Gardening on a small scale
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James Duell’s tiny garden makes a big statement

Gardening on a small scale
At a time when people are serious about responsible gardening, James Duell’s small-scale garden, essentially a path next to his rented back house in Culver City, is a reminder that you don’t need a lot of space or water to create a wonderful garden experience. The scale is small, but the effect is inspiring and surprising, given his unusual plant choices.

“The best gardens serve a higher purpose than themselves,” says the designer, who has worked on the grounds of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. “There is so much at stake now. Especially in this part of the world. There are magnificent gardens to be created using succulents and drought-tolerant plants.” (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Gardening on a small scale
With his landlord’s encouragement, Duell threw himself in to landscaping the small strip of soil next to his rented back house. The garden now features a wild mix of succulents, agave, California natives and rock solid plants such as catalina ironwood. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Gardening on a small scale
When racoons and possums trampled his fragile sedum coppertone plants, garden designer James Duell crafted an attractive fence made from buddleja and bougainvilla stakes. “I was pulling my hair out finding craters in my garden,” he says. He now calls his attempt to create a “not screamingly obvious” fence a “happy accident.” (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Gardening on a small scale
A dragonfly is attracted to a plant in garden designer James Duell’s tiny Culver City garden. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Gardening on a small scale
Echeveria Afterglow is one of the many varieties of succulents that are low maintenance and water-wise. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Gardening on a small scale
An agave lophantha, left, has a striped, serrated leaf. Behind it, ice plant provides ground cover. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Gardening on a small scale
Purple verbena bonariensis wildflowers add to the mix. Tiny succulents unexpectedly creep around circular paving stones. You will find yourself watching where you walk. The stunning palette is a testament to Duell’s talent as a colorist and plantsman. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Gardening on a small scale
James Duell is photographed next to an agave vilmoriniana, commonly called an octopus agave because of its curved tentacle-like leaves. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Gardening on a small scale
Crocosmia in James Duell’s tiny garden stands out among the mix of succulents, California natives, drought-tolerant plants and hardy flowering bulbs. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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