Rustic Canyon: Garden Ghosts vs Terremoto

This project is a tough one to describe so I shall just begin. There’s a house located in Rustic Canyon, a secluded, wooded ravine of a neighborhood in Los Angeles. The site is moments from the ocean but psychologically speaking, feels like it hovers on a magical cloud a thousand miles from the megalopolis in which it actually sits.

The house is a curious architectural amalgam; a handsome, expansive, shingled American Craftsman-style place, with a deconstructivist ‘lamprey’ form offering itself as the front entrance. This post-modern assembly is a very early work designed by the one and only Frank Gehry… and honestly I quite prefer it to his later formal megaliths. Why? Well, I enjoy post-modernism when it performs like a virus, as it does here.

And the garden! The garden was a sublime, neglected, overgrown mess when my landscape architecture practice, Terremoto, was called in. Thus our task was partly to re-envision the space and partly to curate and refine the existing plantings on site. There were mature, spindly Australian tree ferns (Cyathea cooperi), various orbs of camellias (Camellia sasanqua) and brambles of toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia). We began by deleting and editing, removing a large number of dead Pittosporum trees, a tremendous amount of invasive ivy and Eucalyptus, and pruning everything we wanted to keep. And then we got down to fucking business.

We wanted to shatter a rambling Big Sur garden and scatter those pieces into a wild Colombian jungle.

We wanted to paint a native California hillside like a lacquered veneer of the Australian coast. And, moreover, we wanted to deconstruct an English rose garden and throw the chunks into a feral Angeleno hillside.

At Terremoto we believe that plant species exist in culturally applied ‘worlds’ and we believe that through superimposing plants from different worlds on top of one another, we can create new juxtapositions, new dialogues, and explore possible horticultural futures. To create new landscapes, we can superimpose visions of the past.

So we layered in new tree ferns, Sansevieria, agaves, native ferns, fragrant sages and a number of dusty purple roses. We planted creeping wild California lilac (Ceanothus) to hold back the hillside, textural silver acacias to buffer views, and a giant silver Deodar Cedar to fill a void where we had removed a particularly large, dead tree. We transplanted Furcraeas, we got lost in Euphorbias in the understory and we trimmed the camellias into floating clouds. We had plans but we also believe in the power of the almighty on-site freestyle.

The resulting garden is a horticultural casserole of moments past and present, of worlds native and non. We quite like it and hope you do too.

Terremoto Landscape’s website is here.