Airplanes in the Garden

Monarch Butterflies Take Flight
by Joan Z. Calder
Palo Alto Online - Home & Garden Design
Publication Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002
Look through every window
Focal points in the garden were established by looking out
by Sue Dremann

In an attempt to maintain her privacy from the outside world of asphalt and automobiles, the homeowner keeps the blinds and curtains of her Mountain View home drawn.

A flagstone path, with blue star creeper filling in the spaces between the stones, defines the traffic pattern by winding from the front yard along the side.

A flagstone path, with blue star creeper filling in the spaces between the stones, defines the traffic pattern by winding from the front yard along the side.

Perched on a corner lot with the street only 16 feet away, she faced a dilemma common to many suburban dwellers -- how to maintain her privacy, protect her property and transform her yard into a pleasing and personal space without walling herself in.

Landscape designer Joan Calder of Joan Calder Landscape Design advised her client to "look through every window" in order to develop focal points in the garden from each room of her home.

With a corner lot, the landscape designer was challenged to create interest while protecting privacy - without building a wall.

By designing the gardens from the perspective of the interior of the house rather than by standing in the yard, Calder and her client were able to create microcosms of interest from every viewpoint of the house: A birdbath became the center of interest from the son's bedroom. Tempting fruit on apricot ('Blenheim'), citrus and pineapple guava trees add mouth-watering delight to the view from the kitchen window.

An arbor at the side entrance of the yard is covered with variegated-leafed potato vine, which has unusual green and yellow leaves and star-shaped white flowers. Seen from inside the family room, it partially hides the street and neighboring homes.

A three-foot-high, split-rail fence complies with city fence-height limits and defines the private space without imposing a rigid wall. Privacy is enhanced by planting 'Lady Banks' roses in an alternating yellow and white pattern along the fence. Shrubby plants like Mexican bush sage and fountain grass ('Purpureum') cascade and tumble over and between fence spaces and further insulate the space in wide beds.

Calder says that she incorporated her client's memories of her childhood gardens and utilized plants that were favorites. Scented plants, such as gardenia ('August Beauty'), strategically placed outside the front door, bring back pleasant memories in summer.

With an informal look, the cottage-style garden is easily maintained by the client, who Calder says likes to putter in the yard. It also creates a welcome habitat for garden creatures. A large, colorful garden spider weaves its web among the fragrant lavender ('Hidcoat') and ('Provence').

An arbor at the side entrance of the yard, covered with variegated-leafed potato vine, partially hides the street and neighboring homes.

Calder says that defining traffic patterns to access the front door, garage and backyard were among her first design criteria. A loosely spaced flagstone path wends its way along the front yard and around the side to the patio and garage. Blue star creeper, a groundcover, fills in the spaces between the flagstones, giving the path a soft, comfortable feel.

In order to give the flat yard some interest, Calder installed a six-inch-high, raised patio area that utilizes the corner space, filling in with soft plant forms and fountains of New Zealand flax ('Yellow Wave'). Creating focal points, the flax is planted in trios in separate beds around the patio, in front of the house and next to the side-entrance arbor.

Calder pairs blue pincushion flower with the New Zealand flax and fluffy red fountain grass ('Rubrum'). The blue pincushion flowers explode in a riot of blue from spring through fall, she says.

In contrast to the larger plant forms in the beds and against the fence, shrubs near the house provide a visual sanctuary of small delights. Loropetalum ('Razzleberry') creates an intriguing diversion with small green and red leaves. Rosemary ('Collingwood Ingram') has unusual delightful pink flowers perfect for stopping to admire as one walks on the path near the front door.

A birdbath can be seen from the son's bedroom.

Each point in the garden provides the viewer with an opportunity for engagement, from the walk down the flagstone path among scented herbs and flowers to relaxing in the glider on the raised patio, taking in all of the plants.

Amid her relaxing sanctuary for small creatures and people, Calder says that her client is finally comfortable opening her curtains to view her own, personal garden.

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