Southern California style: Suburban jungle

Tropical plants soften a driveway in Huntington Beach

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Southern California style: Suburban jungle

In the driveway's island planting, sago palms and tree ferns rise above tropical- looking plants like spiky bronze New Zealand flax and an apricot- flowered hibiscus.

Steven Gunther

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From the time he was a child, Carl Hartman daydreamed about living in the middle of a jungle one day. "My father used to read Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book to me, and it created powerful fantasies," he says.

When he, wife Elise, and daughter Shelby moved into their unlandscaped new home in Huntington Beach, Carl saw his chance. He started by planting palms. First he put in common ones, such as king, queen, and various date palms. Then he mixed in the more unusual, including Bismarckia, Caryota gigas, Cuban royal, and Pritchardia. Under the palm canopy, Carl planted shade lovers like ferns and elephant's ear. Along sunny edges, he put in a mix of aloes, cuphea, flax, and other plants tough enough to handle the hot western exposure.

But Carl wasn't satisfied. The garage was still too prominent. So he landscaped the driveway, using part of the center for a planting island filled with cycads, succulents, and tropical Schizolobium parahybum trees. He resurfaced the remainder in a brown-toned aggregate, which has a much earthier appearance than solid gray concrete, breaking it up with meandering ribbons of greenery.

Now the driveway blends into the surrounding garden so well, sometimes people don't recognize it for what it is.

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