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5 Stunning Contemporary California Gardens

Updated on September 26, 2011
Beebe-Yudell Garden
Beebe-Yudell Garden | Source

I have been reading an amazing book by Nancy Goslee Power called The Gardens of California: Four Centuries of Design from Mission to Modern. This book features many different types of gardens that have added to the beautiful landscape of California throughout the state’s history. In the very last chapter of the book, Power looks at five different contemporary gardens in the state. I was so drawn in by the images and stories of each of these five gardens that I decided I wanted to research them further. Here’s a little bit of what I learned about Beebe-Yudell Garden, Schnabel Garden, Martin Garden, Valentine Garden, and Stringfellow Garden.

1. Beebe-Yudell Garden

It doesn’t surprise me at all that one of the five contemporary California gardens that made it into Power’s book is located in Malibu, California. Sunny Southern California is a place of beauty, both natural and manmade, and the people who have homes in Malibu certainly have the money to spend on making an astounding garden. In this case, two designers (Beebe and Yudell) worked together to create an architectural home and garden that celebrates the views of the property.

Yudell is an architect who created the house on this property. The house contributes to the great garden design because of course the garden has to be built around this property. The house is a series of spaces or room sets that are connected with paths and French doors.

Beebe is a colorist and garden designer who added her touch in the garden of the landscape. Working around the house she kept to a fairly formal and structured design plan with an olive tree orchard on one end of the property and a citrus tree orchard on the opposite end. The room sets of the house are mirrored in room sets of outdoor rooms filled with flowering plants.

Beebe allowed the garden design to loosen up as the décor moved away from Yudell’s house. It becomes natural and wilder in appearance, marrying a nice sense of different styles that have been seen in California garden design over the years. There is also a Mediterranean-inspired food garden, which is totally in keeping with modern Californian’s desire to grow some of their own food!

2. Schnabel Garden

One of the things that I love about California is that there is so much variety throughout the state. Gardens may be located anywhere in the state and still represent something that is quintessentially Californian. That’s certainly the case with the Schnabel Garden, which is located in Brentwood.

This garden home was created by an architect whose name you may be familiar with – Frank Gehry. He worked with the owner, Maria Schnabel, to create a contemporary California look that draws inspiration from several other eras and cultures (which is so typical of California style!)

The front of the Schnabel home is cool and protects the space with an air of privacy. Inside you get all the warmth and luxury you could imagine. There is a lot of beautiful leafy greenery and grasses that give you the feeling that you are spending relaxing time out in the country. California’s signature olive trees can be found here along with more unusual plant life like beautiful Birds of Paradise. It is the combination of different elements that make this garden modern, unique and striking to the eye.

3. Martin Garden

A Brentwood garden has the key feature of being able to overlook Los Angeles, a view that many Californians consider iconic. Such a view can be seen from the Martin Garden. Architect Richard Martin took three years to develop the plan for the garden and reports that the experience was more based on intuition than on an actual garden plan. Doesn’t that sound like such a wonderful California thing to say?!

Some outstanding features of this contemporary California garden include:

o A coastal Live Oak tree from the region

o Dots of color provided by flowering plants like purple hop bushes and lavender

o A combination of native and rare, exotic plants typically featuring textural foliage

o A design that requires you to actually enter and explore the garden to find all of its little surprises in the twists and turns

4. Valentine Garden

How can you not think of romance when you think of a place named the Valentine Garden? This garden in Montecito, California was created by landscape designer Isabelle Greene, while the home that goes with it was created by architect Paul Gray. The home is a great example of minimalist sculpture and the garden is a more abstract form of beauty that encases it.

Outstanding features of the design of the Valentine garden include:

o Explosions of colorful plant life throughout the garden set against a general grey-green plant background

o Combination of flowering plants and desert cacti

o A well-planned design that requires minimal watering, which is certainly an issue of great importance to the modern Californian

o Multi-level garden design that keeps the entire experience interesting

o A small minimal Zen courtyard to bring the home and garden together

5. Stringfellow Garden

The suburbs of Los Angeles, like Malibu, may get a lot of attention but Los Angeles proper is also home to some beautiful and amazing contemporary California gardens. For example, it is home to the Stringfellow Garden, a garden that was created as part of a contemporary add-on to a 1920’s Spanish style LA home.

The main goal of this garden was to create a seamless transition between the inside and the outside of the home. This makes perfect sense in a place like Southern California where you can easily spend significant amounts of time outside thanks to the great weather. This effect was achieved in part by making sure that the architectural add-on featured lots of glass and windows opening directly on to the garden itself.

The designers took great advantage of the fact that the garden can be enjoyed all year long by adding plants that bloom year-round, such as a set of climbing roses that attach to the house and really toe that indoor/ outdoor line. There are a lot of strong and bold colors in the plant life of this garden. However, there are also some softer touches, like a water-lily pool surrounded by paths of river rocks.


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  • english-zone profile image

    english-zone 5 years ago

    A garden will always be a good place for my imagination. Thanks for sharing this hub, it allow me to experience a beauty.

  • rsusan profile image

    Rika Susan 6 years ago from South Africa

    Strolling through a garden is good for the soul. As is reading about gardens. Thanks for a beautiful hub, Kathryn.

  • thoughts220 profile image

    thoughts220 6 years ago from India

    Wow. Beautiful.