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Marnie’s Mediterranean Playground

Articles: Marnie’s Mediterranean Playground

Marnie’s front garden, seen from the shared driveway; grasses begin to dominate the summer garden. Photographs by RGT

For years, the small front yard of Marnie and Jim McNeill’s home in Victoria, British Columbia, had been a near wasteland. Shallow soils above granite bedrock, full exposure to the south, and persistent winds off the Straits of Juan de Fuca combined to frustrate Marnie in her attempts to create a lush garden—something more than the ubiquitous junipers and turf that seemed characteristic of their neighborhood. Garden designer Peter Symcox suggested replacing the mangy lawn with a gravel garden, letting the underlying rock dictate the placement of planting beds.

The mid-century modern house is a departure from the traditional architecture of Victoria, and, combined with the starkness of some new stone walls, encouraged a change from conventional plantings. Given the exposure of the site—and Victoria’s northerly version of a summer-dry mediterranean climate—Peter and Marnie decided to focus on an informal planting of water-conserving plants, making maximum use of the site by pushing a mediter...

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