Two private La Jolla gardens share similar, lush aesthetics
Take a peek inside these coveted Beach-Barber Tract residences where gardens display seasonal hues.
When Howard Greenberg suggested a move from Mission Hills to La Jolla, his wife Andrea balked. “I loved my house and the neighborhood. We raised our three children here,” she says. “I never thought about moving.”
Andrea was especially reluctant to leave the lush, layered garden she created over the two decades they lived in a historic prairie-style Craftsman known as the Albert Frost House after the lumber company family that built it a century ago. Featured in publications and envied on garden tours, the one-third-acre grounds combined her affection for English-style gardens and edible landscaping.
“The garden was jam packed and all organic. I raised chickens,” she says. “It’s where I began gardening and found my style.”
A Chicago native and commercial real estate agent who pioneered revitalization of downtown San Diego, Howard persisted in his search for a seaside property. “One day he told me he found the perfect place,” Andrea says. “It would be our weekend getaway at the beach.”
His find—a 1940s-era two-story in La Jolla’s coveted Beach-Barber Tract purchased in 2011—was a short walk from the ocean and minutes from the village’s bustling shops and restaurants. With their children away at college, the couple delighted in their new neighborhood as they brightened the 2,000-square-foot home’s dark interiors and transformed the bare-bones landscape to reflect the casual indoor-outdoor lifestyle they loved.
“It was amazing being here and we realized this is where we wanted to live,” Andrea recalls. Five years ago, they moved, keeping the Mission Hills home as a rental before selling it in 2017.
“Then our kids graduated and one by one moved back to San Diego,” Andrea continues. “Suddenly the house was very full again and we needed more space. Once again, Howard found a place and once again, I said, ‘No way.’
“But,” she adds with a smile, “my husband likes to surprise me by buying real estate. Before I knew it, it was ours.”
Also in the Beach-Barber Tract, the second residence—an ocean-view multilevel built in 1951—had been modernized a decade ago as a vacation home, but “it wasn’t our style,” Andrea says. Together, she and interior designer Pamela Smith forged a new contemporary look inside and out, featuring dramatic Euroline black steel windows and doors and carefree concrete tile floors and patios. “I didn’t want anyone to worry about having sand on their feet when they came in from the beach,” Andrea says.
Though their exteriors contrast, the two residences share similar gardens shaped by landscape designer Cathie Dalessio with landscape contractor Steve Bliss to reflect Andrea’s aesthetic. In both, trees, shrubs and vines flower and color with the seasons, fragrant roses ramble, and lush borders brim with fruit trees and herbs. “All of my favorites from Mission Hills are here,” Andrea says of the profuse displays.
Repetition is key, Cathie believes. “Using the same plants and similar colors make small gardens like these feel integrated and easy on the eyes,” she explains. “It’s especially important for the organic, loose style Andrea wants.”
The first house
At the first house, the lot’s once lone jacaranda and two Bradford pears now mix with a pale-pink flowered saucer magnolia, variegated pittosporum, a gnarled Australian tea tree, ‘Forest Pansy’ redbuds, a pair of fruiting figs and more. Two ‘Beverly Hills’ apples—Andrea’s favorite—stand steps from the front door, where a low gate announces entry to “Le Jardin.”
Adding to the home’s Old World charm, Virginia creeper scales exterior walls high above foundation shrubs and a silver flagstone walkway, while pastel roses clamber along fences and above doorways and windows, often luring nesting birds. One energetic hybrid climbs on arm-thick canes to the top of a balcony rail to spill a sunny cascade of pale yellow blooms.
A low rail fence backs the long streetside border bursting with hydrangeas, azaleas, camellias, ferns and seasonal color—ornamental kale and snapdragons in winter, bluebeard and white yarrow in summer. Also in the mix are shrubby blueberries, strawberries, kumquats and pretty herbs ranging from lavender to creeping thyme.
In the backyard, outside the kitchen door, a barbecue island, rustic table, wicker seating and fire feature set the stage for alfresco fun. “I love having a fire, even in the summer,” Andrea says.
The second home
At the second home, gold-pink froths of ‘Rosenka’ bougainvillea, pink fountain plant, weeping ‘Forest Pansy’ redbuds and dainty Santa Barbara daisies soften entry walls and cable-deck railings. Along the sidewalk, exuberant white and burgundy ‘Iceberg’ roses and jewel-toned ‘Magilla’ purple perilla thrive in a planting bed only 8 inches wide.
Centerpieces here and in the tiered backyard are decades-old field grown olive trees from a Central Valley grove razed due to drought. “I call them my rescue olives,” Andrea says of the striking specimens lowered into place by a soaring crane.
Removal of a cumbersome spa opened up the backyard for entertaining and relaxing outside the family room and kitchen. On the lower patio, two yellow ‘Graham Thomas’ roses waft their fresh fruity scent across Dedon lounge chairs nestled near the outdoor fireplace. A potted peach tree nearby is part of a growing orchard that includes
Valencia orange, Meyer lemon, Mexican lime and espaliered ‘Anna’ apple trees.
Alongside the olive tree, a weeping ‘China Doll’ standard rose, ‘Livin’ Easy’ shrub roses and ‘Cream de Mint’ dwarf pittosporums dot a ground-hugging tapestry of carpet bugle, Australian violets and ‘Johnson’s Blue’ geranium. Herbs ranging from lemongrass to oregano and rosemary abound here, too.
The upper or entertaining patio, where two pink trumpet trees cast painterly shadows on a privacy fence, a natural-edge wood table for 12 welcomes guests for birthdays and other celebrations. “I found the table in New York—on sale—after shopping for a slab for months,” Andrea recalls. Steps away, next to the Harrison wood-fired oven, is a round Evo gas cooktop perched on the countertop. “You’ll never have another grill once you’ve cooked on an Evo,” Andrea says.
These days, with two houses only a short walk apart, the couple divides their time between them. “The second house is an oasis for me and Howard,” Andrea says. “When it gets chaotic at the other house, we come here to relax.”
At both residences, she’s happily watched neighbors, beach goers and surfers stop to snap photos of the gardens. “It’s all very gratifying,” she says.