Home & Garden

Fabricating their surroundings

Peter and Jan Aijian's graden in Arroyo Grande.
Photo by Jayson Mellom 11-07-10
Peter and Jan Aijian's graden in Arroyo Grande. Photo by Jayson Mellom 11-07-10

Sense of wonderment. Those are words Jan Aijian uses to describe her free-flowing, graceful metal sculptures dancing throughout her and husband Peter’s four-acre property on the Mesa in Arroyo Grande.

Peter had encouraged Jan, an artist, to explore sculpture welding in 1998 when they wanted some type of permanent art for their extensive front lawn and trees at their rural Visalia home. Jan attended welding classes, and quickly became skilled at working with large pieces of scrap metal, transforming them into vibrant and tasteful works of outdoor art.

When the Aijians relocated and found the perfect Central Coast lot with distant views on the Mesa, they first built a small guesthouse, where they lived while they became acquainted with the property and developed plans for the large main house. But before the house was built, they constructed the welding barn, so Jan could continue with her projects. While Jan welded, Peter, with his “man skills,” as Jan calls them, tackled the functional elements of erosion control, drainage and tree clearing in preparation for building.

After designing and building their eclectic Mediterranean home in the shape of a cross, Peter and Jan wanted to create an exterior environment that would please all of the senses – sight, smell and sound – as well as be thought-provoking. Peter carefully selected materials and plants to accomplish these goals, and combined with Jan’s garden art, the result is a delightful and colorful aesthetic experience.

“An important element in designing the landscape was a desire to enjoy it, which means, as I get older, not a lot of work,” said Peter. As one who has always done his own gardening, he knew the time and expense involved in tending a lawn, so he opted for a large courtyard patio of rose-colored Air Vol interlocking pavers instead of a lawn.

Happy with the result, the courtyard serves as an outdoor art gallery for Jan’s creations, a place for parties and family, and a showcase for his many interesting potted succulents, orchids and bromeliads. “And the best part is that I don’t have to water, weed or feed it,” he says enthusiastically.

For color, Peter scoured local nurseries for interesting blooms and foliage that would produce color year-round and be drought-tolerant. His favorites, Grevillea, New Zealand flax, Alstroemeria, and Breath of Heaven, combine to create an informal natural look. While shopping, he discovered “an entire world of succulents” at Los Osos Valley Nursery and became fascinated with their intricate geometric designs and unusual colors. He incorporated several into the free-form garden beds, mixing them among colorful and fast-growing Hebe, Bird of Paradise and airy pink Guara.

The ground covers chosen for erosion control on the slightly sloping property added more texture and color, with five colors of the finer ice plant Delosperma, the deep green Myoporum parvifolium with tiny white flowers, blue and trailing red fescue, mondo grass and lobelia. One of Peter’s garden sayings is, “You can never have too much lobelia.”

To satisfy their goal for fragrance in the garden, Aijian placed night-blooming Jasmine and sweet violets outside the bedroom windows, deep purple Clematis near the kitchen door and Winnefred Gilman sage and several lavenders among low-trimmed Melaleuca shrubs and New Zealand tea trees. Jan chose large and deep-toned ceramic wind chimes to mingle with the sound of water from their Mexican fountain in the courtyard.

For the Aijians, their vision of designing an outdoor environment appealing to all of the senses has become a reality. A couple closely connected by their creativity, attention to detail and appreciation of beauty, their garden successfully engenders a sense of wonderment.

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