The Site

The client’s home sits on a hillside in San Carlos which is prone to high winds, hot summers and drainage issues. We were hired after a not so great experience with one of their ‘landscaping friends’ who built the upper arbor area without a well thought out design plan. Unfortunately, lack of planning cost them double their original quote and in the end created an overbearing, unused ‘amphitheater’ space that was not their original intention.

There were signs of a gully formation from extreme rains that bisected the clients yard starting from underneath their neighbors fence.

A few mature trees and upper arbor remained but otherwise, we considered the project site a blank slate.

The People

Gary and Christine live in a smaller home and wanted to expand their living space by creating several outdoor rooms. They like to entertain guests year round and wanted a space to be safe and accessible around the sloped areas, and a place to relax in the shade while hanging out with their pets.

It was our challenge to come up with a way to salvage any existing building materials we could and make a cohesive space for entertaining, relaxing, and edible gardening.

The Style

The couple wanted low maintenance but tons of color and to reuse as much of their existing building materials that they paid so much for during the previous installation. We presented a fusion of Southwestern and California style gardens and they loved the concept.

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They had a large amount of existing Arizona red flagstone which Gary liked but Christine did not. We struck a compromise but infusing a bit of the red flagstone into some of the walkways and seatwall but balanced it with the more subtle tones of desert gold gravel, lin creek cobble, Napa wall rock and full range Connecticut bluestone.

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A dry river-bed running across the yard to control erosion from strong rainfall also adds visual interest while dividing the outdoor rooms. Since the existing arbor did not provide actual shade (not sited correctly with the angle of the sun) we designed a second arbor with southwest details on the shade boards to create a lounge space.

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Secondary lounging occurs beyond a postage stamp sized lawn (just enough for toddlers to play on) with the addition of a bench swing and built in seatwall.

A paver patio (not shown) is adjacent to the client’s existing deck for dining, cooking and lounging by the portable firepit.

The Plants

Plants are tough, low water but colorful with an emphasis on wind blocking trees and bunch grasses that sway in the breeze. My recent trip to New Mexico provided many of the ideas for the colorful plant pallet.

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Additionally plants were reviewed to all be non- toxic and thorn free for their cats and for friends with young children.

The Budget

The initial budget was difficult to meet based on the varying elevations, erosion needs, and cost of ‘redoing’ some of the previous work not installed correctly. In the end, we had to increase the budget to meet all the client’s needs but the result is a new yard that is functional, beautiful and productive.