Sue B. is an accomplished native Brit who grew up in Fiji. She has made her home and her garden in a dozen different places throughout the world, and came to us with a sophisiticated design sense and clear expectations. When she called, she asked us to create a landscape that would bring all of her favorite places home to Ojai, California. She also required that the garden be flexible enough to accommodate both intimate and large gatherings.

Sue had not been a gardener, but she was ready to make gardening a centerpiece of her life. She wasn’t just making a garden: she was transforming her lifestyle.

The Design Challenge

Influences from the Middle East, Western Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean region and the local environs were to be cobbled into a cohesive landscape. While the project sounded like fun, a vision of a garish Disney-esque "It's a Small World" theme park garden was hard to shake at first.

Early design meetings were spent teasing out what it was Sue wanted to include in the garden. "Pencil Cypress," Sue mused. (To her dismay, Margie deduced her client was referring to the Italian Cypress.)

Full disclosure: we are prejudiced against Italian Cypress. They are so misused in the Southern California landscape where Margie grew up, stuffed into places too small for them, and then later cut in half. In the landscape of Margie’s youth, they always looked out of place and out of scale.

"I must have Pencil Cypress! Lots of them!" continued Sue. "I can still picture them in the gardens of Iran!" Pencil Cypress it would be.

The Design Solution

Subsequent meetings were spent determining which elements would be left out of the garden, and what would be included. It wasn’t easy to pick and choose.

"Nightingales! Oh, the sound of nightingales in the evening!" Sue reminisced. "An eighty foot long reflecting pool?" Margie ventured. "You know, like at The Alhambra!"

In the end, reason reigned, and we had a plan.

The end result was the perfect garden for Sue -- a collection of gardens, really, inspired by the gardens of the world. In the weeks after the installation was complete, Margie visited the garden several times to help her client get comfortable in her new surroundings and teach her how to use the irrigation system.

“This was the first garden I had designed and built that was on a garden tour,” remembers Margie. “I was there for the tour, standing to the side and taking it all in. 500 people went through the garden; kids ran through the dancing spray of the copper sprinkler. I loved being a fly on the wall, observing how people used the space and reacted to it.” 

Special Features

A rose garden with a twist (copper balls top the posts which support the rustic iron trelliswork), reflecting Sue's great sense of whimsy and her love of roses.

A casual, flowing cottage garden with sweeps of colorful drought-tolerant native and Mediterranean plantings, appropriate for the climate, reflecting Sue's commitment to live in balance with her surroundings.

A parterre-style veggie garden where Sue sows seeds from near and far, and a copper sprinkler/sculpture that sends water dancing over her herbs, reflecting Sue's nurturing nature and her well-developed sense of play.

A formal geometric garden, organized around a central fountain and embraced by two majestic arbors. The arbors shelter two distinct patios where Sue welcomes guests, hosting a wide range of events from intimate family gatherings to large fundraising soirees. Strong primary and secondary axes lead the eye to focal points and then on to the greater vista beyond -- the chaparral-clad Topatopa Mountains. This garden reflects Sue's love of elegance, simplicity, and beauty.

And, yes, there is even a garden bounded by a sweeping, playful line of no fewer than 20-some-odd pencil cypress, reflecting newfound flexibility in the matter of Margie's prejudices, as well as the gift Sue brings to those around her - a widened perspective.