Nontraditional Japanese Garden in Arroyo Grande, CA by Jeffrey Gordon Smith

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When you think “Pacific Rim,” do you think “Japanese garden”? That’s what these owners of a residence that sits high up on the Nipomo Mesa in Arroyo Grande, CA, wanted when they consulted landscape architect Jeffrey Gordon Smith … and this delightful layout is the result. As the designer explains, “We incorporated a major element of Japanese gardens — the ‘borrowed landscape.’ Abstracting the quilt work of the farm fields, the ipe deck boards alternate directions, and raised concrete planters planted with succulents in crop rows add a twist to the usual thought of a Japanese Garden.” The pattern of the ipe decking does, indeed, form quilt squares, an ingenious way that hardscape material can bring something much softer to mind. The warmth of the red succulent plants, all in a row, adds a dash of color to the surroundings.

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And, the designer continues, “Beyond the deck, up to the bluff edge, drifts of mostly native plants abstract the distant dunes in softer curvaceous flows.” You can see gentle curves that begin even before the dunes: check out the cacti and pebbles in one raised bed around a wooden “water feature.” And if you’re thinking that those stone paths add just the right amount of curve and symmetry to the space from house to bluff, you’re seeing what the designer intended: “The deck creates a generous flow from the residence to the seating area, provided by the planter walls and bench, by the red recycled glass fire pit.” Can’t you just imagine an evening in this peaceful spot, with a crackling flame glowing against the glass? Peaceful and tranquil as any garden in Japan!

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