With the right encouragement, even a small garden can become a great estate. Take the pint-size Venice lot of Susan Ashbrook, public relations representative for Los Angeles-based fashion designer Richard Tyler. In front and out back, every scrap of ground around her 1930s bungalow is swathed in green or equipped for outdoor dining and loafing.
Conceived by Ashbrook as an L.A. version of European city gardens, it begins near the street with billows of drought-tolerant Korean grass ( Zoysia tenuifolia ), artemisia and blue fescue. From there, it slips behind a gate and runs along a sunny dining patio into the shade of an old Pittosporum undulatum tree. A renovated fountain is the focus of the back-yard glade, bedecked with urns, stone cherubs and other vintage gems. Venice garden artist Jay Griffith created a crazy rug of groundcovers, adding wild strawberry ( Fragaria chiloensis ), yarrow and wandering jew ( Tradescantia fluminensis ) to Ashbrook's carpet of baby's tears. He also pumped up the visual volume around a pool with massed society garlic ( Tulbaghia violacea ), dietes and papyrus. Pond specialist Don Hamburger of the Topanga-based company Aquasphere helped get the fountain going and supplied iris hybrids, cannas and miniature grasses and lilies, as well as goldfish and a turtle.