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Creating a Grand Illusion

     "Kathleen Irvine moves carefully past tufts of New Zealand hair sedge that flank the skinny path, ducks under the silver-leafed willow wattle and unlatches the tall gate.  Then it's a few paces to an elegant, raised redwood deck with extra-large steps that double as seating, overlooking a Lilliputian landscape of dwarf trees and grasses, thread-leaf nandina, mossy rocks and a "Stickman" sculpture cooling his heels in a bubbling stream.

     A curtain of gold and green 'Alphonse Karr' bamboo encloses the restful tableau, a serene mountain landscape that seems hollowed out of a forest. Of course, it isn't.  Not here in Venice, not in a backyard with less than 1,200 square feet of usable space.  The magnitude of the garden is only an illusion, a collection of visual and spatial tricks employed to make a small lot seem larger...

     Irvine, owner of Blue Gecko Lanscape Design, created the landscape for independent fim producer Dan Abrams, who wanted a casual backyard retreat with room for company.  The design needed to include a Larry Bell sculpture he admired, but his principle goal was to "make the space bigger."

     How do designers accomplish that mission, especially when faced with backyards with so little ground to work with?  Think simple and small, Irvine says.  The solution lies in manipualting scale and proportion, in color and form.  The garden design often doesn't need to fool the eye; it just needs to distract it.
LA Times, November 3rd, 2005


Taking Creativity up to the Edge

     A number of eccentric parking strips have sprouted in Venice, where old street trees are dying out and garden space is at a premium... "Parking strips are tiny, unattractive areas with uncomfortable shapes, " says Kathleen Irvine, principal of Blue Gecko Landscape Design.  "They're difficult to water and usually hotter than other areas because of reflected heat off the asphalt and cement."

     She points out that in places such as Venice, foot traffic influences design.

     "It's important to keep the sidewalk clear and retain the sense of open neighborliness peculiar to this area," she says.

     For a strip 4 feet wide and 30 feet long, Irvine incorporated the sturdy Lilliputian flowering perennials Geranium harveyi, Cistus salviifolius, Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' and Anigozanthos 'Bush Ranger' (one of the dwarf kangaroo paws) with dainty ruby grass (Melinus nerviglumis).  Spring-blooming freesias and babianas rise through patches of wooly thyme and mulch. Stone paths and wide spacing between plants allow for foot traffic to the sidewalk."
LA Times, May 25th, 2006


Website by Diana Hamann Design
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Photography by Kathleen Irvine
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Content © 2005 blue gecko landscape design.  All rights reserved.
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