The Design Challenge

This brand new home in a brand new development butts up to a nature preserve: 137 acres of riparian woodland, eucalyptus groves, coastal scrub, grassland, creeks, vernal pools, bluffs, dunes, beach and tide pools that is home to a large overwintering Monarch butterfly population and 200+ bird species, including the threatened Western Snowy Plover. We wanted to support the local flora and fauna and take advantage of the extraordinary location by borrowing the larger view.

The site itself is comprised of long, narrow, uninviting outdoor spaces, dominated by the house and a 7’ high stucco wall along the property lines. The challenge was to create comfortable, well-proportioned spaces. We also needed to screen the property from the neighboring house and street, soften its stark perimeter wall and quiet the large number of existing, busily-patterned architectural finishes. Finally, we had to develop a successful planting scheme for the site’s heavy clay soil using plants that would have no deleterious effect on the nature preserve.

The Design Solution

The new landscape combines expansive views of the nature preserve with sweet, intimate garden moments. 

Soil mounds retained with boulders provide enhanced drainage and hide the perimeter stem wall, visually erasing the separation between the garden and the wildland.

Ornamental grasses tie the garden and the preserve land together seamlessly, tolerate the heavy soil, and require little water. Color was introduced through planting containers, which also provide excellent drainage for plants that don’t tolerate clay soil. Additional plantings on-site demand little water, provide habitat for indigenous fauna and support the overwintering Monarchs.

The stark perimeter wall is now replaced by charming “vignettes,” framed by each interior room’s windows.

Furnishings brighten the once-dark approach to the interior courtyard, and vines obscure overly-busy architectural finishes. The interior courtyard has been transformed into an oasis, sheltered from wind and heat, replete with a bubbling central fountain, dramatic plantings, comfortable seating, and sumptuous details.

In the backyard, a stone water feature provides soothing notes, brings movement to the garden and serves as a bird bath for the songbirds that frequent the preserve. An iron pergola shelters a day bed --- a popular spot for reading and napping. A dozen varieties of fig are being grafted to one another as they grow along the frame of the pergola. In the evenings, the boulder fire pit is the central focus of backyard activities.


Association of Professional Landscape Designers, Merit Award 2015