San Mateo Village Front and Back Gardens

Center yard before

The homeowners had recently purchased their house and had no idea of where to start with the garden. When I arrived for my consult the “lawn” was a shin-high mass of weeds with a few random sheds thrown in to provide shelter for the feral cats they fostered. The only two requirements the couple had, was that their yard not remain a mass of weeds, and they didn’t want a lawn. They liked the idea of incorporating native, drought-tolerant plantings into the space.

Center yard after

Clearing the back garden was a monumental process that involved rototilling, digging, moving a shed, donating another, excavating rocks, roots and loads of green netting that used to hold sod. The entire garden took several months to complete. The backyard was also wired for lighting and had vintage-inspired lantern lights installed. Thousands of pounds of bark and gravel were dumped onto the driveway and taken in countless wheelbarrow loads to the back for distribution. The evening before their “Garden Warming” party, the homeowners and myself were spreading bark well into the night!

Back left corner before
Back left corner after

One of the best things about the garden is watching the many types of bees and butterflies going from plant to plant. Hummingbirds, wild birds, squirrels, the feral cats, and a few evening raccoons also wander through. I planted a young orange tree for the husband, who had always wanted one.

Magnolia tree before
Magnolia tree after

The Magnolia tree is gorgeous and the center point of the garden so it was fitting that we put a ring of salvaged flagstone around it. We used the leftovers for the citrus trees. Everything about this garden was an adventure. Getting the stone included an extremely close call with a Black Widow, a few smashed fingers, and very sore biceps. However, we got several carloads of material home safely!

Master bedroom exit before
Looking out from master bedroom after
Left side of yard before
Planter boxes were installed, as seen in the back left corner “After” pic

The homeowners have an awesome sense of humor so we had fun with the space. I found this saloon-type sign at an estate sale and hung it above the newly installed vegetable planter boxes. They have since reaped a harvest of zucchini, tomatoes (which were planted in a salvaged wheelbarrow), peppers, lettuce and strawberries (which the dog eats before anyone gets any).

Right back corner after

I created a fire pit area off the path that leads directly from the master bedroom sliding door so that the homeowners could sit under the stars and unwind. It has since been used to make s’mores!

Master bedroom exit before
Off the master bedroom exit after

The log in the foreground is a chunk of Eucalyptus that Lara and Ian helped retrieve from the side of the busy El Camino in Burlingame. Driving by the tree-trimmers, I saw many cool pieces and had the idea to use a few in the landscaping. None of us had any idea that both of the two chunks we salvaged would weigh so much! Getting them into the car and into the back yard was an “adventure” I’m sure the McCulloughs won’t soon forget.

Patio before

Patio after 1
Patio after 2
Patio after 3

From the beginning, I knew that the patio had to have a pergola. I was so convinced of it that I managed to give the wife my “pergola-fever” as well. At the time she said, “Once you mentioned ‘pergola’ I knew I needed one!” The husband was recruited to do the dirty work of  spending countless hours dealing with the pergola people on the East Coast to get our 12 x 12 unfinished pine structure delivered.

That giant pile of wood lying on the patio signified untold hours of the husband’s consulting work and I felt that it was a kind of shrine to the house. It was a thing that both had wanted and through the result of extra hard work, had gotten. Once the structure was erected by a carpenter, several days were spent on a ladder, in a windstorm, staining each and every bit of it. Why stain it while its standing? Lack of proper space while it was in pieces. Trust me, it’s not task I’d like to repeat!

My team installed edging to create curved, interconnected pathways throughout the back yard. The boulders were personally chosen at Lyngso, and delivered to the driveway.

The dreaded giant monster boulder

This boulder weighed so many hundreds of pounds that three of us could not budge it from its spot on the driveway. It caused a strained back, loss of patience, a lot of foul language, and a bit of confusion. It finally required the neighbor’s help and a lot of ingenuity to get it into place. During the garden party, guests instinctively went to sit on it and enjoy the space – the best compliment ever!

White Lavender
View through the kitchen bay window

Front yard –

4″ thick pavers

As a surprise for the husband, the wife asked me to freshen up the front yard while he was away on a business trip. One of the things he had mentioned to me was that he walked across the lawn near the edge of the driveway. I dug out the sod and dropped in 5″ thick pavers to create a new path. Using thinner pavers would have also worked, but I did not want to risk them shifting during the rainy season.

A trio of Mexican pots filled with a variety of ferns brightens a dark corner of the front patio.

The husband wanted a place on the porch to read the paper/Kindle/laptop screen, so I got the most comfortable weather-resistant chairs I could find and positioned them behind the Camellia tree for privacy.

I love the idea of using unexpected furniture outside to create a true outdoor room. This antique French table fit perfectly. The homeowners can now enjoy both their front and back gardens and have added a gang of curb appeal to the neighborhood!