City Planning : Ways to Create a Peaceful Environment in the Restless Metropolis

<i> Robert Smaus is an associate editor of Los Angeles Times Magazine. </i>

The street Bob and Louise Levyn live on isn’t the busiest in West Los Angeles but it’s no longer the quiet resi dential street they moved to 36 years ago. When the buzz of traffic began to intrude, the Levyns considered moving but they then decided that there had to be an alternative. After all, this was their home.

They had saved a magazine article in which four designers proposed plans for limited-space gardens that offered privacy and the promise of quiet. One of the designers, Chris Rosmini of Los Angeles, had included a great variety of unusual plants. That was the encouragement the Levyns were looking for. They called Rosmini, who solved their problem.

The first step was to wall off their corner lot from the busy street that bordered one side. The tall fence--which had louvers that allowed ocean breezes into the garden so that it didn’t become a pocket of dead air--was already there. To give the fence a bit more bulk, and to make it a lot more interesting, Rosmini devised a wall planter that Louise could fill with little plants. But no wall can do much to keep out traffic noise (even one made of concrete blocks), so a fountain was built. Its burbling now effectively obscures the sounds of passing cars.

It was pointless to try to grow too much under the shade of the majestic old olive that stood in one corner, so the area underneath was paved, becoming the logical place for a table and chairs. In the rest of the yard, Rosmini planted a plant person’s paradise, full of fascinating plants to keep a gardener busy and satisfied for many years.


Some of the tiniest and choicest plants grow not in the ground but in concrete flue tiles, where they are easily seen and cared for and can be better protected from attacks of slugs and snails that could nibble them into nonexistence in an evening’s time.

Other plants in the yard have leaves of nearly every shade of green, yellowish to dark; there are purplish and burgundy-colored leaves, a dusting of gray foliage and leaves mottled or streaked with cream and white. “In Southern California,” Rosmini says, “we are outdoors all year round; yet only in spring and early summer are flowers abundant. At other times, the plants are mostly foliage, so I use plants with leaves as interesting as flowers.” The garden was photographed in early spring (during a drizzle), and not much had bloomed yet, but it is almost as intriguing this way as it is in full bloom.