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Bali in San Diego.

Pavdion on poles, tropical garden, indoor-outdoor rooms. The owners started with a plain house and a brush-fifled wash

"What island are we on?" This garden induces a heady sort of confusion. The air is fragrant with ginger and plumeria. A tall pavilion, set amid stately palm trees and feathery bamboos, is capped with spiky Balinese tiles. In three small ponds, rare waterfowl paddle about. From a distant beach comes the muted shush of breaking waves. All conspire to make guests feel they've been transported to a distant, exotic world.

Actually, the garden is just north of San Diego, and a few years ago its site was little more than an inaccessible, brushfilled wash that carried runoff water to the beach. One of the busiest local roads ran along the uphill side of the property, and the dark and dreary two-bedroom house below had no privacy or usable outdoor entertaining space.

Where others were discouraged, La Jolla landscape architect Todd Fry saw only potential--in both the house and the gully alongside it. In five years of weekend work, he remodeled the house and created the garden you see on these pages.

Linking indoor spaces to outdoor views

Inside, Fry opened the ceiling to the roof line, added skylights and French doors for brightness, and reoriented views toward the garden. Outside, he wrapped a generous deck around the back of the house and extended it, with a boardwalk-bridge, to an elevated pavilion.

The pavilion establishes the exotic but contemporary look of both house and garden. Four tall pressure-treated fir poles, spaced 8 feet apart, rise near the palms to support the pavilion's square floor and gently flaring roof. On a trip to Bali, Fry found the ceramic ridge caps that run along the pyramid-shaped roof's four spines; he had them glazed a jade green to contrast with the other, more subdued building materials.

A slender bridge runs 18 feet from the main deck to the pavilion. By positioning the structure this far out into the garden, Fry created a vantage point with views out to the ocean, back to the house, and down into the garden. (The ocean view was hard-won: he had to trim and remove trees on his own and on neighboring properties.)

Steep banks and the house itself enclose the garden on three sides, sheltering grassy areas for people and multilevel ponds for ducks and geese. The ponds capture runoff water, which is recirculated by submersible pumps. A low wire fence confines the fowl to the pond area in the daytime; at night, they're protected in a wire cage built under the pavilion.

Lush but low-care landscape

The garden is a rich palette of greens. At its upper edge, along the busy street, tall oleanders screen off both traffic and a new sound-diffusing concrete-block wall. Star jasmine and Vinca major cover most of the steep slope also planted with bird of paradise, Mexican weeping bamboo, and a variety of palm trees.

Through the flat areas runs a ribbon of blended fescue lawn bordered by narrow beds of ground covers, ferns, gingers, round-leafed ligularia, and sculpturallooking plumerias. For dry footing, a path of precast concrete squares is inset in the lawn. For all its lushness, the garden is easy to maintain and surprisingly low in its water requirements.

The tropical look continues inside the house. By removing the original flat ceiling and every other ceiling joist (and doubling the remaining joists), Fry gave the living room a grander sense of volume, with sight lines extending past the rafters. The exposed roofing was insulated and covered with bamboo screening stained to match the trim of the deck railing.
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Date:Jun 1, 1989
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