A Dogged Gardener

If you want the privilege of hanging out with my friend Pam and her lovely family in her inviting garden (and maybe enjoy some of her amazing culinary creations), you first have to love her dogs. It helps if you love labs. It’s even better if you also have a lab. We lucked out because we not only have a lab, named Jenny, but she is also a relative of Pam’s pack!
So before you get to enjoy more of Pam’s garden, located around their renovated ranch style home in the hills of Laguna Beach, you must first meet the dogs who have the run of it. Here’s Sadie, also pictured in the first shot, who has a pretty singular focus in her life. See that tennis ball?
This is Golda, who’s the old soul of the bunch. Sadie and Golda have been inseparable for about the last 9 years.
As if two labs aren’t enough, Pam and her husband recently brought home this little girl, named Zelda.
So how do you create and maintain a lovely garden with three dogs frolicking–and doing other things–in it all the time?
I didn’t really interview Pam about how she conceived her garden spaces, and how the dogs figured into them, but I would guess that making them indestructible was a good place to start. Most of the yard is covered with permeable materials, either gravel or concrete pavers with space in between. You can only imagine how important good drainage is in this yard! Even the teak furniture is heavy and enduring.
At least up until the arrival of Zelda…
On a clear day, you can see the Santa Ana foothills and Saddleback Mountain to the east through those cypress trees. Pam has mostly native and drought-tolerant plants, with the California Pepper tree as the focal point of this patio. (See the mint popping up through the pavers?)
This is another plant growing between the pavers. Pam also filled in some of the spaces to create a solid-appearing patio surface using smaller square pavers filled with bits of shell (Click HERE to see close-up.).
Pam, who has been the main force behind the garden, is married to a landscape architect. (Although it’s ironic, it’s apparently not all that unusual for the spouse to take charge of the yard. Or so I’ve heard.) She described the style as loosely Mediterranean.  Everything has a simplicity and openness that creates an inviting, relaxed feel. Perfect for sharing some snacks and g&ts on a warm afternoon.

This is the back of the house, outside of the fireplace.
The yard is refreshing in that it doesn’t have many of the popular “accents” of many landscaping designs, filled with noisy fountains, imposing fire features and excessive stonework. Restraint goes a long way when you have so much natural beauty in the plants, trees and vistas.
All the plantings have an ease about them, which look as if they grow there effortlessly.
 Only gardeners know better.
Pam, who has collected several tons of sea glass over the years, tucked these pavers she made to create pathways through the gravels.
In every corner are surprises, such as this fuchsia in one sideyard.
Privacy is another important feature of this yard, with large shrubs like this Bottlebrush shielding the patio from the neighbors.
She also has looser, flowering perennials (The blue flowers are Salvia Chamaedryoides, according to the all-knowing Dustin over at Non-Secateur blog) that soften the sideyard boundaries.
Pam has set up some large pots, filled with cacti and succulents, that act as a type of visual shield from the terraced space that drops into the far end of the backyard.
Pam’s veggie garden is tucked down behind the backyard into tiered beds.
 A lot of the beauty is up to the visitor to discover and appreciate.
This is the front courtyard, which you enter through a wooden gate at the right.
Pam, who collects beach rocks, has filled the holes of this block wall at the entrance of her home.
Pam has hung little ornaments and grows air plants on the stalks of the large bamboo.
 Did I forget to mention that besides being a great mom, dog lover, chef, and gardener, Pam also is a sculptor?  This is one of her pieces, located outside her front door.
Here is another of Pam’s sculptural pieces, which she carved from a chunk of stone. This is in a small courtyard on the side of the house off the office.
In this same courtyard is a simple outdoor shower, cool rocks and plants, and another of Pam’s sculptures. The rusty chain–intended to hang a bell inside someday–embedded in the gravel is an interesting accent.
She called these “poor man’s orchids.”
These are the jeans of a true gardener/artist! That’s it for the garden tour, but I’ve added a few more photos of Pam’s pack of beauties for any fellow dog lovers out there! If you are lucky, you might be invited to her garden some day!
This is Sadie’s new life. So far, both dogs put up with Zelda’s constant attention…

This is a pretty common example of their tolerance.
Although they won’t admit it, they adore Zelda!
Golda in one of her classic, reflective moments.
The new puppy could learn more than a few things from this smart girl!
 (Golda’s just resting her head here for a few minutes…)
Sadie…in the mint, just dreaming of the next time someone would toss the ball for her.
Golda…reading your mind.

Zelda…bringing new energy, naughtiness and joy to her wonderful new home.

8 thoughts on “A Dogged Gardener

  1. This is a cool garden, simple and relaxing. As u said some plants seem to grow there by nature.
    The dogs are so lovely!
    Plis ask Pam the recipe to teach dogs to not turn the garden in their playground! I have 3 dogs too and is a constant figth for power…

    Ah! by the way, congratulaton on your article!!



  2. I love this garden and the doggies are so sweet! It is a challenge in the garden with dogs, but after puppyhood, I think it gets easier!

    ~ciao from Newport Beach~

  3. Those black labs are all lovely, wish I could have one again, I used to and she lived to a ripe old age. Pam's garden is amazing, effotless and you wouldn't think she's got a pack of dogs living with her.

  4. Completely stylish, livable, lovable. And the dogs… I feel very drawn to the Californian gardens and to the light, nature and landscape there, they remind me so much of Australia, where I loved to live.

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