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Pooling Resources

A Landscaping Team Adds Drama at the Water's Edge in a Hidden Hills Garden

September 01, 2002

In 1993, Denise and David Kellogg bought a rambling '70s ranch house in Hidden Hills with plenty of land for children and dogs to romp. What their acre property lacked, despite a few good trees, was character or style. ''It was basically house-plus-lawn,'' remembers landscape architect Rob Steiner, who, with his former business partner, Jay Griffith, arrived in 1997 to make a garden.

The Kelloggs knew what they wanted: bold color, playful shapes, kinetic plants that would toss and catch light outside their windows. Since the Kelloggs have three children--Zach, 15, Ryley, 11, and Makenna, 7--the couple also had to find a way to fence the pool, which was oddly shaped and broadly decked in concrete.

The designers took their cues from the long, low stucco house and from the surrounding landscape of Hidden Hills, where white horse fences etch the grassy hills and pepper trees cast shadows in the summer heat. Instead of breaking up the ranch-like lot, they tried to create a flow with massive sweeps of a few plants, which would repeat like musical themes across the property.

David Kellogg, a director of films and commercials whose last movie was Disney's ''Inspector Gadget,'' sent the designers pictures of his favorite flora--ornamental grasses, succulents and lavender. Not only were these hearty enough for the hot, dry climate, but planted in swaths, they would provide the drama he sought, especially around the pool, which was to be the centerpiece of the new garden.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 22, 2002 Home Edition Los Angeles Times Magazine Part I Page 4 Lat Magazine Desk 0 inches; 20 words Type of Material: Correction
The correct telephone number for landscape architect Rob Steiner ("Pooling Resources," Gardens, Sept. 1) is (323) 931-4425.

First, though, the pool had to be recast as an object worthy of the attention. This involved tearing out its decking, pouring a new, streamlined colored coping, adding eye-catching orange waterline tile and bringing plants close to the water's edge--orange daylilies, stands of juncus grass, a sweep of lavender. In place of paths or deck, the designers laid large concrete rounds, like giant poolside bubbles, and nearby, in a carpet of sedum, they tucked unusual Agave guiengola, with silver leaves like fish fins. To connect the pool terrace with an upper garden and Kellogg's office, which is in a former horse stable, they designed a simple yet imposing staircase. It's partly hidden by a blue wall, which suggests an outdoor stage for living and a certain mystery about other scenes it might conceal. Perhaps the most inspired part of the revamped pool is its semicircular, slide-away electric fence, which Griffith and Steiner designed--and Marina Security Gate built--to run on a track and open a full 48 feet, providing an unobscured view of the garden from the house.

Some plants from the pool edge reappear in front of the house, where the designers carved out an entry walk and added flower-and-shrub borders and alder and pepper trees to screen out the street. On the terrace above, they planted a mixed-grass meadow with a rustic, dreamy softness. In the late afternoon light, when the wind ruffles grasses under the pepper trees, it's not hard to imagine riding off into the sunset for a last look around the ranch.

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