In another installation of a design by Patrick Lannan of Flora Grubb Gardens, we got to help with a marvelous transformation of a rather small back garden above the Castro-Duncan Open Space, above Noe Valley. Once again I was contacted to install. This blog has come in quite handy for getting jobs installing Patrick’s designs, I must say!
These homeowners had been in the house about a year, and were ready to make the back garden into something they could both enjoy sitting in, and appreciate the view of from within the house. The previous owners had a tiny landing outside the sliding glass doors from the kitchen, with one set of steps leading straight down to a small seating deck, and another set leading along the wall to a concrete pad. The garden itself was only 1/4 of the whole back space, which itself is fairly small. Not much of a garden at all.
Patrick’s design called for a new deck at the same height as the glass doors, to extend the living space out into the back. The deck was made as wide as the whole property, and about 2/5 the depth of the garden. Colorful orange pots on the deck and immediately below help tie together the two levels, the upper pot planted with the intensely perfumed magnolia cousin Michelia champaca ‘Alba’, and the lower planted with a fragrant and useful Meyer lemon. The color is repeated at ground level with the leaves of Cordyline ‘Cha Cha’. The wall of the neighboring house is screened-away with bushy palms – Chamaedorea hooperiana – which also have cascading orange bracts of “dates” after blooming. Despite their size, the multi-trunking bamboo-like palms add a grand scale to the small space without overwhelming it.
The coup de grace, though, is a freestanding vertical garden of Woolly Pockets, directly across from the kitchen window. The pockets are planted with green and orange plants to further continue the repetition of colors throughout the whole garden. Oxalis, Heuchera (coral bells) and ferns hang above the ground planting of California native Fuchsia thymifolia, cordylines, and more ferns. The bright colors on the ground “lighten” the space up and make it feel like is closer to the viewer’s eye. The vertical garden element draws the eye across the gap of the ground below, unifying the whole space into a single “room.”
As with so many garden installations in SF, everything had to go through the house with multiple staircases. Oh, the joy. We had quite the challenge getting the palms through the house, since they were immensely heavy. We ended up running down the hill to hire some day-laborers to do that bit of heavy work for us. So helpful!
Patrick had a guy named Dave, DBA Trick Woodworks, build the deck, and some modern styled partial walls for either side of the deck. The garden is oriented with the eastern and western sides open, and the prevailing westerly winds can be intense, so the walls do a great job of shielding the deck and keeping it comfortable almost all the time.
The transition really was quite phenomenal. It was hard to fathom that such a small garden could be made to feel so large! Especially considering the new deck is such a significant portion of the garden space. But really, making it so functional and keeping it right at the same height as the indoor living space serves to extend the useable area right out the back door. True Western living! And, their existing colorful Adirondack chairs and ceramic stools now seem at home in this garden, rather than looking like debris as they did before.
One last detail was to spruce-up the sickly looking planter at the front door. The dead plants had to be taken out, and I replanted it with nearly two dozen Aeonium decorum ‘Sunburst’, which needs absolutely minimal care and watering, and whose colors tie in with the plants in the back garden. Attention to detail is everything!