Modern Update to a Shady Hayes Valley Courtyard

We feel very lucky to have worked once again with fantastic clients and an excellent contractor on our Hayes Valley courtyard project. This space started as a dark, muddy shade garden in the back of a glorious San Francisco victorian home. The clients wanted to create a modern, easy care space that felt elegant enough for a cocktail party, and accessible enough for relaxing with a toddler. 

From Garden to Vineyard at Burbank Ranch

At Burbank Ranch Winery, we worked the transition between garden, vineyard and greater landscape by encircling the house with masses of grasses. Near the house, we planted a mix of evergreen shrubs that echo the distant oaks, like Manzanitas and Little Ollies, and encircled them with ribbons of Nassella tenuissima and Pennisetum spathiolatum. The result is a lovely blur between foreground, middlground and background that makes the clients, and visitors to the soon to be opened on site Winery & Tasting room feel that they are part of the larger glorious landscape of the rolling hills. Photography by Drew Kelly.

Contemporary Shade Garden in the Oakland Hills

Our lovely shade garden for clients in the Oakland Hills features California native plants and strong contemporary lines that play off the lush, lacy, rich textures of the plant material. The hilly landscape provides an opportunity for paths and stairs to lead you to quiet spaces for rest and reflection.

Burbank Ranch Winery Online

Our landscape design work is featured on the new website for Burbank Ranch. Check it out and buy some amazing wines while you browse!

In 2009 Nicole Kelly and I worked with Fred and Melody to create a landscape around the main house at Burbank Ranch as well as their agricultural manager's residence. We were inspired and impressed by their love of the regional agricultural landscape, and sought to create spaces that reflected that love and interest.

Third Nature Featured on Houzz

Third Nature Studio is happy to announce we were featured in an ideabook on the home page of Houzz about the cooling visual effect of blue plants in the landscape. Check it out.

The project featured was a Los Altos garden in a hot, sunny location. The plant palette suggests lushness with rich greens and blues, but does not include any lawn.

Thanks Houzz!

Lawn Alternatives

It's not impossible to have an iconic green carpet of grass in California and save a little water. It is really astounding how much water goes into maintaining residential lawns, and there are so many refreshing twists on that old tradition to try.

The images below are from projects I've worked on around the Bay Area, a no mow fescue grass at Cavallo Point, myoporum groundcover in Los Altos, and Carex pansa at a residence in San Louis Obispo County.

Another possibility with a traditional turf grass lawn is to give it a clean edge - a metal header, a dg pathway or even a concrete mowband to define a smaller lawn space and make it look a little more refined at the same time.

A Wine Country Entry Garden

At Templeton Ridge Winery and Burbank Vineyards the clients are passionate, creative people embarking on the exciting task of building a vineyard and winery from scratch. They love their setting, the view and the greater landscape, but disliked many aspects of the style and quality of the home on the site.

The view above shows the entry in transition. Soon it will be surrounded by drifts of olives, waves of golden grasses, and simplified concrete paving that will compliment and quiet the angularity of the house.

The photo below shows the existing entry that greeted us at the main house when Nicole Kelly and I began our project.

A Sunny Patio in the Vineyard

While construction continues at the main residence of Templeton Ridge Winery and Burbank Vineyards, the plantings at the agricultural manager's residence have established themselves nicely. This portion of the project was meant to be a modest yet homey residential garden to echo the style of the larger main residence. The sunny concrete patio is anchored by a large oak and is surrounded by drought tolerant grasses and lavender. The simplicity of the space compliments rather than competes with the rolling hills and vineyards beyond.

Smithsonian's Archives of American Gardens

The Smithsonian Institution has recently uploaded a set of glass lantern slides from the 1920's and 1930's of American Gardens in its Flickr photostream. The photos are primarily of estates in their heyday and feature works by Gertrude Jekyll, Jens Jensen and Fletcher Steele. For more information about the Archives of American Gardens, visit the Smithsonian's Gardens and Horticulture Services website. I like to imagine myself sipping a cold drink in one of these oases...

Good Fences

It's an overused expression, but I do think good fences make good neighbors, and good fences can be so delightful. There is nothing like a sculptural wall, be it stone, wood or planting to define a space. Here are some favorites that I've come across in the last few years in person and in print, and a couple that I have worked on. Designers, when known, are credited in each image title.

Growth in Los Altos

After a recent visit to the PCCD Offices on Third Street in Los Altos, I was pleased to see everything has filled in well in the last year. The myoporum groundcover is turning into a welcome, lush, green carpet, and the agaves and maples are really filling out.

Just in Time

The last few punch list items have finally been completed by the contractor, and the landscape at NE 99th in Portland is complete! Now all there is left to do is paint the house slate grey, and decorate. Thanks to the amazing powers of the Oregon climate and the skill of the contractor, everything is growing like its on steroids. The garden should look lush and beautiful for the upcoming August wedding.

Watching the Grass Grow

We have a few final tasks to tackle before the work at NE 99th is complete. The contractor has yet to add the Mexican Feather grasses to the front and back planting areas, and there is also the woodwork to seal and minor odds and ends to finish. It is looking great, and the lawn is finally taking off.  It was my hope that the simplicity of the design would complement the giant birch in the back yard, and I'm really happy with the results. I think it will be a beautiful ceremony site, and a wonderfully relaxing space for years to come.