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Bluff Top Garden

Corona del Mar, CA

This three-quarter acre site garden sits atop bluffs rising 400 feet above sea level. Containment of bluff-top erosion presented the most serious challenge, along with consideration for the existing heavy salt spray and prevailing winds. The successful resolution of both issues required a carefully curated palette of resilient plants. Sculptural undulations in the bluffs were taken advantage of when locating twin terraces, which look as if they are carved by the ocean, fulfilling the client’s program to add areas for dining and entertaining. To reduce the potential of erosion, dry-stacked walls, steps and terraces allow water infiltration, and invisible subdrains dissipate rainwater. The shapes of hardy, drought tolerant plants recall the forms and colors of marine life in the tide pools below, while brilliantly colored Flax and Aloes provide bright counterpoints to the soft greens of the surrounding landscape. The total ensemble of these elements is a reminder of the close proximity of the underwater gardens. Landscape Architecture Magazine praised this garden as an exemplar of appropriate design and technical handling of a sensitive site, while Sunset Western Landscaping book and Martha Stewart Living highlighted the regionally appropriate and beautiful plants selected for this well-loved, spectacular oceanfront property. The garden was recognized with the 1999 American Society of Landscape Architects, Southern California Chapter Award for integration with a unique ocean front site.