A bonsai-like Japanese black pine helps give the garden its Asian feel. Having tended the private gardens on this two-acre vantage point for the past 25 years, Tom Helm says his philosophy is “to attempt to amuse the eye without detracting from the view.”
Tom doesn’t shear hedges straight across; he nips into them to produce a natural, loose look. The homeowners’ appreciation for Tom’s artistry remains undiminished. “Tom has taught us the importance of slowing down and taking time to appreciate beauty,” says one.
Fan aloe, a tree succulent, makes an elegant, low-maintenance container plant. Tom’s foliage choices display an Asian ambience and provide soothing combinations.
Tom enhanced the area with textural foliage “rather than flowers that might compete with the view,” he says. Aeoniums―which form rosettes of fleshy green leaves―contrast with Japanese black pines.
Tom added mounding shrubs such as Santa Barbara daisies, artemisia, and cascading ivy geraniums. Beyond these, the harbor’s graceful curve leads the eye to planes taking off and landing at San Diego’s International Airport.
Behind the house, a pond with a bronze fountain borders an east-facing patio. Purple-blooming society garlic shrubs pick up the veins of color that run through the boulders lining the pond.
Tom admits that when he’s working, he loses track of time. The reason is simple: “I love what I do.” The vanishing-edge pool seems to merge with the ocean, stretching southwest to the mouth of the bay.
A low-growing aloe that sends up orange spires in summer points to the terra-cotta tile roofs of a former naval training center miles away. Sculptural plants, such as bonsai, give a garden personality. For drama, vary leaf color and size.