Saturday, August 19

A Moroccan mosaic in Huntington Beach

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Channeling Morocco in a landscape is not as easy as it seems. Looking at the history of the region that is part Arabic, part Spanish, with a clear French influence, you’ll find a melting pot of design.

Throw in the Moroccans’ belief in magic, and you understand the fantastical way the look can be achieved.

Mosaics, tiles, tapestries and water-influenced patios are part of the equation. Add layers of steamy plants and you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. �

The genie behind this Huntington Beach landscape is designer Brooke Dietrich of Green Landscapes to Envy, an archaeologist by education and garden designer today.

“I like to joke that I’ve always been in the business of digging,” Dietrich said.

Dietrich, who grew up in Huntington Beach, installed the landscape for her mother, Corrine Sellberg.

“It’s a dream job when you have a client who lets you run with your imagination,” she said.

The small front yard began with an ordinary fescue lawn and a hedge of hibiscus. Dietrich removed the existing landscape except the hedge and the mature palms.

With a nearly blank slate, she imagined layers of color, texture and form. Circular objects such as the oversize pebble-mosaic steppingstones are contrasted with spiky plants such as bromeliad and cordyline.

“The plants aren’t really Middle Eastern,” Dietrich acknowledged. “We used a mix of low-water plants that are more appropriate for Southern California.”

The three-tiered fountain with Moorish detail provides a trickling sound. Succulents are planted in tapestry patterns for ground cover.

A vertical garden, which the ancients would have called a hanging garden, lines the south-facing wall along the entry. Dietrich used Woolly Pockets, a brand of wool pocket containers used for planting.

“I chose a series of succulents for the vertical garden,” Dietrich said. “But my mother likes to plant flowers and holiday plants in there, too.”

A drape pulled to one side of the front door completes the illusion, like you are stepping further into a Moroccan home.

Dietrich has a fascination with far-away places. Her own landscape is Bali-inspired. But she has also created Tuscan landscapes, Jurassic gardens and jungles.

“I love dinosaur-esque landscapes with ferns, mosses, horsetail and other primitive plants,” she said.

Even though the Moroccan landscape looks lush, it is entirely low-maintenance.

“We haven’t had a gardener here for over two years,” Sellberg said.

Since Green Landscapes to Envy provides maintenance, Dietrich’s crew drops in once a year to check the plants. Other than that, Sellberg spends just a few minutes a month on maintenance. One departure from a true Moroccan design is the lack of in-your-face color.

“We wanted the setting to be moody,” Dietrich said. “We chose blues, grays and greens with purple.”

When Dietrich worked as an archaeologist, she studied cultures by traveling. With a family now, she expresses her fascination with history by staying planted in one place and landscaping.

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