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GARDENS : Where Only the Bees Are Busy

An Acre of Lavender and Roses, Painted Walls and Bubbling Fountains

June 02, 1996|Susan Heeger

When summer hits Southern California, Peter and Kacey McCoy throw open their French doors and move outside, where the bees hum and heady fragrances herald flowers by the armload. Their Beverly Hills garden--created by landscape designer Nancy Goslee Power and architect Brian Tichenor--features a wide range of alfresco experiences. Mornings might begin with coffee on a terrace reminiscent of a Roman courtyard. On lazy afternoons, a gazebo offers shade; a hillside bench, a leafy garden and canyon views. "When we started," Kacey says, "we wanted places to walk through, to sit in--each with a different mood."

The McCoys also wanted a proper setting for their Mediterranean-style house, which, for years, had been caught between a dull retaining wall and too much empty lawn. The terrace, with its painted walls, fountain and potted citrus and succulents, came first, inspired by Kacey's "love of all things Italian." The pale-toned mural--by New York artist Robert Jackson--evokes antiquity right down to its faux cracks, while the potted plants add a lived-in coziness, softening the stone and framing the view of the landscape beyond. There, in their hilly acre's farther reaches, Kacey says, "I wanted lavender and, of course, roses--as many as possible."

In one simple vignette, a lavender field laps at the trunks of three lemon-scented gum trees. Elsewhere, clipped rosemary and broken concrete provide structure for explosive flower shows: roses, echiums and Santa Barbara daisies running wild on the terraced hill. More roses, iris, valerian and poppies deck the edges of a reflecting pond, where water bubbles from a mossy oil jar into a rill. Another battered urn rises nearby, half-marooned in the vegetation. Like Jackson's mural, these icons--bought new and then distressed--reinforce the illusion of a world surrendering happily to nature, a world where summer never ends.

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