Scents & Sensibility

By Michelle Dissel (Reprinted from the 20th Annual Secret Gardens of the East Bay Garden Tour Presented by Park Day School) In a garden that blends one's love of life with what one loves to do in life, landscape designer Gary Lazar and perfumer, Laurie Stern have come close to creating perfection. Their garden is a luscious, sensual botanical experience brimming with nature's most fragrant fruits, flowers, seeds, leaves and woods. Soon to be plucked and distilled for tinctures, they are now blended in beds of equal alchemy and imagination, surrounded by masterfully crafted outdoor living spaces. Lemon, lime, blood orange and mandarin trees line the driveway providing the citrus bliss to formulas lovingly transcribed in Laurie's alchemy book. The north-side pathway, laid with red brick salvaged from the home's original fireplace and lined with shade-loving hydrangeas, rhododendrons, magnolia, azalea and dahlia, simmers with the scents of honeysuckle, hardenbergia, Douglas Iris, wisteria, sweetpea, and viburnum. The flowery notes will eventually linger in Laura's elixirs, but for now they perfume the glorious view. This is a garden of top notes, heart notes and soul notes. Known for his award-winning masonry work, Gary's built-in BBQ area with its purple-flecked flagstone and periwinkle tile countertop, its built-in stone bench seating and dramatic sheet fountain, is he heart note of the property. This congenial area connects the main house, guest cottage, sauna and garden in a mingling of open areas and private coves. While a Himalayan birch casts dappled shade over the area, the morning glory, Madagascar jasmine, and Lady Banks' roses permeate with pungent spells. Since fragrance and aroma were the main essence of the planting list, the garden is awash with opulently scented plants. Antique roses, lavenders, Dutch iris, gardenia, lilacs, geraniums, violets, clematis, daphne, and digitalis bloom resplendent with a myriad of floral personalities. Fruit notes abound from the pineapple guava, giant Lisbon lemon, kiwi, apricot, and wild plum. And to create earthy fougeres and chypre 'parfums' you'll find a stock of mosses, sages, herbs, wild gingers and ferns. Anchoring these aromatic notes, Gary has laid magical areas of rest and repose: a eucalyptus-scented sauna secreted away on the central patio, a wintergreen-infused breakfast terrace under the birch. The lilac-laced Mexican stone fountain provides the musical water notes to the most luxurious refuge of all: Laurie's open-air outdoor bath. Curtained with 'Cecile Brunner' roses and furnished with a divan and a dangling chandelier, one is perfectly submerged to watch the clouds of butterflies flutter by the buddleia. Indeed the soul note of the garden. For more information of the Secret Gardens of the East Bay For more information on Lazar Landscape Design and Construction, Inc.