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Little water, big effect: secrets of Mediterranean-style gardens.

Mediterranean themes lend subtle beauty to these three California gardens. To create their striking effects, all rely on heat-tolerant plants, decorative paving, and water in some form. Colors and textures in the gardens echo those found in the surrounding landscape. Plants are used sparingly, and some-such as the wind-shielding dwarf olives shown in the lower picture at far right-are functional as well as attractive.

Accent plants can take the heat

In the Montecito garden above, landscape designer Tim Doles made a 'James Walker' bougainvillea the commanding presence in the landscape. He positioned the towering vine so its reddish purple bracts reflect boldly in the water, giving color from two directions. At the pond's edge, potted plants provide seasonal color when aquatic iris are not in bloom.

For owners Bill Pasich and Barbara Knox of Santa Barbara, landscape designer Owen Dell selected plants that withstand the harsh winds that sweep the hilltop garden shown in the large picture on the opposite page. Combined for contrast in color and texture, choices include California native sandbill sage (Artemisia pycnocephala), with soft silvery white leaves, and gray-green 'Little Ollie', a fruitless dwarf Mediterranean olive.

Innovative paving-not just to walk on

Paving can create interesting alternatives to thirsty plants if materials are chosen for appealing texture, color, and pattern. In the garden above, the textured surface consists of sunburst pebbles mortared between lichen flagstone (for a more detailed look, see this month's cover). The subtle coloration provides a quiet backdrop for vivid blooms.

In garden at top right, designed by Santa Barbara landscape architect Isabelle C. Greene, slate wraps around a papyrus-ringed pond. Spaces between the slate are filled with gray gravel, which meanders through the garden like moving water. At far right, sandstone boulders at spa's edge link the garden with its natural surroundings.

What about ponds if water's scarce?

These gardens' water features are small and shallow; the ponds are less than 2 feet deep, the spa 4 feet. According to Kevin Miles, water resources specialist for the Montecito Water District, "a landscape with a small pond surrounded by paving and unthirsty plants demands less water than a lawn of equal size." Even so, in areas with severest shortages, wait to install ponds until more water is available. You can plan your garden now and set out drought-tolerant plants in fall after the first good rains.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 1, 1990
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