Fountain Conversion: A Michalis in the Garden
We have been fortunate to have Rebecca Sweet write for The Yardstick in the past and knowing that she has a sustained love for Mediterranean gardens and is busy with clients seeking her expertise and experience, we are pleased that she took the time to answer some questions about her garden design featuring Eye of the Day’s Greek pot, the Michalis, as a fountain conversion. Rebecca is the author of several esteemed books on gardening and her work has been featured in Sunset Magazine, Horticulture and a variety of other national publications. Her design firm, Harmony in the Garden, is in Los Altos California.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself as a designer and Harmony in the Garden.
I’m a California native, and though I’ve lived in both the southern and central parts of the state, I’ve spent most of my life in the Bay Area. Over the years I’ve seen this area’s sleepy suburbs transform into the bustling, densely populated, high-energy area that it is today. The people who call this place home come from all over the country, as well as the world, and have brought with them their unique perspectives on gardening. Having had my landscape design company, Harmony in the Garden, for over 15 years now, it’s been an incredible gift to be a part of these changes and to help so many people from different walks of life create their versions of paradise.
Q: What was your client’s goal for this garden?
As passionate gardeners themselves, the clients wanted to transform this part of their garden from a water-guzzling, and unsightly half-dead lawn into something that would require much less maintenance and water. This area is situated close to their home and can be viewed from several large windows, so it needed to look good year-round.
Q: What was your initial vision for the landscape and did that change over time?
My vision and theirs complemented one another perfectly, as we are all succulent fans. So, to reduce water consumption, as well as indulge in our love of succulents, we removed the lawn, replacing it with a low-water succulent and cactus garden. To help tie this new space in with their existing, and more traditional style of garden, we also incorporated several flowering shrubs and perennials that were colorful, yet also drought-tolerant and low-maintenance.
Because the area is fairly large, we knew we needed to break up the space into smaller, more manageable planting areas. Wide decomposed granite pathways were the solution, gently meandering through the space, helping to bring down the scale of the oversized garden.
Q: Any unique issues or challenges for this project during the design or installation?
Initially, the homeowner wanted this garden to thrive without supplemental water but quickly realized that just wasn’t going to happen. This area is in full sun so even the cactus were suffering through the blistering summer heat-waves. Luckily, we had a feeling this might happen and had previously installed a framework of irrigation under the ground ‘just in case.’ We ended up irrigating the garden, on a very reduced schedule.
Q: What would you describe as your garden design aesthetic and how do you work with your client’s own vision for the landscape?
My own aesthetic is one that appears full and lush, yet is quite drought-tolerant. My passion for plants has allowed me to create drought tolerant gardens that don’t ‘look’ drought tolerant, and is what I’m probably best known for creating.
Since so many of my clients come from around the world, their vision for their garden (and the plants they’re used to seeing) can be challenging to translate with California’s lack of water. Luckily, living in a mild-winter climate such as ours, we have access to an expansive selection of drought-tolerant plants from which to choose. I love interpreting their vision into a garden overflowing with plants that will thrive here.
Q: For garden décor, why the Michalis Greek pot for the fountain conversion?
When designing this garden, we knew we wanted a focal point to bisect the center of the pathways. To keep in scale with the large garden and home, we needed a large focal point. The Michalis Greek pot an ideal choice for a fountain conversion and blends beautifully with their historic Mediterranean home. By converting the pot into to a fountain, we added the gentle sound of trickling water, entertainment from the multitude of birds that adore taking baths there, and the illusion of ‘coolness’ from the water itself. We couldn’t have chosen a more perfect focal point for this garden.
Q: What was your favorite part of this project?
My favorite part of this project was to see the joy on my clients’ faces as they saw their garden’s breathtaking transformation. I continue to visit them and their garden every few months and seeing the succulents grow and fill in, creating an ever-changing tapestry has given my clients so much happiness through the years – all while significantly reducing their water bill!
See Rebecca’s other work on our blog: