Home & Garden

The Harnish garden in Shell Beach: Seaside living, made in the shade

The sail-covered dining area, which faces the ocean, adjoins the outdoor kitchen.
The sail-covered dining area, which faces the ocean, adjoins the outdoor kitchen. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Umbrellas are no match for a stiff ocean breeze in Shell Beach. That’s why Mike and Chris Harnish raised a horizontal sail to shade their entry garden and outdoor dining area facing the blue Pacific. Their crisp white sunshade adds both architectural interest and protection from the elements.

The redesign of their entry includes pavers that look like flagstone and a wall enclosing a large and inviting terrace. Dwarf agapanthus in white and geraniums in pink soften the wall. A burgundy smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) with puffs of pink appears to smolder next to the stairs. Butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii) bloom in abundance near the terrace.

A new gas fire pit looks colorful even when it isn’t lit because amber glass fragments fill the base. A large ceramic urn bubbles and cascades water into the clay bowl beneath. In the evening, it offers ambient lighting as well. A twin to the fountain is a planter near the outdoor kitchen.

The outdoor kitchen started as a secondary project and then took on a life of its own, Mike Harnish said. The stainless steel barbecue and generous cooking area is topped with polished granite. Colorful fuchsia on the fence draws hummingbirds to the area.

Two relaxed and often-used dining areas are served by this kitchen. One is under the sail at the front of the house and the other is tucked away and sheltered from the sea breeze at the side of the house.

Harnish found an old gas fixture that had been a chandelier in a former life. He could see that if you did things just right you could re-work it so he had it sandblasted, re-welded and powder-coated. Now it hangs above a dining table in the garden and sprouts a variety of succulents from its many arms.

Chris Harnish is the main plant person in this garden.

“She has a really good eye for plants,” her husband said. Fragrant star jasmine surrounds most of the house and a selection of hydrangeas, ferns and coral bells soften the area. A large princess flower with deep purple blooms is a particularly lovely focal point.

This relaxed entertaining space and elaborate landscape design brought two awards from the California Landscape Contractors Association to Addison Landscape Inc., said Tyler Addison.

The arbor-covered back patio is protected by Australian brush cherry (Eugenia myrtifolia), which cre ates a green wall tipped with red new growth, and adds privacy. Hanging baskets of flowers and pots of bright begonias and geraniums bring lots of color and add visual interest and depth.

Mike and Chris Harnish liked their new relaxed entertaining space so well they asked Addison if he could continue the work on the back of their home. The same Belgard Hardscape flagstone-appearing pavers now continue throughout the garden.

The area designed for the hot tub is completely private because it is sheltered by bright bougainvillea and an ornamental pear tree.

An underused sidewalk alongside the garage has been transformed recently with tall square pots filled to the brim with tall succulents like aeoniums and donkey’s tail cascading down the sides. These are punctuated by attractive brass solar lanterns that highlight them after dark.

The garden is also a bird paradise. Fountains and bird feeders in different shapes and sizes are found throughout the garden. Hummingbird attractors such as droughttolerant cuphea with its tubular flowers, and bright red parrot’s beak welcome the tiniest visitor.


Plants that thrive in salt air and stiff ocean breezes are abundant. Many Australian and South African plants thrive where lesser plants shrivel to a crisp. Euryops pectinatus, a shrubby bright yellow daisy, is happy in sandy soil and foggy weather. Geraniums, melaleucas, lavenders, succulents, and eurphorbias all enjoy ocean breezes.