This is how it looked the first time I saw it. With almost no direction (which works pretty well for me), I was asked to design a makeover for this courtyard.
So, faced with a blank slate that was crying out for *something*, here’s what I came up with. Please keep in mind that I hadn’t done a perspective drawing in a few years. (it’s not perfect, to say the least…)
The client loved the design and gave the go-ahead. Yipee! Now, usually the finished product varies from the conceptual drawing in varying degrees. Either the client requests changes mid-stream, I suggest a change because reality didn’t allow for something on paper, or any of several other possible reasons. But this time, the results matched the design with uncanny preciseness.
With the exception of the Wisteria not yet covering the arbor, this is definitely a plan that came together well!
Here’s some fun before & afters to look at. I won’t bore you with words- as they say, ” A picture’s worth…”
For the past year I’ve been working on a really wonderful project. It’s a beautiful spot right on a cliff above the ocean. The weather is pretty extreme, so plant selection has been tricky, to say the least! I’m doing a fairly good job at taking lots of pictures, which is not always my strong point. Here’s just a little taste…
Just after planting(with some rare sun!):
6 months After:
More on this project in the future!
Most of my work is for private homes, though a small percentage of my clients are small businesses. I rarely do large large commercial designs, but a couple of years ago I designed the plantings for a large apartment complex in Silicon Valley. The property manager already had his construction crew and he wanted me to draw up a design and planting plan for all the non-paved areas. I also was hired as creative consultant to supervise the installation of it all. It was a new level of landscape design for me. I almost turned the job down because, “I don’t do that.” But there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years- if I feel like something is over my head or out of my league, and my first impulse is to say no… I don’t. I think on it and get others’ opinions. I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and said yes to this one.
This is a bridge separating the two parking lots. I had them terrace the slopes on both sides and build the arbor above. I chose Wisteria and Lonicera (Honeysuckle) to climb on the arbor and planted the terraces with a variety of shrubs- including Loropetalum, Lantana, Cistus, Rosemary and Salvia. All work horses of the plant world- chosen for there good behavior!
A long shot:
…a little closer:
…and a close up of the other side:
This is what happens when the termite tent doesn’t get tucked behind your planter boxes. (I even pulled them 6 inches away from the building, like they said) They’re not kidding about that stuff being toxic! This pic was taken one day after the tent was taken down:
Here’s proof that I don’t make others do all the labor! I actually really love building small walls, paths, patios, etc. myself. This was a fun project for an intimate courtyard right off a master bedroom. I had fun tucking tiny Sedums into the nooks. One side of the fence surrounding this garden is glass, allowing for a breathtaking view of the ocean.
Once the plants grow in, I think this will look quite nice!
I just recently revisited a garden I designed & installed last year. It was time for a bit of fine tuning and, most fun of all, a little lesson with the garden owner while I was at it. We worked together and I explained what I was doing and why, and also what would need to be done in the coming months. I was extremely pleased at how the plants have grown in and how the overall look & feel of the garden is coming together just as I had envisioned! Yay for a plan coming together!!
Nothing like starting from scratch! Actually, before this picture was taken, there was red lava rock about 4 inches deep and an old wooden path along the wall of the house. (left side of pic) After the lava rock and the old path were gone we rototilled the rock hard soil and then continued on…
The path was replaced with sand colored flagstone (all the way to the left) and a nice selection of lower maintenance plants were planted. Throughout the garden are several decorative stone and gravel borders (like the one above) to visually divide the long narrow space into different ‘garden rooms’.
This garden is located where it actually gets warm in the summer, and this beautiful Ulmus parvifolia (Chinese Elm) provides the only source of shade in the garden. Inspired by necessity, I decided that this is where the sitting area had to go!
When you’re in your garden, do you feel peaceful? happy? at ease? inspired? possibly even invigorated? Or does being in, or thinking about, your garden bring up feelings of stress, anxiousness, guilt or avoidance for you?
These negative feelings can be caused by thinking that there’s so much to do that’s not getting done, or because you don’t like the way it looks- maybe it embarrasses you, or it simply doesn’t reflect your personality or sensibilities. I know at different times I’ve felt all of the above emotions in regard to my garden, though I’m lucky enough to have experienced the “good” emotions much more often because I’ve created an environment for myself that makes me happy on a very deep level.
Another reason I feel lucky is that I’ve had many opportunities to create such gratifying outdoor spaces for my clients. Since I only have one home (so far!) with a finite amount of garden, if my clients weren’t so accommodating, I would have to re-do my garden several times a year to be able to express this creative urge! So, because I’m one of the luckiest people in the world, I get to do what I LOVE- creating uniquely beautiful garden spaces for others- AND get paid for it! (Whoever thought of that was a genius.)
Getting some of these yummy good feelings from your own garden needn’t be a daunting task, if you don’t want it to be. Anything from reinventing your whole garden to carving out a small, secluded niche can deliver the goods. In fact, for many clients, I’ve drawn the garden of their dreams, to be ooh-ed and ahhh-ed and dreamed over until some future date when they could actually realize it. They’ve told me that even this- a drawing on a piece of paper- brought them a measure of peace and happiness.
Ok. Two posts in a row about succulents, I know, but I’m having a lot of fun with them! The place I go to buy them is called Succulent Gardens and the owner, Robin, has been doing this for more than 30 years. He is, as we say, an expert. I had to buy some plants for a very windy site and of course Aeonium was on the list. They’re weird, cool and beautiful- not to mention really tough. There are so many different ones! Here’s what Robin has done with them in a display garden. I call it the Aeonium Bank.
Click on ’em, click on ’em, click on ’em! They look oh so much better BIG. Isn’t this AMAZING??
They also have many greenhouses and one of them had carpets of sweet babies. See?
If you feel like driving along the coast to Moss Landing, you can go east at the twin smokestacks of the power plant and in five more minutes, you’ll be in heaven. Oh, and afterward you can have a super yummy lunch at Haute Enchilada. (NOT “The Whole Enchilada” that you can see from the highway- confusing, I know)