Lush landscaping for a mid-century modern home

Bold shapes and foliage soften a home's angular lines

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  • Vertical pickets and dominant junipers and trees fought this modern house's clean horizontal lines.

    Lush landscaping for a mid-century modern home

    Steven Gunther

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Tapestry of plants

Cindy wanted a modern and drought-tolerant landscape, but definitely not a minimalist one. "I love plants and I wanted a real garden," she says. Smith included lots of her favorite ornamental grasses; plenty of sturdy Mediterranean staples such as rosemary, lavender, and phlomis; and a generous helping of sculptural species like agaves, aeonium, and euphorbia. He used these plants in broad sweeps to create strong patterns, and employed curves to contrast with the angularity of the triangular spaces.

Smith cautions against basing a landscape color scheme on flowers: "They're too ephemeral, and the two plants you were counting on to bloom at the same time never do." Leaves alone can provide lots of color, as this garden demonstrates.

Thanks to the texture and color variation in the foliage, the landscape looks good even without flowers, but there's enough seasonal interest to make it feel like a real garden as well. "I know I've said this about every home we've lived in," Cindy says, "but this truly is the best garden I've owned."

Design: Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture , Baywood Park, CA (805/528-2118)

Lessons from this makeover

Mass plants for drama. Long lines, swooping arches, and big circles of a single type of plant always catch the eye.

Honor your climate and natural surroundings. The golden hills that surround San Luis Obispo influenced Jeffrey Gordon Smith's design: Ornamental grasses play up tawny shades, and foliage shares the gray-green of native plants.

Design a landscape from the house out. Outlining the edges of the property first and then moving inward is a common mistake, Smith says. He recommends designing from the vantage point of indoors looking out. "If it makes sense from that viewpoint, it will also look good from the street."

Be retro and contemporary. Use materials suitable to the era of your house, but take advantage of modern innovations too. Concrete and aggregate, common in the 1960s, made them appropriate for the Bonifields' landscape. But integral color concrete, a newer choice, let Smith use a hardscape hue that blends in better with the surrounding hills.

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