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STYLE : GARDENS : Courting Quiet

August 23, 1992|SUSAN HEEGER

The route from the street to Jim and Linda Ries' front door leads through a fragrant, tree-shaded court, where water music drowns traffic noise and vine-clad walls block out any evidence of neighbors. Once a typical lawn and driveway in Encino, this hidden garden is now ideal for private outdoor living. "It's given us an extra room," says Jim Ries, "a transition from the public realm to the house inside." A recessed bench invites repose between planters full of horsetail grass and cannas. A purple plum tree set in a plum-colored corner cools a sunny spot, while splashy hybrid tea roses offer visual interest just beyond the garden gate.

Inspired by walled gardens the Rieses had seen during trips to Europe, Mexico and the Orient, theirs was designed by landscape architect Mia Lehrer as an eclectic California version of the classic Mediterranean courtyard. Its floor is made of bouquet canyon stone, its gates suggest French Art Deco design, some of its ornamental pots are Chinese ironstone and the sound of its trickling water can be traced to a tiny Japanese garden Lehrer created beside the front door. Nevertheless, the plein air retreat does all the work of an ancient Andalusian patio transported to modern Los Angeles. It also gives Jim Ries' prized orchids their own small, protected place in the sun.

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