Style Council
- By Melanie Jauregui - August 2004

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      San Diego-based landscape designer, watershaper and artist Melanie Jauregui has spent a career taking inspiration and clues from her clients, specific settings and her own explorations of the realm of art and design. As a result, she says, each of her projects is different from the others - and a reflection of a collaborative approach that enables her to bring a range of styles to bear in meeting the distinctive needs of any project.

By Melanie Jauregui


     I’m steadily reminded of one key point: No matter how talented any one of us might be, the work ultimately is not about us. For intensely creative people equipped with the necessary measures of self-confidence and ego, that point can be tough to accept and absorb, but it’s true: For all our skills, we nonetheless work with our clients’ visions, and the reality is that creating sympathetic designs for them takes time, patience and lots of effort.

     As a result, I’m passionate about uncovering what my clients are truly after in their gardens and watershape designs. It’s an investment of time and energy at the onset of the relationship that always pays dividends by directing the creative decisions I make as a project unfolds. It’s also, I believe, liberating to me as a designer.

     Indeed, this is the most exciting aspect of landscape and watershape design for me, this freedom I have to move across a spectrum of ideas and influences to come up with something fresh and unique for each and every project — something to which I can apply my own signature while keeping faith with client’s objectives and the requirements of the setting.

     Sometimes these turns of style are subtle; other times they’re quite distinctive. In all cases, I follow the dues and signposts I d, using my own preferences and background as a compass. To demonstrate what this philosophy means in the real world, let’s review four recent projects, each with its own character.


Planting Ideas
Given the clients’ desire for lots of greenery, developing the planting plan for this project was a great deal of fun. The space was large, so they wanted a scheme that would be easy to maintain. They also wanted a great deal of screening on both sides of the property, with breaks to maintain and frame portions of views in certain areas.

For primary trees, we selected Liquidambars and Deodar cedars — trees well suited to the large lot and a beautiful combination, especially in the fall. The Liquidambars develop deep-burgundy leaves, while the cedars look blue; when these trees mature, they should be truly spectacular. The arbor allée was planted with climbing white roses. We used lamb’s ears for their gray foliage alongside Mexican feather grass and a variety of other grasses. For the screening, we used clumping bamboos — a plant that I love for a number of reasons, a key one mentioned below. Fragrance was another item on the clients’ wish list, so we used honeysuckle and its wonderfully sweet smell to go along with the roses as well as patches of rosemary creeping thyme and sage.

The clients also specifically requested a park-like concrete path that would move through the yard as defined conduit for moving kids through the space. The path moves in and out of garden spaces, through a “bamboo grove” and the trees, past the arbor allêe and around a grove of fruit trees at the back of the property.

They were also very concerned about sound, which is one of the reasons we included the waterfall with the Koi pond and why we used the clumping bamboo, which make a fantastic rustling sound when the wind blows and makes the canes tap into one another.

The clients installed a sound system, choosing rock speakers that sound terrific but that don’t harmonize with the aesthetics, so I’ve selected plants to hide them. For setting nighttime moods, we went with moonlighting in the trees to light the pathways and create interesting shadow patterns.

Artfully Crafted
This project — one of my personal favorites — is an example of using a distinctive architectural style as the basis for an exterior design. The home, built in the early 1900s and renovated in the 1980s, is a beautiful, two-story cross between the signature Mission influences of the famous San Diego architect Irving Gill and the early Craftsman style that was just becoming popular at that time. The residence is located in the gorgeous (and very urban) setting of San Diego’s Mission Hills district.

In visiting with the clients, I saw their fantastic collection of Arts & Crafts furniture and eclectic artwork, all with a distinctly warm feminine flair. Right away, I noticed a chair made by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the famous Arts & Crafts designer who used a graphic pattern known as the Mackintosh Rose on many of his pieces.

When I recognized this detail, the clients were pleased and excited — and I had a strong feeling the job would be mine. As we continued our conversation, I noticed that much of the rest of their furnishings picked up the Mackintosh Rose or similar patterns, and I knew right away that I had a visual motif that I could repeat in the garden.

Marching Orders
The scope of the work here was to replace all of the hardscape, give the existing pool a major facelift and rework all the plantings. For the hardscape renovation, we used (mostly) a teal-green slate set on concrete along with sand-blasted, natural-gray concrete with saw-cut joints, gray stucco and lots of teal-green and gold glass tile. I picked up the Mackintosh Rose in the scoring patterns of the decking and pathways and in the layout of the stepping pads.

The swimming pool was basically in good shape, so our main work was cosmetic: We replaced all the waterline and raised-bond-beam tile with the teal-green and gold glass tile and added, in the bottom torn of the pool, a large, mosaic version of the Mackintosh Rose using glass tile in black, greens and purples.

A big portion of the project involved reworking the side yard seen primarily from the dining room. The space had little by way of landscaping, which was bad enough, but worse was the fact that beyond the fence in plain view was an unsightly, utility-laden portion of the neighbor’s house.

For this area, I designed a large pergola (classic Irving Gill) with a tall screen of Black Bamboo as a backdrop and to obscure the view of the neighbor’s wall beyond. The columns for the pergola are made of sand-blasted, poured-in- place concrete — basically round columns on raised pedestals that rise about ten feet to support a series of wood beams across the top. We included a six-foot- tall, gray-block-and-stucco screen wall with detailing down the face suggested by a photograph of a Charles Rennie Mackintosh headboard he’d designed for his own home.

Right outside the dining room window, we placed a small waterfeature, just a simple, square, tiled basin with a small spray jet that sends a delicate stream of water just a couple of feet into the air. Above the fountain on the wall, I designed a tile detail that suggests a wall fountain, even though it’s completely dry.

Green Scene
The plantings throughout this project are lush and too numerous to list. We used mostly moisture-loving plants with dense foliage and leaves of differing sizes, tenures and colors to add interest.

In the side yard are lots of gray highlights and white flowering plants to establish a “moonlight garden” in which white blossoms and light foliage create highlights that are visible at night, the time of greatest use of the adjacent dining room.

In the front, there’s a particularly lovely plum tree graced with spectacular purple leaves. Against the basic green of the plant palette and the gray of the house, its colorful foliage provides a fantastic and intriguing contrast. Other colorful plants include angel’s trumpet, scaevola, a ground cover with blue flowers, iceberg roses and lots of lamb’s ear — among much more.

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This is a reprint of an article originally printed in Watershapes Magazine - Volume 6 - Number 8 - August 2004