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STYLE : GARDENS : Horse Heaven

August 30, 1992|ROBERT SMAUS

Liz and Allan Rosen-Ducat wanted to tame their 2 1/2-acre horse property in Malibu, to turn it into a working ranch as hospitable to animals as it is to humans. With Santa Monica landscape architect Pamela Burton and her partner, Katherine Spitz, the Rosen-Ducats reined in a runaway lawn with Texas privet hedgerows and paths wide enough for two horses, or their Kubota tractor, to pass. The "rational agrarian" plan produced a kind of farm grid, albeit gussied up and shrunk to manageable size.

Many features were laid out especially for the couple's six horses, including the pasture, paddocks, hay barn and stables (by Beverly Hills architect Ruben Ojeda) and exercise arena. "Sometimes we thought the horses were the clients," says Spitz, who avoided anything poisonous because the four miniature horses tend to nibble. The most colorful plants, including native sage, matilija poppies, rockroses and Mexican evening primrose, are concentrated around the house and patio. Pacific Coast iris and chain fern grow in the shade, California lilac blooms in the sun and penstemon, daylilies, tulbaghia and graceful ornamental grasses thrive along the paths.

People figure into this idyllic picture, too. Amid the sycamores and toyons, next to the existing pool, stand a new cabana and pergola, and from a sturdy branch hangs that rural necessity, a rope swing. An orchard and raised beds yield fruit and vegetables for the table (plus extra carrots for the horses). The Rosen-Ducats let almost nothing go to waste. They recycle as much as they can, from kitchen scraps to manure, in a 10-ton compost heap. This ranch garden demands hours of work to run smoothly, but once the chores are done, it offers its share of beautiful plants and "creature comforts."

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