Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gardening on steep slopes , Marin County CA

The topography in the area that I live and work in is very hilly.
Often times you will look up and see a house clinging to a cliff side and wonder why anybody would choose to live in what looks like a perilous situation.
Usually the answer is ‘the view’.
Once you get over the thrill of your fabulous views people get anxious to get off of their porches and into their gardens.

That’s where I, as a landscape designer comes in.
I help tame a steep hillside into manageable usable space that people can be in, rather than just look at.

The blog site called “Gardening Gone Wild” is offering another design workshop this month with the subject matter ‘ Coping with Slopes”. - http://www.gardeninggonewild.com/?p=8253
In conjunction with 'Gardening Gone Wild', I'm posting this photo essay on how we have handled the taming of slopes.

Below are a few slopes that I have reworked so that people can be integrated into their landscapes.

My most recent project was a very steep hillside that came tumbling down against the house. The hills separated the back yard from the side yard.
We excavated the hillside back and installed a series of retaining walls ranging in size from 18 inches, to 7 feet and 12 feet.
A water feature and planting box was infused into the 7 foot tall wall.
From Raised Garden Beds

From Raised Garden Beds

From Raised Garden Beds

On another project located in Mill Valley CA we were faced with a steep shallow front entry.
Using stone steps and retaining walls we created a more comfortable entry.


This project in the Olympic Village of Squaw Valley was quite a challenge.
The site was so steep that heavy equiptment could not navigate down the hill.
All the excavation had to be done by hand.

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

From Squaw Valley Lake Tahoe California

Several years ago I had the opportunity to work on a master plan for a new home located in Carmel Valley.
The large lot undulated up and down a native oak meadow.
Per county code we had to keep all of the trees on the site and yet the owners wanted a house that was all on one level, with the most used entry door at grade level .

This is the result of many hours of grade planning and site development.
Front Facade:
From Carmel Valley Estate

Mid level side entry.
From Carmel Valley Estate

On grade terrace
From Carmel Valley Estate

Back side of guest house with natural grade untouched.
From Carmel Valley Estate

Probably the most intensive and ridiculously expensive sloping hillside project that I have worked on was installing a swimming pool on a 2 to 1 slope.
There are a series of 5 retaining walls stepping up the hillside ranging in size fro 3 feet to 14 feet tall.
A set of fake doors were installed into this retaining wall to take your eye off of its shear volume.
From portfolioMay08.jpg

A corner view of the sauna and pool equipt. room showing the steepness of the hill that we tamed.
From portfolioMay08.jpg

And one last hillside project. This was installed quite a while ago. We used a series of stair cases and terraces to climb the hillside. A putting green awaits you if you make the trek to the top of the hill.
From portfolioMay08.jpg

Mid level
From portfolioMay08.jpg

Photo by Lee Anne White :
From portfolioMay08.jpg

From portfolioMay08.jpg


danger garden said...

Fabulous before and after shots! The fake doors were definitely a stroke of genius. I, for one, would rather forgo the view than be on a steep hillside. Every heavy rain I would be wondering if THIS was the time for my house to slide...

Pam/Digging said...

Fantastic images and projects, Michelle. I know I've seen some of these before, but it's great to have them consolidated in a "hillside" post.

fran sorin said...

Your design work is beyond magnificent. It blows me away! Fran

Nutty Gnome said...

I wandered into here from elsewhere - but have lost track of where I started! I am very impressed with your wokr and puts our little Japanese garden project well into the shade!! Fantastic.

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

Good morning all,
The Design Workshops that Gardening Gone Wild has been a great inspiration to me in gathering together images for one specific subject.
Thanks Fran Sorin for the spark !

Danger garden, I too like the faux doors. The owner was a wine merchant and it made sense to evoke a set of wine cave doors into this monolithic wall.

Pam, thanks for not being bored with the same old images.
Some day I hope to upload some other projects so that I have some fresh material to choose from.
In the mean time , thanks for your kind words and professional feedback.

Nutty Gnome, glad you wandered in and stayed a bit. Hope that you come back again soon.


phrago said...

Always a pleasure to see these gardens. Now that the plantings in the beds in front of the walls in the first set of pictures have grown in, they are sooooooo pretty. Why didn't you include the winding road you carved into the slope and planted all the olive trees, Ornamental Grasses, and Lavender. That job was unbelievable...
Your fan,

Anonymous said...

Hi Patrick,
that is nice of you to say that.
Tomorrow I am driving out to Stinson Beach to shoot the grades on a new project.
I wish you could join me for the day.
The project is just steps from the beach and I am wagering that it will be empty of people.
Just the seagulls, a few local lazy dogs chasing the waves and quietude.
Just the kind of day I love.

phrago said...

Oh, that sounds like a perfect day. But, alas, I will be on my lawn tractor working on the property at my country house in Michigan. Glad to hear your getting the work during this aweful economy. Maybe when I hit the lotto, I can fly you in to redesign the acre sized depression on the corner of my property. I would love a rock and stone stairway down the steepest part from the drive with stone terracing for garden beds. Oh, how nice to dream... Well, toss a few flat stones for me... Patrick

Nan Ondra said...

Absolutely breath-taking, Michelle. I agree with the others: those fake doors are brilliant. The photos are all inspiring, as usual, but it's something you wrote that really resonated with me: "Below are a few slopes that I have reworked so that people can be integrated into their landscapes." That's why I so enjoy looking at your projects: yes, they photograph beautifully, but they are more than just eye candy; you care that your work is people-friendly as well as beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing this for the GGW Design Workshop this month.

sandra said...

My problem is a super steep hill that belongs to my property but faces my neighbors, I don't see any of it. Thought I could put my vegetables there but realistically am thinking black plastic and mulch will have to do. Previous owners planted crown vetch and let it go.