Twenty years ago, Cory Buckner and her late husband, fellow architect Nick Roberts, purchased a home in Crestwood Hills designed in 1949 by architects A. Quincy Jones and Whitney R. Smith, and structural engineer Edgardo Contini. "It looked like Garrett Eckbo had designed the rear garden," she says. "It had all the signature elements: a kidney-shaped lawn and three large elm trees." Some of the elements eventually died off, and her new landscaping plan included what she calls a "pretty drought-tolerant garden" with agave and low-water grasses. "If Eckbo were alive today, I think he would
be interested in drought-tolerant landscapes," Buckner says.
The landscaping on the couple’s next Jones house, which they purchased in 2000, was a different story. "The former owners were British and wanted to turn the garden into ‘merrie olde England,’" Buckner says with a laugh. "As those water-dependent plants have died off over the years, I have been planting drought-tolerant ones like agaves and succulents. Agaves are very resistant to fire—when we lost our house in Malibu in the 1993 fire, the agaves came right back."
Because she approaches her own and her clients’ architectural restoration and landscaping projects as a whole rather than separate parts, the key, she says, is to "keep it simple, to best emphasize the architecture. Mass plantings work well. I am less and less sold on hardscaping in this climate—the best thing is to leave the ground open for groundwater to percolate. I’m trying now to keep hardscaping at a minimum. With pavers, one should leave a lot of space so groundwater can seep through. Keeping it subtle with our particular environment in mind has been my overall philosophy."
Erika Heet has been working in publishing for more than 20 years, including years spent as a senior editor at Architectural Digest and Robb Report. She has written for Architectural Digest, Robb Report, Interiors, Bon Appétit, Sierra Magazine, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. She recently wrote the foreword to New Tropical Classics: Hawaiian Homes by Shay Zak. She lives in a Topanga cabin with her artist husband and two children.