Friday, August 24, 2007

The Plantscape to go along with the hardscape

A couple photographs of the plant scape :

The evergreen foundation shrub is the very deer resistant Choysia ternata.
Oh , did I mention that along with the challenging sun and shade dilemma that this is also a pretty active deer browsing site.
It could be called Bambi’s Salad Bar.

Infront of the Choysia is a wonderful variegated Carex morrowii.
Across the path in the raised terrace is a swath of lamium . In back of the Lamium is the wiry foliage of Chondropetalum tectorum and some Asparagus ferns.

The left side of entry holds a Rhodie, Phormium, Contorted Blue Spruce , Juncus and some sedums.

There is a set of steps off of the side that leads you down from the garage.
You pass the Contored Blue Weeping Spruce ( which the husband is not found of but tolerates,... like I said, they are cool clients )
And a calla liy at the corner that has grown to such unreal proportions .
Last time I did a ‘drive by siting’, it was blooming its head off and standing at 5 feet tall.
It is the largest calla lily I have ever seen !
In this photo the garden is newly planted so it looks a little sparse.

A dwarf red Japanese maple and a Hinoki Cypress.
Sitting on top of a rock is a red glazed ceramic pot with a bonsai in training - a contorted juniper.

Renovations and Transformations

A few more Renovations and Transformations

The project directly below is located in Southern Marin County.
These clients were exceptionally fun to work with.
They had an open mind towards design and loved quality stone craftsmanship.
The husband had actually done a few small stone projects on the property which is what guided our design and build collaboration relationship.

The house was a plain square plywood sheathed box with a very shallow and steep front entry way. There were also several very large pine trees in poor bug infested health.

View looking across the front yard .
I’m standing at the front doorway.

The view below was taken at the exact same point .
We terraced the narrow steep yard to give it a bit more ‘depth perception’.
The stone walls are crafted from Sayers quarry stone in Napa Valley and the stone flagstone is called ‘Three Rivers’.
The lighting is from Arroyo Craftsman

Sun exposure is really quite tricky here.
The property is fairly close to the ocean so there is a lot of fog .
Directly across the private street is a huge stand of giant Eucalyptus trees that filter out a lot of sun.
So the area gets patches of extremely hot sun when it is not foggy and is heavily shaded sporadically. - A truly difficult planting situation.

The photo below shows the newly renovated front door entry.
Not only is the front yard shallow but the front entry doorway is shallow too.
We designed an arbor that adds a bit of depth to the front door .
The plywood veneer house was also shingled.
Note the extremely generous sized channel drain at the front entry.
The front street regularly floods. This channel drain is connected to a 6 inch diameter drain pipe system.

here is some side by side before and after photos.

Ouite a difference !

Monday, August 20, 2007

Renovations and Transformations

Renovations and Transformations in the Landscape

The projects depicted below show the project site before pencil was put to paper and the clients desires were expressed.

During the design process we delved deeply into the clients objectives and delivered a solution(s) that met their wish list and budgetary constraints.

Example # 1 -
This young family recently purchased a track home within a nice but densely compact development.
Their desire was to have a resort like atmosphere in their own back yard.

The back yard space was long and narrow. It was also bisected in half by a five foot tall concrete block retaining wall.

The outcome :
A swimming pool, dining area, fireplace , cook center and hot tub.

Example # 2
This lot had a tremendous amount of potential despite its extreme pie shape and poor drainage.
We handled the drainage problem by re-contouring the grades and re-engineering a new drainage system .

A shot showing the project mid way :

Above grade we installed a dry stream bed, below grade is a complex system of drain pipes.

A view of the sunning patio with water feature

A detail shot of the water feature

Example # 3
This project is located in the Squaw Valley ski resort area in the Sierra Mountains .
The homeowners wanted a year round outdoor living room.
There are hydronic heat coils embedded in the patio flooring and the seating so that the snow does not have an opportunity to accumulate during the winter months.
An outdoor kitchen and dining area was sculpted into the hillside.

The crew is setting the stone stairway.
The large stone that is in the foreground was carved into a water feature.

The water feature - This was the maiden test run ... It worked ! - we installed some smooth river rocks in the lower basin after this photo was taken.

Almost done - The copper and bronze privacy screen has not been installed yet.

With the metal privacy screens installed.

The metal sculpture in the natural gas powerd fire ring. - Metal work done by Mountain Forge in Truckee CA.

That’s all for now.
I’ll post a few more project example a little later on.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Visting Copia, The American Center for Wine, Food and Arts

At quick visit to Copia,

The grapevines are hanging heavy with ripening fruit and soon the Napa and Sonoma Valleys will be a buzz with beautiful brown skinned workers wielding their hooked pruning knives at lightning speed.
The bunches of grapes will be expertly sliced off the vine and dropped into the big heavy duty plastic bins and whisked away to the crushing shed.

The valley takes on a whole different smell during the crush.
I love the intoxicating perfume that fills the air during that frenzied month.

We still have a month and a half to go until the harvest but you can see the fruit dropping down below their espaliered frames in anticipation of the upcoming harvest.

If you have never been to the Napa Valley I believe that the best place to start your exploratory visit is at Copia, The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts.

Copia is located in the town of Napa , which is the first town you enter when coming into the Napa Valley Wine Region.

The gardens at Copia are designed on a grid system, much like the famed culinary garden at Chateau de Villandry in France.
Below s a wonderful structured axial view down a grass surfaced alle’ threw a series of grape arbors.

One of the herb gardens within the large structured garden

Excellent signage in the gardens too , including Tips

A sunflower bud

A cheerful sign of summer

The front entry to Copia is boldly dramatic yet simple in its design.
Peter Walker ASLA designed the entry as well as the layout of the gardens.
This photo below shows the water rill that runs the entire length of the entry, including the main entry and the adjacent garden that lies across the street . Copia s property is bisected by First street and it also sits on the bow of the Napa River.

As you leave the car park you are beckoned on by this dramatic water scape which leads you to the front door and to the adjacent gardens beyond.

Along with the heady smells of the ripening grapes the air is also sweetly scented with
Amaryllis belladonna.
Many believe this plant to be a California native due to its wide spread seemingly indigenous growth and drought tolerant adaptability to our arid Mediterranean climate , but it is really a native to South Africa .
Naked Ladies , as they are commonly called are blooming their heads off all over Northern California at this time ( late August ) .
You can barely go an 1/4 of a mile down any city or country road and not see a clump of these strongly fragrant plants blooming.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bloom dazes - Hot August dazes

Bloom day

Photos from The Pina Colada garden , located in Marin County CA.



Pot of succulents at front entry



Stone buddha head from Bali ,welcomes people at the front door

These pots are not located at my house but at a project that I have just wrapped up on in Napa Valley
Plants : Pennesetum rubra, Glechoma hederacea, Sedum and Lysimachia

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Reading the Green -

I thought I would be clever ( cha ! ) and set apart my short article on Dining Alfresco by high lighting it on a green background.
Problem is, that the print is small, even when you click on the enlarged version.

So I posted the article at the end of the photo essay to make reading a bit more easier on the eyes.

Thanks for checking in all .


Monday, August 6, 2007

Dining Alfresco

A few examples of Alfresco living ~

A three story deck unites the exterior with the interior.

Firepit and BBQ

Enjoying marshmellos

A pizza oven joins a sinuous shaped cooktop area overlooking Napa Valley

Brick and Bluestone

The large dining table sits between the swimming pool and the outdoor fireplace and cook top area.
Nearby is the sauna / changing room and pool equipt. storage room

A stepped down conversation area with a fireplace is adjacent to the dining deck

A historical San Francisco Queen Anne Victorian house and garden were renovated to include an outdoor dining terrace

A simple outdoor dining room surrounded by tropicals. A portable BBQ does the trick here .

The adjacent Balinese day bed / lounge area

This photo was taken during the construction.
It shows the granite stone walls that make up the sitting area around the fire ring
and the adjacent bar and cook top area.
This is in Squaw Valley California.

The fire ring area with the new metal privacy screen and metal fire sculpture.
The metal work was done by Mountain Forge in Truckee CA.

another view overlooking the ski runs at Squaw

A simple outdoor dining room. This family uses a portable bbq which is tucked in its own alcove off to the side .

A dining terrace.

I call this the ‘Urban Outfitter’- It’s actually a pretty small urban backyard but we were
able to squeeze alot into a small space.

Another view of the fireplace and cook top area.

A recently completed project in Napa Valley ( see the blog entries below )

The cook top area with one of the craftsmen who built it.

Dining Alfresco
A few key elements to keep in mind when planning your outdoor dining and entertainment areas is to design around your lifestyle and budget so that you don’t over or under build for your family’s

Appliance choice is one of the most expensive components of the project installation. Work with a locally knowledgeable design professional or sales person who knows your climate and the wide variety of appliance choices specific for your environment.

Choose materials that will hold up well against your specific climate .
If you are located in a cold snowy winter climate read the fine print on the manufactures specification sheet that rates the mechanical warranty for outdoor refrigerators and on demand beer taps.

The BBQ grill is the most commonly used outdoor ‘appliance’.
They range in style and functionality from the most simplistic charcoal fired kettle to high performance complex cook stations complete with TruSear infrared burners, mega BTU gas outputs, warming drawers, griddles, ovens, smokers and side burners.

Ask yourself how often you would really use a warming drawer or a side burner before you are dazzled with the over all looks.

More important than good looks is the actual quality construction of the unit . Compare and check the BTU output, the quality of the grill grates, and the life of the warranties.

Other elements that will add comfort and enhance your outdoor dining room may include heat lamps , low voltage lighting, music , and easy access to water .

Just like any room that you have inside of your house, your outdoor room will require maintenance , so choose your elements appropriately to your lifestyle and budget.