A Garden of Elegance
After the initial meeting with the clients, we noted the elegance of the original details in their 1920s home. When we began discussing the back garden there were multiple, mismatched terraces, with no large area for entertaining. The existing retaining walls and terraces had several different materials and surfaces. We drafted a Phase I plan to include one large patio level in conjunction with the existing deck (which would be replaced and redesigned in Phase II). The patio then leads up to an upper patio flanked by an elegant staircase, as well as, a peaceful seating area underneath the existing Magnolia grandiflora.
After the plans were accepted by the client, we started by demo’ing the existing walls and concrete patio by cutting the concrete into blocks to use for the new retaining walls. Before the walls were built there was extensive grading that needed to be done. We did all hand grading to create more cohesive, functional and expansive terraces. The thick concrete blocks were then stacked and reset to make a strong retaining wall. The stacked block walls had wire mesh applied and secured for the first stucco scratch coat. This technique saves money both in terms of demo and hauling and also allows us to create more free form and sculpted walls, which would be more difficult to achieve with poured in place concrete walls. After the concrete stairs flanking the upper patio and leading up to the seating area were poured, we noticed how much more pronounced the grade changes were than the original garden, which created great interest. When sitting beneath the Magnolia at the seating area you get an appreciation for these dramatic changes in the topography.
After providing a number of samples of tile for the patio surfacing we chose an elegant, neutral outdoor ceramic tile that echoed some of the interior detail.
The planting palette was intended to be an exotic paradise garden with a number of drought tolerant plants, as well. The garden is filled with a wonderful variety of tropical, sub tropical, and hardy plants. There is color year round with the use of flower color, evergreen foliage color and great texture. We also wanted to create privacy in every direction with perimeter plantings without planting a formal hedge. In this part of Oakland, we can grow more plant varieties than anywhere else in the United States (according to the USDA).
More recently, we finished Phase II. This phase included a redesign and enlarged Batu hardwood deck, that would flow seamlessly from house to deck to patio. We also incorporated a circular spa, which is being put to great use. Batu has the same effect as an interior hardwood floor, which allows for the new deck to feel like an outdoor living room.
One of the most important aspects for us, in conceiving and implementing a new garden is the emotive impact. This garden emotes strength and softness that produces a dynamic elegance.