Tips for your backyard transformation

LOS ANGELES TIMESJuly 10, 2014 

Lush plantings in alluring hues and textures. Brightly colored lawn furniture and accessories. Inviting seating areas. These elements make up the arresting outdoor spaces that Elysian Landscapes designer Judy Kameon is known for.

"I try to create something that transcends what one might expect in their backyard," the L.A. designer said recently. "I like to defy people's expectations and create an environment that is a sanctuary."

In a recent interview, Kameon, the author of a new book, "Gardens Are for Living: Design Inspiration for Outdoor Spaces" (Rizzoli, $50), shared some of her favorite drought-tolerant plants, design elements and ideas on how to get started.

Q: Designing an outdoor space can be overwhelming. How do you begin?

A: Set realistic goals for your garden project and break it up into bite-size pieces. Step back and understand your space and what it needs in terms of light conditions, soil and how you want to use the space. How much maintenance are you willing to take on? Know what you want. If you don't want a weekly gardener, then don't put in a lawn. … Your garden shouldn't be a source of guilt or burden. It should be a sanctuary.

Q: Plants and accessories play off one another to wonderful effect in your outdoor spaces.

A: When it comes to choosing a color palette, I always start with the plants. Shade gardens, for instance, are going to be more of a green palette. Then I will often look at the architecture and the interior design. I don't think you should go from one language inside to another one outside. I always like to have a range of colors: bright greens, sage greens, some variegation, some chartreuse. That alone adds interest, texture and form. Then I layer in flower color. … I like to weave in different things that bloom at different times.

Q: There are some interesting outdoor lighting installations in your book.

A: Most of us are not home during the day and don't have the time to enjoy our outdoor spaces. So we're seeing them at night and during the weekends. Lighting a garden extends your use of it on a practical level. If you have a dining area and it's well-lit, you're going to be more inclined to use it. … I'm a huge proponent of having permanent landscape lighting in place and having it on a timer.

Q: Water is such a concern right now in terms of gardening.

A: We live in the most incredible climate. There are thousands of incredible plants that require very little maintenance to almost none. I have my go-to plants, and I'm always experimenting.

Q: Do you have any tips on using plants to provide privacy?

Q: Privacy is our No. 1 request. It's a really important thing to have, otherwise you won't feel comfortable in your space. Only plant screens as high as is absolutely necessary. You want to keep open sky. Don't buy a plant until you know how it's going to grow.

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