A pool garden with imperfect symmetry

Sometimes a photographer doesn’t mind a brightly clad garden writer in the shot to add perspective and scale.
We were lined up several deep to take this money shot. Patience is a virtue.

Huge thanks go to horticultural therapist Margaret Nevett who, years ago at a Master Gardener meeting, suggested that I join the Garden Writers of America (GWA) – now called the Garden Writers Association. Every year, the GWA Symposium takes us to a different part of North America for a balance of professional development and garden story tours. In 2015, it was Pasadena, CA.

That’s where I found myself elbowing a busload of other garden writers for the best position to photograph this gorgeous garden. Let’s not talk about it much here. Just scroll and enjoy.

Laid out in a cruciform design, this garden is all about the rectangles and circles. Even the pleached trees in the background (is there a term for the 4-stemmed version?) are squares within squares within a square.
There’s something pleasing about stepping stones across water. Attractive, too, in the “come walk on us” sense of the word.
The big pool stretched along the main axis of the cross. Along the short axis, the pool plantings had a symmetrical design. From the viewing point here, and there are loungers to enjoy it from, there’s a nice difference between left and right. The spiky plants at the far end are also asymmetrical. Too much symmetry might have felt constricting.
Here’s what you get beyond the agaves at the far end – this vine-covered pergola and courtyard with fountain.
To the right of the garden gate, this building with its ocular window faces the entry courtyard.
Passing into the garden, you see it houses a dining area and bar. The archways look to be the same
proportion and shape as the two smaller pools on the short axis, don’t they? I hadn’t noticed that before.
A close look at the garden gate. The pillars on either side were constructed to be immense planters. You can glimpse the main entrance to the dining pavilion on the right.
Stepping back, you see the same view from the building across the entry court.
Frankly, I have no idea what this building was. A garage, perhaps? Repeated squares and rectangles
tie it all together. Only in climates like California’s might you get away with this grass treatment.
Skewing the perspective, you can identify the trees in the large parterres as some kind of citrus. Limes, perhaps?
Closer to the door, these frosty green urns with their colour-matched succulents.
And, on either side, hedges clipped into squares. I’m not sufficiently schooled in hedging plants
for Mediterranean climates, but they almost look like bay (Laurus nobles). Perhaps my U.S. friends
can set me straight. But by coincidence, I wrote about similar clippery just a few days ago.

So tell me, Toronto gardeners: Are you interested in seeing gardens outside of our area – even way, way outside, like this one? When you write a blog called “Toronto Gardens,” you want to know.


  1. This garden reminds really me of Parkwood with the pools and linear lines – even the seating area reminds me of the little café where Joanne & I had a coffee.

    As the kids are getting older now, I feel as if I would be more amenable to traveling beyond my own area in order to see interesting gardens or attend garden related festivals. Of course, the further you travel the more it generally costs, so that would be a consideration as well, especially as gardening for me is a hobby and not a vocation.

    1. Margaret, you should join the GWA. The annual symposium is a great way to connect with other garden communicators (not just writers), learn about the craft and see gardens, relatively inexpensively.

  2. Thanks for sharing this lovely California garden, and for being patient enough to get in line for that money shot of the pool. I love seeing visual tours like this in blogs from all over. The plant that looks like bay might be Portugal laurel (Prunus lusitanica). That's pretty common up here in the Seattle area, but I don't know about California. Or it might actually be bay.

    1. Patience is the difference between the perception (gee, I'm the only person in this lovely garden!) and the reality (what are all those other people doing in my shot??). You got a taste of it at the Fling in Seattle — in fact, you're in a few of my shots, as I probably was in yours. :^) Thanks for the tip on the hedging. Our Zone 5 USDA (Zone 6 Canadian) climate puts limitations on the type of plants that can be hedged. Not many have large leaves.

You might also like