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IT'S GARDEN ART, NOT PLANTS THAT MAKES Kate Koundouriotis' yard special. The Eureka resident,
whose recently restored 1870s Victorian-style cottage is situated on a busy street, has little time or patience for fussing with plants, mowing or weeding. Instead, she has fashioned a garden with swirling paths of used brick and an artistic redwood privacy screen she built herself.

A special feature of Koundouriotis' yard is a 500-square-foot patio of cement art tiles built by local artist John King. King, whose work has gained national attention, specializes in concrete sculpture, art tiles, arches, tables, chairs, benches, streams and ponds. A large water sculpture is featured at the Science Museum in Birmingham, Ala., as well as a Stonehenge-style seating area for a park in Dublin, Calif.

[photo of Kate Koundouriotis] Eureka resident Kate Kaoundouriotis

When you enter Koundouriotis' garden from the swirling brick path that leads from the front yard to the side yard, you immediately notice a four-foot-tall obelisk fountain crafted by King. The color of dark moss, it bubbles silently beneath a 20-foot-tall camellia that erupts from the garden like a giant mushroom. A carpet of baby tears hugs the soil beneath the fountain.

"The fountain was my idea," said Koundouriotis. "I wanted something (a water feature) very simple, easy to keep clean."

Along the 10-foot-tall fence is a border of bleeding heart, oxalis and native fern. It is a cool, quiet shade garden, a low-maintenance oasis, that Koundouriotis finds soothing.

"It is very quiet, serene and naturalized," she said.

The brick path, built by Koundouriotis from the old chimney that collapsed in an earthquake, merges into a path of King's cement art tiles. His art is influenced by a background in biology. (Twenty years ago he was a graduate student at Humboldt State University.) Primitive shapes of insects, crustaceans, salamanders and the like are a hallmark of King's work.

[photo of concrete tiled walkway] Concrete tiles and sculpture of artist John King, below.

[photo of artist John King]

In bas-relief fashion, each tile features a primitive shape, like dinosaur bones, beetle skeletons, lizards, crabs, frogs, salamanders, trilobites and dragon flies. This crazy quilt of ancient shapes is tinted in earth tone hues of green, terra cotta, tan and charcoal.

Some tiles are deliberately broken and then re-set to give the patio a natural, informal feel, another highlight of King's work.

"I want my work to be a more individual piece of art when it's done," King said. A round four-foot diameter rock garden studded with assorted low-maintenance perennials like iris, fairy wand and blue-eyed grass is an island of green on the warm sea of tiles.

"I knew I didn't want the entire space taken up with tile, so I had him (King) leave a bare spot," Koundouriotis said.

Also featured on the patio are two beefy concrete planters built by King. Each planter is 2 1/2-feet tall, one 12-feet long, another six-feet long. It is a low maintenance way for Koundouriotis to grow annuals and bulbs.

"I just want to be able to sit back and enjoy the garden, rather than having to think about having to put a lot of work into it," she said.

Across the patio is a garage, fashioned like an old carriage house, which has attached to it a 300-square-foot raised deck. It is enclosed on three sides by an artistic, redwood privacy screen Koundouriotis built last summer. Silhouettes of local birds and wildlife like herons, cormorants, sand pipers, harbor seals and sea lions are featured on an 8-foot-tall screen made up of 1-inch by 2-inch redwood slats spaced 3/4 inch apart.

To achieve the silhouette effect, Koundouriotis hand cut puzzle-like pieces of redwood and screwed them in between the slats to make creatures appear to be whole.

"I'm so pleased with the way it has turned out," she said. "It is the most ambitious thing I've ever tried."

Koundouriotis got the idea from an article in Sunset Magazine in 1989, years before she ever thought of having her present day garden.

"The article showed where somebody had made a gate this way. I thought, `Where would I ever use a 5- foot wide gate?' One day when I was sitting on the deck I thought, `Why not around the deck?'"

When Koundouriotis does spend time in her garden, it is not pulling weeds or deadheading flowers.

"I like to sit on the steps of the patio or relax on the deck and at the patio garden. Every time I sit out here, I find some new pattern I don't remember seeing before. It's nice," she said.


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