Garden Conservancy sneak peek No. 3: When she ran out of ground, she planted inspiration in pots


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Some people keep journals of their travels. Anna Clark designs garden rooms. Over 23 years, she has relandscaped her Windsor Square home as a reminder of her journeys crisscrossing every continent except Antarctica. As a result, the garden brims with a dazzling assortment of plants, particularly evergreen shrubs, perennials and succulents.

“I’ve been greatly influenced by the places I’ve been,” she says. “I’d come back each time and tear out a little more grass. Then I ran out of dirt, so I started planting in pots.”


Looking at Clark’s backyard, you’d think she’s never met a plant – or a terra cotta container – she didn’t like. Scores of them congregate on the back steps, circle the patio, edge the pool and flank the guest house. The result is a green haven -- densely packed, immaculately groomed and, as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Los Angeles tour on Saturday, available for touring.

The Beaux-Arts-style house dates to 1913, when it was built by the Janss family, the real estate developers responsible for Holmby Hills and Westwood Village. Clark and her husband, Alan, bought the property in 1987, but back then it had only a 1950s-era lawn and pool and a few bird of paradise.

Clark changed all that. With the help of her gardener of 30 years, Luis Zuniga, she removed a concrete basketball court and replaced it with a garden reminiscent of those she saw in England and Italy. Hidden between walls of Ficus nitida, white-blooming clematis twine their way up towering tuteurs inside a parterre of Winter Gem Japanese boxwood.

Next came a smaller parterre behind the guest house, where, because she loves the color chartreuse, the focus is on plants with lime-green foliage or flowers such as Snowball viburnum, Limoncello and St. Patrick roses and variegated irises.

Clark remodeled the pool deck and added a recirculating fountain. On the far side of the pool, she planted a ficus hedge and a row of Snow Queen oakleaf hydrangeas. Running short on space, she started putting boxwood in pots and sculpting the plants into tidy balls and cones.

Clark soon collected more than 100 pots, mostly Italian terracotta with rolled rims from Pottery Manufacturing in Gardena. Inspired by a purchase at a garden club sale and her travels in South Africa, she began displaying succulents. Echeverias, sedums, agaves, kalanchoes and aeoniums dot the patio like little jewels.


“I don’t know all their names,” she says, “but they’re so weird and wonderful and so easy to grow.”

In the latest revamp, Clark turned one side of the double driveway into a cutting garden. Layered behind boxwood spheres are more Snow Queen hydrangeas, dwarf olive, weeping mulberry, pittosporum and rosemary. Raspberries with hand-tied willow supports fill Vietnamese oil jars by a side door.

Through the years, Clark says, her husband hasn’t minded giving up more lawn in exchange for more garden as long as he’s had a place to practice chipping golf balls. Now that Clark is eyeing the last remaining patch of grass, however, she may finally have a turf war on her hands.

For more photos and details on the tour this weekend, keep reading ...

Above: Clark’s eclectic mix in terra cotta.

Above: White roses peek out from behind the pool’s fountain.

Above: A terra cotta jar-turned-fountain in a backyard nook.

Above: A sunlit yucca.

Above: In place of a traditional lawn, Clark’s unusual mix of flower beds and potted plants gives the home its personality.

The Clarks’ garden is one of six featured in the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour Saturday. All are in the Hancock Park area; tour-goers can see as many as they wish from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Regular admission is $5 per garden; discounted tickets and maps will be available from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Getty House, the official mayor’s residence of Los Angeles, 605 S. Irving Blvd. Information: (888) 842-2442.

-- Emily Young

Photo credits: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times

Facebook us: Follow the California gardening scene.