If the garden behind Ann and Sandy Blanchard's sleek, contemporary home has a theme, it might be called "circles and bubbles." A circular lawn framed with a bold poured-concrete strip lies in the center of the backyard. Pavers of various sizes embellish the wide, adjacent path; from a second-story window, they appear to float like bubbles through a river of gravel. Planting beds between the lawn and patio are curved. Another bed ― filled with blue Senecio mandraliscae, phormium tenax, and agaves ― is circular.
"We wanted to loosen up the garden to play off the home's angular design," says landscape designer Greg Sanchez. The circles have a practical side too: "They visually tie together three outdoor rooms ― a dining patio, a firepit patio, and the children's play area."
But geometry is only half of the backyard's story. "The owners love hot colors, so we played with those," Sanchez says. In the curved planting beds, yellow kangaroo paws rise above tufts of blue fescue. Golden Helichrysum petiolare 'Limelight' carries the path's line around the lawn. In contrast to the backyard's rounded shapes, the front yard is all about angular drama.
"We wanted to make the garden more visually exciting," says Ann Blanchard. And that it is. "It's lush, yet open ― serene and tropical, with a feeling of romance."
DESIGN: Greg Sanchez, GDS Designs, Los Angeles or (323/466-4266)
• Think twice about discarding building materials such as used brick or broken concrete that you unearth or remove during landscape renovation; they might find beautiful new uses. In the Blanchard garden, for example, Greg Sanchez moved circular pavers he found into a wide section of pathway.
• Divide the garden into a series of rooms according to function. The firepit patio is for relaxing and entertaining. The front yard is pure drama.
• Before getting rid of overgrown plants, try to visualize their potential. With a little pruning, they might be worth saving. In the Blanchards' front yard, a few shapeless pittosporums were removed and others were pruned to reveal trunk and branch structure. A wall behind them accentuates the plants' shapes, and uplights add nighttime drama. Near the dining patio, Sanchez added more philodendrons to enhance the presence of an existing plant.
• Just a few foliage plants can create texture and serenity. In the Blanchards' garden, 'Limelight' helichrysum adds a light green fringe around a deep green lawn. Another key tip: Place plants with care. Spiny agaves are limited to the front yard, while softer plants grow in back, where the children play.