Earlier this spring, we had the pleasure of being invited to the Pasadena Showcase House in, you guessed it, Pasadena. If you’ve never been to a Showcase House event, basically the Showcase Committee finds an old, fabulous house that’s in need of a revamp and then contracts with different interior and exterior designers and each group completely transforms a particular space in their own particular style. It’s a pretty amazing thing to see and you get lots of ideas and opportunities to talk to the designers.
Of course what we were most interested in were the outdoor rooms of which there were several. Â At the very bottom of the property which was huge, by the way, there was a lovely area all made with reclaimed materials which possessed a fanciful quality we were really drawn to (and there were a pair of vintage clam chairs we kinda recognized too.)
(Special Note: All photos courtesy of Martha Benedict Photography)
This garden, we soon learned, was designed and executed by Alastair Boase and Katharine Parra, a pair who had recently hooked up to design the Kitchen Garden for the Showcase House.
Alastair Boase was raised on a hill farm in the rugged and beautiful West Highlands of Scotland. The knowledge that he learned on the farm was applied while studying science and technology at Telford College in the nation’s capital. This education and background laid an important foundation for a career in landscaping. For 22 years Alastair has been fulfilling landscape needs in Southern California.
Katharine Parra was born in Wisconsin and comes from a long line of nurserymen. Her father was a plant pathologist and avid gardener. It was by his side that she honed her gardening skills. She holds a B.A from the University of Washington as well as a certificate in horticulture from UCLA. Water wise gardens and organic gardening techniques are her specialties.
From Katharine–“As for our space, we really wanted to key off the architecture of the house – we saw a pile of bricks orginal to the house against the shed and that was really where the design started. It was not enough to have a kitchen garden – we wanted to have a complete outdoor room (rooms, really) where one could relax and feel as though they had escaped to wine country. Anyway, special features: the fireplace is built from the bricks that were original to the site, the pool coping was used on the hearth and the corbels were a Craigslist find and were painted by me, Katharine, to age them. The mantel came from a client’s house – an old termite- ridden pergola was demolished, so we took the best beams.
“The dry stack wall and brick and concrete planters were made from more of that brick and the rest of the pool concrete. The raised beds and even the potting bench were made from decking that came from a client’s house….the pergola wood, with the expecption of the posts, was found on Craigslist and another contractor had lumber that he had to get rid of – so we took it.
“Even the art is repurposed – LT Mustardseed is a local artist in the Highland Park area and she made that fabulous hummingbird and flower out of machine parts. The bird chandelier was an old chandelier fitted with glass beads and moss… (Note from Annette, check out the inverted wine bottles used to edge the display.)
“And then the plants. All waterwise, chosen to attract pollinators and beneficial insects. Planted in masses because it creates a restful feeling…..and also when you have masses of flowering plants, you will attract more of the beneficials and pollinators too your garden.”
If you take into account that this garden was constructed literally from nothing in a matter of weeks, Katharine and Alastair’s kitchen garden was truly remarkable. For more on both these talented designers, please contact them through their websites… katharineparra.com and alastairboase.com. You’ll be glad you did.