrow.

Include a few workhorses. To add color to a mostly herbal garden, rely on a few shrubs that bloom nearly year-round, such as lavatera and groundcover roses.

Design: Theresa Clark Studio, Capistrano Beach, CA (949/248-5404)

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