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Style : GARDENS : Decked Out

May 19, 1991|ROBERT SMAUS

Glossy green lawns are missing, yet garden designer Christine Rosmini's projects always seem intrinsically Californian. Earthy paths meander around drought-tolerant plants, and multiple patios offer protected places to sit or dine.

Rosmini's style is evident in the Palos Verdes garden of Ann and Dave Bauer. Where there was once a sloping, nearly-impossible-to-mow lawn, there is now a patio of adobe brick and a deck that extends the level section of the garden, more than doubling the size of usable yard space. Raised beds of recycled concrete bring fascinating plants closer to eye level. In one spot, a path cuts through the beds, making a concrete canyon.

The Bauers, with lower maintenance and water bills in mind, asked Rosmini for "no lawn anywhere and a pond." The new garden, which replaced a ho-hum lawn, ground-covering junipers and Algerian ivy, can go without care or water for a week or more. Visually, Rosmini's color scheme is striking: Most plants are Mediterranean gray-green rather than tropical bright green.

Because this beachside location is often too cold for outdoor dining, Rosmini built a large fence to block ocean breezes. Now the patio remains warm even on foggy days, and heat-loving waterlilies grow in the ornamental pond. The elegantly designed seating area is a Rosmini signature--she uses built-in benches and a movable table in almost all of her gardens.

Although a pond may seem inappropriate in water-restricted Southern California, Rosmini looked to similar dry-climate areas where ornamental ponds and fountains play an important part in the residential landscape. When water is scarce and puddles uncommon, it is psychologically soothing to see standing water in the garden. Furthermore, Rosmini points out, very little water is actually lost to the atmosphere, certainly less than a lawn loses during a week, and the covering of lily pads and other plants cuts evaporation even further.

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