Last winter I read a lot about Islamic gardens, and that really helped me understand the elements of southern California spaces.
|Char Bagh Islamic garden concept|
You enter that forbidding facade through a front door next to the garage doors, and come into the beautiful space that opens up. The hot dry world outside is effectively shut behind you. There is no garden that faces the street. It's all inside and behind.
Once inside, the houses blend from inside space into the back yard. And there is literally no yard (no grassy lawn). Each home I was in had an immense stone patio. Stonework covered every inch of the space behind the houses, and plantings surrounded the big patios thickly so that the immediate neighbors were not even visible.
These are totally private spaces. The houses are only feet apart, but high walls, tall bamboo, banana plants, palms and other trees hide the neighboring structures completely. Enclosure and privacy are absolute.
|A typical California enclosed patio garden|
|This is the kind of water feature that is both pool to play in and fountain to enjoy|
When I first read about Islamic gardens I thought they were fascinating, but nothing that would appeal to me to live in. But having spent time in California gardens that mimic Islamic designs, I find I really like the spareness of stone, the sense of enclosure and the privacy of being hidden from the outside world. I liked the flow in and out of the house as one space. I liked the stark visual contrast of stone and plants and the constant sound of falling water.
But I didn't like how quiet it was in that dry climate -- no incessant bird calls, no crescendo of chirring insects that announces a summer afternoon.
And I didn't like the smell of nearby wildfire smoke in the air.