This garden shows no fear of bright colors and strong architectural shapes

When Linda and Ted Schlein moved into their Spanish-style house in Menlo Park, they inherited a totally different landscape than the one they’d known. “We’d just come from a colonial house surrounded by green lawn, shrubbery, and a white picket fence,” Linda explains.

By contrast, their new garden had a Mediterranean flavor to complement the house. The building, designed by Richard Elmore and the previous owners, Duane and Michele Maidens, echoes the curves and colors of a sun-washed village.

To enhance this vision, landscape architect Rosemary Wells gave the front yard a Mediterranean meadow look.

For bright color year-round, she chose unthirsty bloomers such as scarlet bougainvillea, drifts of yellow Jerusalem sage, and lavender. For shade around the periphery, she planted a locust, a pepper tree, and ‘Swan Hill’ olive trees.

For fragrance, she set an angel’s trumpet in the entry courtyard beside a trickling fountain. “Its perfume is intoxicating, especially on balmy evenings when it wafts though the open dining room doors,” Michele Maidens recalls.

Linda Schlein quickly got into the garden’s sun-country mood. As the landscape grows, she tucks in more perennials that fit its theme — with help from Maureen Decombe of Green Willow Gardens.

“This garden shows no fear of bright colors or strong architectural shapes,” says Decombe.


Mix the plantings. Many California natives have the same exposure, water, and soil needs as plants from similar Mediterranean climates. In the Schleins’ yard, fremontodendron and ceanothus (California natives) pair with plants like lavender (a Mediterranean native) and red-hot poker (Kniphofia) from South Africa. Group different plants according to their needs.

Forget lawn. Plant unthirsty groundcovers such as blue fescue, ‘Carmel Creeper’ ceanothus, dwarf cotoneaster, and gazanias. Mulch spaces between them with fine-textured (1/4-inch) fir-bark mulch, and use gravel or pavers for paths and patios.

Pair bold colors. Bright flowers stand up to California’s sunlight. Yellows and blues predominate in the Schleins’ garden, but other plants splash color around the perimeter ? purple asters, orange bird of paradise, ruby-red leptospermum, and red kangaroo paws and penstemons. Bronze-foliaged plants such as hop bush, phormiums, and purple smoke tree are cooling accents.

Add fragrance. Sweet scents from citrus and angel’s trumpet mix with herbal aromas like lavender.

DESIGN: Rosemary Wells, Viridian Landscape Architecture, Pacific Grove, CA (408/656-5829)

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