In the Lenkin gardens, nothing is as it seems. While finding its roots in Italian design, the garden is also very modern in that it bends to Heather Lenkin’s use of the space and design passions more than it bows to tradition. And although there is mystery here—and surprises at every turn—each space offers comfort and a warm sense of belonging.
Italian cypress marks the entry and calls you forward, and as you ascend the steps to the house past the privacy hedges, you look to the left and right to discover seating, low planters, topiary and wall art. In an instant, you’ve traversed the gap between formal and friendly.
The rest of the garden—the cottage garden and the hillside areas—is one revelation after the next. From the street, you’d never know what was hiding behind the frontage, and once inside, “different people are drawn to different areas,” says Lenkin.
Indeed, there is much to discover here.
Like the historic gardens of Italy and France (Villa Gamberaia and Giverny are her favorites, and their influence sparks recognition among Lenkin’s well-traveled visitors), the gardens are most formal close to the house, and become wilder as they get further out. Those outskirts are intensely playful: “My wilder look is more inspired by a love of horticulture and color,” she explains.
The Lavender Garden, boldly awash in purple, is the most unexpected area. This is where Lenkin planted a serpentine border of (name lavender variety) that winds its way around the hillside. A shade tent over the area frames the view up the steep hill that is stepped with lavender-colored retaining walls, in which all things purple bloom. “On larger open tours, I usually hear people laughing from that area. It is very cheerful, playful, inviting and relaxing,” she says.
Heaven is another destination infused with wonder. If you enter beneath the gnarled winding tea tree, you are experiencing the designer’s intention. “The tree canopy provides a ceiling to the space, the scent and magnificence of the adjacent eucalyptus the protection, and the peaceful, zen spirit probably lowers your heart rate.” Most visitors love the mister in the Japanese bowl there the most.
While some designers focus exclusively on the overall effect of a landscape, Lenkin brings balance by fleshing out every detail. So the velvety, fragrant peppermint geranium planted next to the path in the cottage garden and the whimsical flying cupids hanging above Madonna’s garden matter as much as the stunning vista in view when you’re looking out at the garden from the house. It is in these details that the magic really happens.
Location: Pasadena, CA, US