A large clumping Senegal date palm, positioned adjacent to an oversized outdoor fireplace and seating area, serves as a visual balance, as do a cluster of cypress trees along a tile fountain and reflecting pool. Joel Laird Plumighly of San Diego designed the custom tile and animal mask fountain with a Moorish influence that harmonizes with the Spanish Mission elements of the house.
"The cypress anchors the fountain and complements the vertical fireplace," Bliss pointed out.
Bliss and Taitano transformed a previously barren hillside above the fountain into a semiarid garden with dramatic view area. Steep stairs lead past olive and citrus trees, agaves, succulents and cacti. At the summit, a stone seating area capitalizes on the spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.
The formality of the garden design, with straight lines, manicured shrubbery and garden ornamentation, are softened by the informality of the plant palette. "Using tropical and subtropical flowering plants, with mass plantings of uniform color and keeping it simple overall is the key here," Bliss said.
Ever since the Spanish missionaries brought their grapevines, olive trees, roses and herbs, California has been a fertile site for a host of exotic plants. A similar wave of new plant introductions occurred during the 1920s and '30s with exotics including dragon trees, Senegal and other types of palm trees, new camellia species, and New Zealand tea trees.