Planning a Small Garden
Plan details carefully to make efficient use of small spaces
Determine your likes, down to the particulars. Moore knew she wanted a Mediterranean-style garden compatible with both her Spanish-style stucco home and its Mexican folk art-inspired interior. But she didn’t stop there. She read books, visited gardens, took notes, shot pictures, and kept track of it all in files organized by category until specific ideas emerged. The brick steps with broken tile inserts and matching bench, for instance, were inspired by a similar idea from the historic Adamson House in Malibu, California.
Devote a large portion of the property to hardscape. It’s irksome, but the reality is that the smaller the garden, the greater the ratio of hardscape to greenery. Fortunately, avid horticulturist though she is, Moore knew from the start that if she didn’t include room for people as well as plants, she wouldn’t have a garden.
Try it out on paper. Once Moore knew what she wanted to include—a dining alcove, a water feature, and several places for guests to sit—the challenge was figuring out how to fit it all in. She measured the yard, drew it to scale, covered the sheet with vellum, and tried out designs until she came up with a configuration that pleased her. With this sketch and photos from her files, Moore was able to give clear instructions to the crew she hired to install the garden.
Indulge in premium materials where they’ll count. Moore opted for top-grade materials in select places. The Salmon Bay pebbles used in the pathway are a good example. Moore chose this material over less expensive pea gravel because a pathway in a garden as small and narrow as hers-basically 10 feet deep by 50 feet across-was too prominent not to be decorative. Because they’re so visible, the tiles in the garden, even the ones destined to be broken up, were also first-rate pieces.
Offset indulgences with savings elsewhere. Moore saved money by not installing a sprinkler system. Because the yard is small and filled with plants that have low water needs, irrigating by hand isn’t an onerous task, she says. All her outdoor furniture pieces were finds from swap meets. Most of the bricks, rescued from a house that had lost a fireplace from earthquake damage, were free.
Keep the color scheme restrained and flower and foliage size in scale. When dealing with a small space, Moore realized, you have to simplify. She chose a strong color, red orange, as her main motif. But she used it judiciously, selecting primarily small-flowered plants like Cuphea ignea, the cigar plant. The few other colors she used—yellow, chartreuse, bronze—were harmonious, not contrasting.
Use vertical space. Moore’s garden is full of climbers like Pyrostegia venusta and ‘Royal Sunset’ rose. There’s room for a sweetshade, two Euphorbia cotinifolia trees, and a pomegranate tree. And the fence that encloses her garden is ornamental in its own right.