Cram-it: La Jolla Edition

Let’s return to a small, but well-designed front garden in La Jolla CA…while I don’t pretend to know all the plants, I’ll treat this as a design exercise, since for most of us, we don’t have a prayer of growing some of the plants. It’s z 11a / Sunset Zone 24, a couple blocks from the Pacific Ocean.

Yes, I took quite a few photos on my several day trip to see my aunt in San Diego! This is a “cram-it-style” garden.

Photos from 1/9/2014 –

the whole front area is treated…a quick study on how this works…


My thoughts (I won’t pretend to know each plant)

a) wild forms mix with warm-region architecture, overstory and understory
b) xeric species, for most part (except Miscanthus spp)
c) function – walk through front to front door, scaled for space
d) plants in scale with space, architecture, and eventual size
e) using color (roses, succulents) as splashes, bones elsewhere
f) roses, which can get mildew in this damp, mild coastal climate, are limited
g) some plants pruned tightly, others allowed to grow naturally or spread (echoes of Philip Leveridge’s work and own home garden)
h) assymetrical balance (San Antonio Shirley)
i) so much variety, nicely composed and unified (Tucson Chris, Austin Deb)
j) small infill lot, making it all count – somehow serene
k) the Yucca rostrata skirt of dead foliage was left (more stately this way)

now my close-up, where more detail is evident

Do you see what makes this front garden work, or that you might do differently?

Since I failed to get some closer shots of this place, you can bet I’ll post more on it after my next San Diego trip.


9 Replies to “Cram-it: La Jolla Edition”

  1. What an orderly yet intriguing garden. It fits the house so well. Wish I lived in La Jolla, that’s for sure!

    It’s a nice front space, I’m buying it before you!


  2. What a handsome house to go with the garden. I love the whole thing.

    And I just now noticed the house color…perfect. Next time, I’ll at least get out of my car and get some hardscape, paving, close-up shots…


  3. This is lovely. I like it all….house, plants..all.
    And, that tall cactus. I don’t think I’ve seen one of those in bloom.

    I don’t think I have, either! Can’t you picture some variation on this, but with hardier plant substitutes, in a small patio home community, in San Antonio? A great look for small spaces.


  4. A very SURE hand in this garden.

    I can see the interiors exactly, from the garden.

    Oh my the humidity……..heat in Atlanta. Even worse in Auburn, AL at a commercial jobsite we’re doing.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

    Yes to both – I have a feeling on the interior. Not quite sure in the private garden areas…

    Ouch, I remember Mtgy heat and humidity! 60’s much of this morning w/ rain…enjoying it, prob a last 95-100+ stretch on way!


  5. Love this very much…except…except for the ball pruned grasses. WTH?

    Ha, the larger grasses globe-pruned I like…it’s the smaller, different grasses that is done to on the left that get me down!


  6. I could so live there.

    Same here, it’s amazing.

    One motive for me to get the guts and knock on the door (my reply to the last comment), is to see what garden or terrace lurks inside! It has to be incredible for their private space, if this is the public side. At least to find out how they came to this design and who designs / maintains it.

    Time to look on Google Earth for a peek…haven’t yet…found it.


  7. The view shown is delightful – a great mix of textures, shapes, color and size. It looks very carefully planned out for all its artful disarray. I have agave that lean out past the street curbing. I snip the sharpest points off those leaves so passersby and folks exiting parked vehicles aren’t even accidentally harmed. So far having the tips missing doesn’t seem to have hurt the plants. Agave and foot traffic can co-exist peacefully under those circumstances.

    What is that large grey cylindrical object to the left of the drive? Is that a fountain of some sort? I’d love to see a closer look there when you go back!

    It really is a plant collector’s garden, but thought out well – design to maintenance. Most collector’s gardens are a terrible mess.

    Your technique on sniping agave tips is a good one for low-traffic spaces, and it works on a number of plants.

    I missed that item – looks like a tile fountain. Shame on me for taking my pics from my car, never stepping out. I guess I will have to return and take more pics. Not bold enough to knock on the door, but I might…


  8. It’s balanced without being symmetrical.

    There is an anti-pruning bias currently trending especially for xeric landscapes. Clipping a few plants creates a good contrast with the free-flowing plants and tames space for the eye to linger. Too many native plant gardens lack structure.

    Thanks – I don’t think I noticed that before, while thinking what I might cover in these pics, so I’ll add that to my notes.

    Pruning – exactly, this is a difference from thoughtlessly pruning, and thoughtless no-pruning. That front garden is so much more sculptural and interesting this way…picture those 2 grasses allowed to be sprawly…the whole scene would blend in. Now, it has form and contrast.


  9. Now hopefully that huge agave doesn’t block the walking path, but I like the variations of plant form. It really accents the entrance to the building nicely. Plus I’m a a sucker for cactus….and that tall lovely plant is a delight! It looks similar to our San Pedro Cactus here in Tucson….but I also get the sense it’s a bit more frost sensitive. Great front yard…..xeriscaping at its best!

    Yeah, that agave gets big in often frost-free La Jolla! Isn’t it great what they can grow there…huge cacti like that, roses going all winter. (though a mild winter like ours’) Glad for your visit, I-10 neighbor!


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