Family-friendly solutions in Rancho Palos Verdes

Times Staff Writer

When David and Shelly Roth purchased their Rancho Palos Verdes home, the landscaping was so ill-conceived, visitors had trouble finding the front door. The backyard was overgrown with citrus trees and laden with what can best be described as earthy housewarming presents left by its previous resident, a potbellied pig.

Despite the mess, the Roths had a clear vision: a modern garden for their modern house. They saw the property’s potential to become a creative, calming retreat for dad David, a photographer, and mom Shelly, a hair and makeup artist, as well as a playground for Zella, 5, and Everett, 8.

To prove that “modern” and “kid friendly” need not be exclusive terms, they turned to L.A. landscape designer Kathleen Ferguson ([323] 221-2248, She studied fashion at what is now called the Otis College of Art and Design and worked for Richard Tyler in the early ‘90s before earning a degree in ornamental horticulture. She crafted much of the garden with the Roth children in mind. Case in point: The frontyard slope, where Zella and Everett tramp through a carpet of gazanias before falling to the ground and rolling together, giggling, over the bed of bright orange blooms.


“It’s nice they can do that and I don’t freak out,” Shelly says. “It’s not like I constantly have to be saying, ‘Don’t go in the garden!’ ”

In other areas, flowers bloom at eye level for the children. “It gives them something to touch, to smell,” says Ferguson, who planted fragrant lavender -- a favorite of Zella’s -- near bedroom windows. “She’s picking bouquets all the time,” Shelly says.

David says the garden fits in with a very traditional neighborhood, yet still feels distinctive -- and personal. The backyard is dominated by an expanse of lawn, another place for Zella and Everett to run, jump, pretend, imagine. A new set of steps now leads up the hillside to one last treat: a view of the Pacific, whose possibilities seem endless.

To see Ferguson’s design, click on the photo gallery accompanying this article.