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STYLE: GARDENS : Ground Jewels

August 15, 1993|SUSAN HEEGER

In the flats of Santa Monica, land of patch lawns and fence pickets, Gary and Fre Pokoik's garden stands out like a layered jewel box. Stepping up from the street--from a furry band of blue fescue--its beds burst with species echeverias, dripping ice plant ( Drosanthemum hispidum ), snow-in-summer and ghost plant ( Graptopetalum paraguayense ). Colonies of each shine from their own compartments, embedded like mosaics in a gravel wash. California peppers and floss silk trees ( Chorisia speciosa ) offer shade, and thorny ocotillos rise among Malibu boulders.

Showcasing unusual plants was a goal of West Los Angeles landscape architect Laura Saltzman and her associate, Craig Raines. They massed the plants in undulating groups, both to mitigate the geometry of the house and to guide the viewer's eye around the turn in the corner lot. An added benefit, in a dry, desert-style garden, is the fluid suggestiveness of California gold gravel sluicing from one bed to another.

Pleased by the landscape's low-maintenance toughness, Gary Pokoik has been surprised by its overall lushness. "I imagined something stark and barren," he admits, "but these plants really multiplied." Surging over the walls, lapping into one another, they create a lively tension between nature and architecture. Just as important is the bond between garden and house--the way the greenery climbs the building, the way the building's simple lines seem to reach out through the garden walls into the landscape--as if the two were inseparable.

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