Make a porch a personal resort in the suburbs

Create it with tropical plants, exotic accessories, and the right frame of mind

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Make a porch a personal resort in the suburbs

This sanctuary's features include temple carvings, antique columns from India, and Chinese slate tiles, with a pair of teak chairs the perfect complement.

Christina Schmidhofer

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At dawn on weekdays, Davis Dalbok tends his garden, then has breakfast "in the tropics" before dashing down the freeway to his city office. His tropical escape is his remodeled porch, which looks like it's in Bali or Hawaii.

Welcome to Fairfax, California, where Dalbok has created his own resort using subtropical plants and exotic accessories to capture the flavor of the South Sea Islands. "Many homeowners don't realize that they can take advantage of microclimates within their own gardens," says Dalbok, whose front porch was once a drab concrete slab.

A plantscape designer who travels the world to discover unusual plants and accessories, Dalbok says that it's possible to cultivate a subtropical oasis throughout the mild-winter West. The trick is to devise adequate sun shields with roofs, awnings, and tall plants to retain sufficient moisture throughout the garden.


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