Retro meets rustic in a funky Los Angleles landscape
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The ranch house with Alpine-influenced trim also mixed genres as freely as the artist does in his own work.Skip to next paragraph
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"What I love about Hollywood is that you can find western ranch and Swiss chalet architecture all mixed together in a 1959 tract home," Scharf says. "Fantasy is allowed everywhere."
For the most part, Scharf let it be. "I am interested in the relationship between the organic and the man-made," he says. "Nature has a way of finding its own way into the cracks of a city and coexisting."
As a source of inspiration, he adds, "Nature is so much crazier and more magical than any art can be."
Still, Scharf has made practical improvements. He trimmed the lower branches of pine trees that circled the northern edge of the property, opening up a view of the ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains. He also let thirsty shrubs die, and he cut down ficus trees.
"I'll see a tree that causes too much shade, drinks too much water , and is overcrowding everything," he says. "At the same time, it has gone to so much trouble to create a trunk and branches, I didn't just want to eradicate it."
The answer: Make the stumps pedestals. On some he attached epiphytes, more commonly known as air plants. On others he added plants in plain terra-cotta containers splashed with his hand-painted tribal swirls.
He has also perched a potted ponytail palm in the middle of a live rosemary shrub, and in one exuberant example of his "organic, random, and constantly changing" landscape design philosophy, he created the effect of a tree stump flowering by attaching old bottles, pots and broken crockery to it.
"It's not like I consciously try to copy folk artists," Scharf says. "But we have something in common: Don't throw things away, use every knickknack for something, utilize the bits and pieces of your life and decorate with it."
Adds Paine: "Kenny has a real eye for organic shapes and a respect for the way nature does things. He recognizes what is already there and puts his playful personality to it."
As Scharf explains it, art and gardening are branches of creativity. "Growing things and making a painting are kind of a similar process. There is a combination of the planned and the improvised. Nature doesn't need a lot of help from us. Things with shape and color and texture pop up in the garden and I let them. The fact that it's alive is even more wonderful."
The artist recognizes that to some observers his garden might be something of an unearthly delight. "Maybe it does look mutant compared to the average garden, like a monster that is let go on its own," he concedes. "I don't look at that as a bad thing."
Editor’s note: For more on gardening, see the Monitor’s main gardening page, which offers articles on many gardening topics. Also, check out our blog archive and our RSS feed. You may want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. Take part in the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos and enter our contests.