The second private garden I toured during the Garden Writers Association symposium in Pasadena, California, last month turned out to be my favorite. Owned by Ann and Olin Barrett, the garden’s formal layout with cross axes and focal points is made California friendly and contemporary with bold, xeric plants.
The largest portion of the garden contains a lap pool set in a (surprisingly green) lawn. The pool leads the eye to an arched grape arbor behind a lattice-style fence. Palms and other trees create a lush, green “borrowed view.”
Along the fence, a deep bed of bold, dry-loving plants like sotol, agave, and aloe make an eye-catching border that requires little water.
Sotol was in bloom.
A Dr. Seussian tree aloe (Aloe barberae) is underplanted with wine-colored aeoniums, if I’ve IDd them correctly.
Looking through the doorway of the lattice fence and the grape arbor, your eye is drawn to a lion’s-head tiered fountain.
The spacious, grape-shaded arbor shelters a table and chairs, and the fountain adds a welcome feeling of coolness.
White oleander offers visual cooling as well.
Handsome brick columns, which support the arbor, are wrapped in lathe painted to match the fence.
Turning around and looking across the length of the lap pool, you see a couple of chaise longues under a feathery tree, an open-air pool house, and a long, narrow pond aligned on a cross axis with the pool.
Here’s another view of the formal pond, as seen from the garden entrance. Planted with water lilies, canna, papyrus, and reeds, it runs perpendicular to, and crosses, the lap pool.
A stone sculpture anchors the far end of the pond. A mirrored “doorway” creates the illusion that the garden continues beyond the wall.
Square parterres with topiary shrubs add to the formal structure. Pale gravel floors this garden room.
The same view as seen from the paver-and-grass patio at the end of the lap pool. White brugmansia blossoms hang overhead.
The brugmansia nestles romantically alongside the open-air pool house. High arched doorways and comfortable seating create an inviting destination.
A comically drooping aloe jazzes up a classic scene of ivied brick and a spherical finial.
Nearby, a jade-green pot elevates a matching fan aloe (Kumara plicatilis).
A nearly secluded path leads around the house to another part of the garden, which feels like tropical Mexico thanks to banana trees and palms.
A collection of terracotta faces adorns the stucco wall.
Through the gate…
…a tiered lion’s-head fountain like the one under the grape arbor splashes softly.
Now you enter a small garden room whose focal point is a multi-level brick-and-tile spa framed by evergreen shrubs and a pergola of brick columns and wooden arches.
The rear windows of the house look out on this view. It all feels completely secluded.
A small lawn is formally shaped and edged with brick and a stained-concrete walk.
A collection of terracotta pots along the back steps display a variety of dry-loving plants.
A small glazed dinosaur with his hands in the air (like he don’t care?) was the only whimsical detail I noticed in the entire garden.
An elegant roofed terrace offers a beautiful place to lounge the day away. Surrounded by lush greenery and tropical plants, it reminds me of outdoor salas in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
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