Earlier this year, I was invited to judge the Association of Professional Landscape Designers’ (APLD) 2014 International Landsc...
Great Garden Ideas from the West’s Best Gardens
photography by Thomas J. Story


photography by Thomas J. Story

Earlier this year, I was invited to judge the Association of Professional Landscape Designers’ (APLD) 2014 International Landscape Design Awards competition—the Oscars for garden designers. Of the many entries from across the United States, China, and beyond, California-based Colin Miller (Envision Landscape Design Studio), nabbed a Gold for this California garden, and a new title—2014 APLD Designer of the Year. His flowery slope meadow, which backs up to grassy open space, wowed all seven judges from this country and abroad. It’s drought tolerant, right for its site, beautifully planted. See more of this garden in Sunset’s November issue, California and Southwest editions). And check out the West’s Merit Award-winners, below.

Photography by Ryan Fetters

Colin Miller ditched a thirsty lawn and replaced it with this contemporary patio in a ridge-top garden in Lafayette, California. Bordered on two sides with a smooth stucco walls, the paving is permeable— linear concrete pads have bands of crushed rock between. Kangaroo paw blooms in shades of yellow, orange, and red complement the red lounge chairs. And the basalt water feature, set on base of smooth pebbles, adds a Zen-like ambiance.


A Mediterannean Garden – St. John

Instead of lawn, designer Patricia St. John (St. John Landscapes, Berkeley) chose deer-resistant, drought tolerant plants to cover this sloping front yard in El Cerrito, California. Succulents (including vivid coral ‘Sticks on Fire’ euphorbia) mingle with California natives and easy-care, Mediterranean shrubs—lavender, rosemary, sage. The garden takes just 4 hours per month to maintain!

Dos Renos – Connolly (Photography by Robin Stancliff)

Vibrant walls, a bold new entry gate, and sculptural plants completely transformed this Tucson entry. When Designer Paul Connolly (Sundrea Design Studio) first visited the house, he noticed the owners’ colorful taste in art and furnishings. So he chose a mustard color to brighten the home’s adobe-beige exterior walls, plus mauve and soft lavender -blue for the low wall and new terraced planter beds at left. Plantings are spare, but their striking silhouettes add to the drama, especially at night when they’re lit from below.


Ocean Bluff – Margie Grace (Lepere Photography)

With no room for a swimming pool in their narrow back yard (which hugs a coastal bluff in Santa Barbara), the owners located their pool in the front yard. To guide visitors from the front gate and around the pool to the front door, landscape designer Margie Grace created a path that mimics a beach boardwalk. A frosted glass wall adds privacy up front.


Bocce court: Ocean Bluff-Margie Grace (Lepere Photography)

What else can you do with this a skinny backyard overlooking a sea cliff? This bocce ball court just fits the space. And there’s room for a few colorful, drought tolerant plants— sea lavender, succulents, and grasses– to frame the ocean view.

Mini beach: Ocean Bluff-Grace (Lepere Photography)

The beach is at the bottom of the bluff. So Grace created a mini beach up top, with just enough sand to wiggle two sets of toes. Low-water and native plants grow around it.

Patio bench: Natural Stone Oasis-Gliksman

To update the landscape around her backyard pool, designer Debbie Gliksman (Urban Oasis Landscape Design, Los Angeles) removed solid concrete paving and replaced it with red flagstones set on gravel. Spaces between the new pavers keep the surface permeable. But rather than dumping the concrete, Gliksman used the broken pieces to build a bench and raised beds that have the look of natural stone. We love these sustainable, cost-saving solutions.

[Correction, 11-12-14: Previously, we’d used the wrong link to Debbie Gliksman’s website. It is now correct.]






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