Behind this woodside home was a slope covered completely with St. John’s Wort with a large oval of lawn at it foot. The only connection between the house and the lawn was a narrow staircase. The reasons for the large lawn was children, grandchildren, and Grandpa, who was an avid golfer. We reduced the size of the lawn and built a series of broad platforms and stairs to make a stronger connect between the pool deck, house and lawn. We were in the midst of drought (again), so we decided to create a border that would require no supplemental water. I chose plants from regions of Mediterranean climate, because they are evolved to thrive with annual summer drought. The plant palette was naive, but it worked.
We planted in the fall so the plants could get established in the winter rains. The following year we did a bit of spot watering by hand as needed. The main species are Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), manzanita (Arctostaphyllos species), coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis 'Twin Peaks') and wild lilac (Ceanothus species). The purple spires in the background are a California native, Wooly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum).
Some of the smaller plants around the margins are Aloe saponaria, Dickia species, African iris or fortnight lily (Dietes bicolor), California fuchsia (Zauschneria californica) and sea lavender (Limonium perezii). Many of these would be summer-dormant (read dry and brown) in this hot, coastal valley (Sunset zone 16), but they thrived where it got a little overspray from the lawn, providing a bit of color, even in the heat of August.
We added boulders and even large pieces of fallen trees from the adjacent woods to break up the smooth slope and to make the lawn and slope sit comfortably in its natural setting.
This two-story Menlo Park townhouse had 12 x 11 foot open atrium in the middle. When we were called to the job, it had a simple deck with a couple of chairs and a table that nobody used. It opened with sliding glass doors to the foyer, and had a large window to the dining room, both offering ample views of siding. Sitting in the space offered not much more: two stories of siding going straight up, with the windows into the house giving one the feeling of being in a cage at a zoo. They also had a back deck that they could use for outdoor dining and entertaining, so we suggested removing the deck and turning the space into the terrarium it was.
We hauled 14 tons of boulders through this foyer.
There were several windows upstairs looking into this glorified airwell, so we included a 22 feet tall coral bark maple that we’d dug from another client’s garden.