Debbie Gliksman designs outdoor spaces with the future in mind. “Although I try to give my gardens the good bones to last indefinitely, plants are not like furniture that stays as you bought it,” explains Gliksman, landscape designer and owner of Urban Oasis in Los Angeles, California. “A garden is a living thing with constant flux and change.”
When it came time to tackle her own property, she worked around the large swimming pool that dominated the yard. The pool is original to the house that was built by the understudy of Esther Williams (the famed swimming musical actress). Gliksman likes to entertain and spend time in the garden, but the configuration was far from user-friendly, so function was at the forefront of the redesign.
Gliksman chose a flagstone that would complement the blue of the water, and she cleared the corners around the pool as much as possible for better traffic flow. “I kept all the paving the same material and went right up to the pool coping to really expand the space,” she says. “I also kept the color palette almost monochromatic with variations of reds and greens.”
She made the most of an awkward corner with a built-in circular bench. “I wanted to soften the lines of the pool by creating a garden with a lot of curves. I had a vision of a corner bench with a tree for shade,” says Gliksman, who planted three budget-friendly saplings that form a wider silhouette when joined together. They have already shown significant growth in the two years since the installation.
A Euphorbia cotinifolia was placed after the flagstone was laid. “I wanted to create a sort of screen to add a little mystery by obscuring the view of the bench,” says Gliksman, who likes to create outdoor rooms. “I find that if you have different destinations, you will pull people out to different parts of the garden.”
Eco-friendly elements abound. Plants are drought tolerant with drip irrigation; paving is permeable to allow rainwater to flow back to the water table; and the concrete that was removed was used for the bench and the raised bed. “My contractor did such a fabulous job on the construction that you'd be hard-pressed to see that they aren’t built of natural stone,” says Gliksman. The creative designer recycled and propagated plants from previous jobs and her former garden, too. In fact, she only invested $200 in new varieties.
Though she stuck to a limited color palette for plants, she still wanted texture and color. “I chose high performers like kangaroo paw, Alstroemeria, daylilies, and Calandrinia. I also used a lot of blue-gray foliage plants such as Senecio mandraliscae, blue oat grass, and blue fescue. Lastly, I added red foliage like euphorbia blackbird, New Zealand flax, and dwarf red fountain grass,” says Gliksman.
Entertaining is easier thanks to a small but efficient barbeque grill that provides ample storage and counter space for cooking. “Nearby [I] have some herbs, cherry tomatoes on the obelisk, and strawberries,” says Gliksman. “In the front yard, I have two raised beds with vegetables and more herbs.”
Water elements add ambience. “There is something so soothing about the soft sound of water trickling, and just watching the water cools you down,” says Gliksman, who has two fountains: one in a large glazed container that mimics the color of the pool, and another inside an antique terra-cotta container.
There’s more to this space than meets the eye. Special treasures from her travels, like the mercury glass stars from Mexico and the rocks from various locales, dot the landscape with a deeper meaning. “It makes the garden personal,” she says.