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STYLE: GARDENS : Border Control

October 30, 1994|ROBERT SMAUS

The parkway, that miserable little strip of baked soil next to the street, is a gardening no man's land. It's the property of the city, the responsibility of the homeowner and a joy to neither. Often trampled and frequently mined with dog droppings and litter, the parkway is a tough place to grow anything other than gazanias or grass (the only thing some cities allow), and sometimes even those two stalwarts fail.

Not about to give up on their curbside garden, Phillip and Shirley Levine of Bel-Air hired designer Jack Wheeler of Woodland Hills for one last try. "They said I could do anything, but only once. They were tired of schemes that didn't work," he says. So after installing extra sprinklers to compensate for the greedy roots of gnarled old peppermint trees ( Agonis flexuosa ), he chose a luxuriant but low-maintenance mix of flowering shrubs and perennials, and treated the parkway like an English perennial border.

Under the shade, Wheeler used plants that need only a half-day or less of sun: white abutilons, sasanqua camellias and, surprisingly, cape mallow (\o7 Anisodontea\f7 ). In front grow red coral bells, gray-green helichrysum and a pale pink-flowered true geranium named 'Biokovo', punctuated by clumps of grasslike \o7 Liriope\f7 'Silver Dragon'.

A saucer magnolia, princess flower, kangaroo paws, lavatera, violet \o7 Lavandula multifida\f7 and purple Mexican sage thrive were there is considerably more sun. The trick, Wheeler says, was creating a seamless blend of the sun-loving and the shade-tolerant. Now about 3 years old, this lush and satisfying garden suggests that there are imaginative new ways to plant--even on a parkway.

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