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Quiet Off the Set

When He's Not Directing Horror Flicks, Wes Craven Revels in the Calm of His Fishpond, Vine-Covered Pergola and Meandering Stream

October 11, 1998|SUSAN HEEGER

He may be known as a master of screams, but at home, Wes Craven likes his peace. What's more, he likes it green. At any time of the day or night, the director of the horror classics "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Shocker" and "Scream" might be roaming in his garden, checking the fishpond and admiring the view. "I'm a late-night guy," he explains. "I'll be out here for the sunset and later, if I'm up all night, I'll wander out and catch the dawn."

Designed two years ago around a mid-century modern house once owned by Steve McQueen, Craven's garden edges a narrow cliff in the Hollywood Hills. Its long, skinny proportions (about 140-by-18 feet) were dictated by the site, which Craven widened by installing a retaining wall and having fill dirt trucked in. Then he hired designer Katherine Glascock of Landscapes Designed in Studio City to create a fence and a garden to go with it.

While conceiving the landscape, Glascock was guided by the home's architecture, the sweeping vista, the baking hilltop and Craven's taste for Japanese and English gardens. The simple house called for a simple fence--one that wouldn't block the view. Also needed, given the hot, exposed site, was sheltered but unobtrusive seating. Her fence and pergola with benches--both constructed of wood posts and steel cables--were inspired by Japanese temple fences. Her plan for an accompanying watercourse was sparked by Craven's desire for an outdoor scene that would reveal itself gradually: The stream begins at a raised koi pond flanked by a Chinese tallow tree and an Australian willow and spills into a channel that runs the length of the garden. At first naturalistic and later formal, the water disappears briefly under paving before re-emerging and flowing into a cistern, to be recycled.

As to the plant palette, Glascock says: "We had to go with what would stay alive in this harsh setting: 'Dainty Bess,' one of the toughest, most reliable roses; natives like California evening primrose and 'Howard McMinn' manzanita; and a few Mediterraneans, snow-in-summer and Spanish lavender." Other perennials that border a deck beside an existing swimming pool include mixed salvias, daylilies and Gaura lindheimeri, with bronze flax for vertical accents. More Australian willows add lacy shadows, and come spring, wisteria drapes the pergola with fragrant blooms.

"There's always something to look at," says Craven, whose interests range widely beyond the horror genre and who, in fact, is currently directing a drama, "50 Violins," starring Meryl Streep. In his garden, where he often strolls with his cats, he has a lot to watch besides his plants: The landscape is alive with red-tailed hawks, turkey buzzards and the occasional raccoon, which arrives quietly to fish for koi. Sometimes, Craven reports with a shudder, the koi themselves go wild and leap from the pond to a grassy death. Most of the time, though, "I'm lucky," he says, "I'll hear them flopping on the lawn and scoop them up and put them back."

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