Meet the 2019 Gardens of the Year Readers’ Choice Winner
Designer Bryn Young transforms the curb appeal and usable space of her childhood home
For Bryn Young, design runs in the family, and our 2019 Gardens of the Year Readers’ Choice winner is where it all began.
Her father, Ron Nau, is not only the homeowner of the Spanish-style cottage in Pacific Beach, but the general contractor too. “It makes this house especially dear to me since it was the one I grew up in,” Bryn says. “So when he asked me to work with him on the design a few years ago, I was really happy to do so.”
When the Nau family bought the home 25 years ago, the front yard was little more than a thirsty lawn and unused space, but Bryn knew it had potential. “I love this house,” Bryn says. “It has so much character and the front yard wasn’t doing it any justice before.”
The game plan was simple—a facelift, more usable space and water conservation—but time and budget restraints spread the progress out over decades. The upsides? Trees planted in the first stage, in 1996, have enjoyed plenty of time to grow into large shade trees, and native, drought-tolerant and waterwise gardening concepts have evolved and become much more accessible.
When Bryn pitched her father an idea for a cactus-centric landscape, he steered her away from it but their goals for the garden began to take shape. Beyond the basics of color, texture and sustainability, Ron had something softer in mind. The family turned to Scott Seevers at De Alcala Studio for help selecting plants that were soft, inviting and edible.
Ultimately, it’s a perfect example of how lush California native landscaping can look. In vignettes around the beach-town property sit kangaroo paws, salvia greggii, silver shee and lavender. Society garlic, Mexican sage, red yucca and Huntington carpet rosemary add fragrance and texture while maintaining a (tidy) wildness. And coral bells, wax flowers and rockroses liven the landscape with color and blooms.
The courtyard is lined with vivid bougainvillea, and mature fruit trees and plantings pepper the property with stunning color and a practical, edible touch, including several apple trees, strawberries and olive and Meyer lemon trees.
“The project contains zero grass,” Bryn says. “It was a relief taking it all out.” However, her parents, Ron and Rechelle, still wanted a welcoming place to entertain and play with grandkids. They opted for a permeable artificial turf, which Bryn says is as beautiful as it is eco-friendly. And it’s a great spot for the grandchildren and pups alike.
“We do all our entertaining—barbecues, socializing, warming around the fire pit—in the courtyard,” Ron says, “and we can open the double gates and overflow with games into the front.” Bryn’s design didn’t just maximize the usable space of the front yard, but also integrated it with the courtyard and other spaces in the property. “This allows the front to become a fully functional space where otherwise it would just be a pass-through,” Ron adds.
Hardscape is kept to a minimum. Bryn and Ron designed some winding decomposed granite paths, a firepit and a fountain but kept the overall look of the landscape as natural, lush and soft as possible.
When the father-daughter team kicked off this project in 2014, Bryn was just beginning to discover—and welcome—her knack for sustainable landscape design using native and drought tolerant plants. Taking advantage of the incentives from the city of San Diego at the time, she saw the project as an opportunity.
“It was great to learn more about San Diego’s native plant species and how to beautifully incorporate them into a landscape,” she says. “They’re always my favorite landscapes to do, especially because they only thrive and get better with time.”
Just like the decades-long project—and a long-time family home.