Ask A Los Angeles Expert: How To Start Your Dream Garden

April 18, 2014 6:00 AM

(credit: istockphoto)

(credit: istockphoto)

(credit: istockphoto)

Dream gardens don’t just grow on their own. They’re cultivated by experts who know about what plant to put where, what time to start working on a particular area and what highlight should be the centerpiece of a space. Beyond that, these people with their green thumbs get the party going in your yard with their own special touches that can’t be beat. With that introduction, meet Libby Simon.

(credit: istockphoto)

(credit: istockphoto)

Libby Simon
Freelance Landscape Designer
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 718-6947

Libby Simon puts a fresh spin on garden design, having contributed her artistry by practicing a number of careers before taking on this particular occupation with a vengeance. Not only has this lifelong Angeleno worked as an animation artist and a producer, but she has also owned and run a vintage shop selling recycled garden decor from a number of previous eras. A recent graduate of UCLA’s Landscape Architecture certificate program, Libby Simon designs residential gardens, is involved in the historic preservation of cultural landscapes and puts her focus on climate concerns by promoting wise choices in landscaping practices.

Drought Awareness

Replacing your lawn? Do so with native grasses or other drought-tolerant ground covers such as Dymondia margaretae, sedge, fescues and yarrow. These specimens require half the water than typical lawns currently in use in Los Angeles. That said, when you refresh your garden in this way, use natives and Mediterranean climate plants – like Salvias, Asclepias (Milkweed), Matilija Poppy, Summer Holly – that will attract all kinds of wildlife, butterflies and bees with their many berries and flowers.

Citrus Trees in Pots
Working with a very limited area? If you lack space but have some ground to work with, plant dwarf citrus in large pots that will result in a striking look. To complete this task, try these trees: Kaffir Lime, Kumquat, Meyer Lemon, Yuzu and Australian Finger Lime. All are alluring not only for the look of the leaves but for the fruit that each bears. It’s a win-win situation for a small dream garden.

Kitchen Herbs
Keep herbs accessible by planting them in pots near your kitchen. Also, use edibles to plant as under-plantings in your citrus pots like planting Kaffir Lime with cilantro. For the ideal spring and summer lemonades, plant Meyer Lemon under-planted with mints, lemon thyme and basil. In addition, think Italian by having a distinctive pot to harbor basil, oregano, Italian parsley, marjoram and thyme — the ingredients needed to prepare the ideal Italian meal.

Related: Best Nurseries For Spring Gardening

Libby Simon emphasizes that you should work with what you’ve got. When changing things up for your dream garden, keep your mature trees and plants while reusing materials you have at hand. For instance, make planters out of concrete planters and make walls out of old concrete patios. Reuse old fencing panels for decks and turn fallen trees into benches and tabletops. All in all, do the best you can to repurpose already owned elements instead of ditching those items in landfills.

Vintage Accessories
Hunt for vintage outdoor furniture at your favorite local shop. Keep the old patina or powder coat these same finds with fresh colors. Replace old fabrics and cushions with new versions and, for a focal point and a forum for resting, place a vintage bench in a quiet spot where you can cozy up to enjoy your own special dream garden.

Related: Top Community Gardens in L.A.

TEST Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky, contributes to publications such as Travel + Leisure, Vogue and Esquire. Her weekly sojourning column ran in 40 newspapers for 20 years. Jane is anything but an accidental tourist. Check out her articles on

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