STYLE : GARDENS : A Shore Thing
Life is not a beach if you try to garden near it. Cold, salt-laden winds whip out of the west and hot Santa Anas howl from the east, damaging foliage or even stripping it from plants. And coastal soils--sometimes pure sand, sometimes leaden clay--are the worst. Some gardeners throw up their hands and carpet their property with ice plant, but Santa Monica garden designer Daryl Hosta has created many beautiful oceanfront landscapes with what he calls his “Malibu palette,” tough plants that thrive in these conditions.
For Ed and Martha Snider (he owns the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team), Hosta first amended this garden’s shale and clay soil with 20 truckloads of organic material. He also added trees to tame the winds. Then he incorporated many plants native to the Azores, the Canary Islands, the Cape of Good Hope and the Costa Brava that are thus well-adapted to this Malibu site.
Some choices, such as Phoenix roebelenii palms and natal plums, surprised locals who thought the plants wouldn’t grow near the beach. Others are exotic, like the huge dragon tree, or better known as houseplants, like Dracaena marginata . Though not technically trees, these and other plants, such as Yucca rostrata , beaucarneas, sago palms and dasylirions, have dramatic-looking trunks.
Ground covers consist of mounds of ivy geraniums, blue fescue, mondo grass, purple statice, yellow fortnight lily ( Dietes ), lavender tulbaghia, Australian bluebell creeper and prickly crown of thorns. The echium Pride of Madeira, with gray foliage and blue flowers, and Mediterranean rockrose, with pink flowers, mimic native coastal scrub, destroyed here years ago by cattle and weeds.
This “Malibu palette” is drought-tolerant, but Hosta irrigates it nevertheless. Considering everything it’s up against, it can use all the help it can get.