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Call it a California impressionist garden.

Call it a California impressionist garden More arid than the landscapes that inspired impressionist painters, this garden in Montecito, California, still resembles those luminous scenes: plants with bold-colored flowers or foliage lap at sandstone boulders while more delicate perennials appear as bright spatters between them.

The garden's owners are serious plant collectors who value both unusual accent plants and brightly colored perennials, and horticulturist Lynn Woodbury assists them in regularly introducing new plants to the garden. Rob Lane of Rockrose Landscaping came up with the basic design, which has proven suitable for accommodating the diverse and ever-changing plant palette.

Lane's design had to remain cohesive, even with the garden forever "in progress." To meet this challenge, he took advantage of existing site features such as boulders and oaks; emphasized water-thrifty plants; and, to tie it together, placed certain permanent plants (chosen for their long bloom or striking foliage as well as unthirstiness) in clusters throughout the garden. Most prominent of these backbone plants are New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax 'Maori Queen') and Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha).

First step in creating the garden was to clear an overgrown flat area amid native oaks; next was to bring in topsoil, and sculpt contours.

Sandstone boulders collected on the site form a framework for the plants. For continuity, Lane also used sandstone for the garden paths and beneath the oaks. Its neutral color provides a calming backdrop for the plants' riotous ones.

Among the permanent plants grow perennials that provide seasonal bloom. These include arctotis, helianthemum, Shasta daisies, and bright yellow coreopsis. Geranium sanguineum and pink-flowered diascia edge the lawn. Large plants--such as Aloe ferox and A. speciosa--add accents in spots throughout the garden.

Even when experimental plants are moved in and others moved out, the tried-and-true mass plantings at the core of the garden remain intact.
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Date:Nov 1, 1989
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