Dr. W. Eugene Stern initially contacted us in January of 2009 to remove his backyard lawn. We were pleased to learn that Dr. Stern was referred to us by Ted Bosley, Director of The Gamble House. One of our favorite local inspirations, The Gamble house is a Pasadena architectural masterpiece of the American Arts and Crafts movement by Charles and Henry Greene.
When we first met with Dr. Stern, we were delighted by his beautiful craftsman home, built in 1913, his lovely rose garden and impressive collection of mature California native specimens. Dr. Stern resides in the City of Santa Monica, and was concerned about rising water costs, and finally wanted to convert his entire back yard into a drought-tolerant and California native landscape. We couldn’t wait to rise to the occasion and propose a design that would complement the botanical display Dr. Stern had already groomed in his landscape for more than two decades.
By the beginning of spring, we completely removed the rest of the lawn in his backyard and laid down a foundation of slate pathways, dramatic boulders and a dry arroyo. It was somewhat of a surprise to us, when Dr. Stern asked us to return in the fall (more than eight months afterwards) to finish his project with planting entirely one-gallon native plants. Although this was an unusual request, we were happy to wait, and knew his patience would be rewarded with a happier and healthier garden. Designers sometimes go big right away for dramatic appeal, however, plants are much more successful when they can start small. Dr. Stern’s list was full of carefully considered natives, including Lewisia cotlyedon, Douglas Iris, ‘Canyon snow’, Ceanothus ‘Anchor Bay’, and Erigonum ‘Arborescens Grande.’ After almost a year, and scouring the state for his plants, we recently returned this past November with a truckload of natives and finished Dr. Sterns backyard.
While working with Dr. Stern, we learned he was the Professor and Head of the Department of Neurologic Surgery at the University of California in Los Angeles, and began the UCLA Medical Center Neurosurgical Training Program there in 1955. Dr. Stern truly a visionary in his field, celebrates his 90th birthday New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2009 and we wish him continued health and happy gardening. Goes to show, gardening is not only good for the environment, but it's great for the brain.