Photography: Marion Brenner1 of 8
By Stephen Orr
To make a garden truly sing, start from the ground up. What you “floor” your garden with is arguably just as important as what you plant. In her new book, Gardens Are for Living: Design Inspiration for Outdoor Spaces (Rizzoli), Los Angeles landscape designer Judy Kameon shows how to make each part of your yard fully and delightfully user-friendly.
In a quiet corner of her garden, Judy Kameon laid rectangular slabs of bluestone in a warm lilac shade. “I like to mix up the geometry with different sizes,” Kameon says. “I find the asymmetry even friendlier than squares.”
A larger slab is luxurious -- even in a small space -- for both modern and traditional properties.
Draw a few designs on paper until the shapes feel balanced, then fit the piece on-site like a puzzle.
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In Los Angeles’s extreme drought conditions, lawn care can be expensive (and a waste of water). As the technology behind synthetic lawn has developed, it’s been used to mimic the look of a traditional lawn.
Use the soft turf for children’s play areas, in places where grass doesn’t normally grow (very shady yards, roof decks), or where you don’t want a dormant winter lawn.
Look for turf with blades that appear most natural, with a subtle mix of colors and textures. Don’t place artificial turf in a hot, full-sun area; it can heat up uncomfortably for bare feet. For adequate drainage, the turf is typically laid on top of compacted soil or over a layer of crushed stone.
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Decorative tile can bring a bold, graphic pattern to any garden space.
Select the tile to reflect the architecture of the house. For instance, try terra-cotta tile for a Mediterranean home. Or consider a decorative or patterned tile for a house with modern architecture.
Kameon prefers encaustic tiles -- meaning the colors are part of the clay, not a glaze -- with a matte-finish sealer. Since the tiles are only 3/4 inch thick and not structural, they must be laid on top of concrete.
A Strategy for Hardscaping:
The closer the area is to the house, the more refined or polished the material you should use for the garden floor, Kameon says. Then employ more humble and rustic materials as you move outward into the yard or landscape.
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Gravel and Stone
Two popular surfaces for modern gardens are gravel (either rounded pea gravel or crushed stone) and decomposed granite (often called simply “DG”). Both prevent runoff, which allows the soil to absorb water and hold on to the moisture.
These materials are great for patios and entertaining areas. Kameon especially likes them for their earthy colors.
To inhibit weed growth, pin down weed cloth beneath the material, or eradicate weeds as thoroughly as possible before topping the area with your gravel. Prevent erosion with a border of pressure-treated two-by-fours.
Pea gravel, mined from natural deposits in riverbeds and shores, is elegantly rounded and soft on the eye (and bare feet).
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The informality of these materials -- railroad-tie steps and DG landings -- is warm and inviting, especially when surrounded by sculptural agaves and mounding artemisia.
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Quarried crushed stone has irregular edges that lock together to create a firm foothold on walkways. It’s often less expensive than pea gravel, as it can be produced rather than mined.
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After it’s mechanically compacted, heavyweight DG doesn’t become airborne or dusty; it’s often mixed with a stabilizing agent that keeps it in place.
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Soften the hardness of a paved area by installing small plants between the stones. Landscape designer Judy Kameon uses a three-inch plantable gap to allow the plants room to grow, and favors low-growing varieties like sedum, groundcover thyme, and pratia, which resemble moss. Avoid planting grass, since it can be hard to control and keep tidy.