Splendor in the grasses

Regional: Philo, California

Taking a hands-off approach to their rural property in Mendocino County, landscape architects Patrick and Jane Miller created a stunningly simple garden to surround their barnlike home and work studio. "It's very brave, very original, and very accommodating to the site," said a juror.

Although all jurors agreed that the property is unique and the design specific to the site, they found it worthy of commendation for its genius. "The designers really understood their site and the local environment," a juror noted.

From the start, the Millers knew they didn't want their garden to compete with the surrounding natural landscape. So they added native plants--oaks, manzanitas, and incense cedars that would thrive on minimum water and care. Their one nod to a more refined landscape was the lavender drift--a formal arrangement of Spanish lavender in a keyhole shape. Two open 60-foot raked gravel circles (called "infinity spirals") around the house serve as entry court, casual patio for socializing and games, and fire protection. This garden is in harmony with its surroundings.

Designers: Patrick and Jane Miller, 2M Associates, Berkeley (510/524-8132)