Payne Foundation garden tour

April 12th was a sailing day with Warren and April 13th I went on the Payne Foundation garden tour. I've made 8 or so blog posts since then because I've been trying to codify the lessons that I learned on the tour. My goal was to refine my nascent design sensibilities while visiting houses similar in scale to mine. So the Beverly Hills and Brentwood properties are off the list today, as is Quail Hollow; suburban lots approximately 50 x 100 are on the list.

Three types of sedge make a mowable lawn. I saw this last year and it had just been planted. It's filled in nicely since then and been recently mown, so it's hard to tell the difference between sedges.

Of course, Festuca Rubra makes a lawn too:

Don't forget specimen plants. This Palo Verde shrub is not native, but it fits in.

Here, different Mimulus subspecies provide flower contrast while maintaining foliage continuity.

The painted wall makes the flowers pop.

Repetition or "call and response". Juncus repeats here:
Red foliage on natal plum (? not a native, so far as I know) repeats and provides continuity. Robust plastic bender board is a favorite of mine, used here a couple inches above the gravel path to contain and to make a bed within the border.

Repetition or massing - maybe they bridge together at some point:

Native grassses were widely used. Festuca Californica
More Festuca Californica next to a neighbor's non-native property. The grasses were popular garden plants, not represented here in proportion to how many there were.
Grasses to the right and left. Poppies infill. Both sides of the sidewalk are used.

What on earth are these Ceanothus "Ray Hartmann" and Cercis Occidentalis doing in such a narrow side yard?

Ah, now we can see what they're doing. This garden theme was repeated throughout the property.
I guess the lesson is "Don't be afraid to groom / prune / modify /train your plants." This sunflower? (name forgotten at the moment) and adjacent Ceanothus have been pruned pretty aggressively.

All these houses garden the parkway / parking strip / street side plant area. I should too.

Side yard of mystery, nicely punctuated a red exclamation point. The sound of water draws you forward:

Here's where the water sound comes from, at the top of the landing just visible above.

I visited a larger and wilder garden in Topanga as my last stop:

Rest point at the end of a busy day:


  1. Great post. Very informative, and I love the photos.

    Jan Always Growing

  2. An excellent study. Thanks for sharing.

  3. That looks amazing. I wanted to go to that but the Poppy Preserve won out this time.. maybe next year!

  4. It's not always obvious or intuitive what plants can take regular or aggressive pruning. Ceanothus is one that can. That espalier looks fantastic. How awesome it must be when the Cercis blooms alongside.

  5. I feel like my efforts at understanding garden design are paying off. It wasn't too hard to identify many of these design elements. The trick, of course, is to be able to implement it as well as to know it when you see it.

    Charlie - Thanks. I liked your Poppy Preserve pictures.

    chuck b. - The espalier was even more fantastic because I was surprised by it. That particular house is urban infill and the yard (read "minimum required setback" for "yard") was very small. I thought they really did a good job of picking their plants. The home was open for the tour as well, and almost more of a treat. The owner / architects live and work there.

  6. Further: The urban infill house with espaliered Ceanothus has a related web page which I've just found: