The Mountain Gardener: Game adds feature to well-balanced garden
by Jan Nelson
May 02, 2013 | 2375 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print

When do art and science come together to make your life more beautiful? If you thought of garden design, you'd be right.

Recently I was treated to a garden tour by fellow designer and good friend Joy Albright-Souza, who has combined her love of art with her degree in science and her passion for the environment to create beautiful spaces for people to enjoy.

"It was natural to combine the two interests into garden design,” Souza says.

Last fall, several of her design ideas were featured in a do it yourself book called “Landscape Ideas You Can Use.”

Understanding garden design is the goal of the book, and it offers specific information on plants and hardscaping options. Fountains, rock gardens and landscaping for play are three of the categories for which Albright-Souza provided examples.

I have been to Albright-Souza’s garden many times to enjoy a game on the petanque court during a barbeque. Petanque is a game similar to bocce but can be played in a smaller backyard. It's a great way to get the whole family involved in a game together. I've heard Albright-Souza laugh that she'd like to see a petanque court in every yard — it's that fun.

Located on the outskirts of Scotts Valley, we visited one of the gardens she designed that features a petanque court. The court replaced a lawn with drainage problems, and recently served as a dance floor for a wedding.

The property is located on the site of an old quarry, and the granite walls conveniently provide crushed gravel to top-dress the court.

As we walked around the garden at sunset, the back-lit grasses sparkled like jewels. Locating plants to achieve this effect was no accident. Albright-Souza carefully thought out every aspect, from the deer-resistant plant palette, to the waterfall prominently seen from the dining area inside the house. Even the fenced veggie garden is on a grand scale to protect the owner's roses and hydrangeas from the deer.

Some of plants that are not bothered by deer in this garden include the lavender flowering prosanthera or variegated mint bush. Both beautiful and fragrant, this small shrub makes a good hedge or accent plant in deer country.

Another blooming plant and favorite of mine, Petite Butterfly sweet pea, looked great paired with a helianthemum called Mesa Wine Sun Rose. The pink muhly grasses will bloom in the fall. The new, fresh Japanese blood grass also glowed in the late afternoon sun.

We talked about the accent boulders in the garden as we walked around. Albright-Souza explained that when the rocks were delivered, she earmarked the largest and most interesting for particular spots.

One is at the corner of the petanque court and seems to offer an invitation to sit a while. Another flat-topped boulder marks a junction of two walkways and also begs passers-by to try it out. Others were placed reminiscent of Japanese garden design.

A large dolphin sculpture was moved from a driveway location where few could enjoy it to a spot in the upper garden, where it serves as the focal point in a widening of the cobblestone paver path and can be viewed up close. Placing garden art in prominent places that can be seen from different parts of the garden is part of a good garden design.

If you are ready to transform your own space, consider some of these ideas. Understanding landscape styles, materials, structures, lighting and plants is part of the fun.

This spring, get inspired to transform your own garden.

-Jan Nelson, a landscape designer and California certified nursery professional, will answer questions about gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Email her at, or visit to view past columns and pictures.

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