Case Study — Berkeley

Garden Tour ... Discover how St. John Landscapes achieves your goals by following the design process.

The Purpose

The owner of a 1920s – 1940s bungalow, located about a half mile from an urban downtown, had recently renovated his home's interior. Thus, he wanted his 100-foot long and 38-foot wide garden to echo his property's new personality.

The Home

The house had been stripped to its bare bones and rebuilt with Asian flair. Features included large beams at transitional points with beautiful Japanese joinery, dark-grey-stained concrete that slid down across a gleaming hardwood floor and up again forming a bench in the dining room, stainless steel appliances, and a shoji screen-styled bathroom door.

The Challenge and Result

Creating a garden which reflected the strong, uncluttered lines of the interior meant curves, if used, needed to be bold and appear sparingly. Mulch as a groundcover felt too soft, but pebbles reflected the simplicity and crisp edge of the home. To infuse the interior colors into the outside, Aqua Cove pebbles strategically selected to match the muted aqua glass fireplace and bathroom tiles were used for the front swath.

One-quarter inch Felton Gold pebbles were also used for the front swath, divided with the Aqua Cove by a crisp steel edging. The front garden planting color was derived solely from the foliage. Purple-leaf loropetalums, Japanese maple, spring-green-clumping bamboo, and lime-green Chamaecyparis were all used to shield the two front bedroom windows. For further interest, three basalt birdbaths and a tall cigar pot unify the two planting areas.

The backyard - in full view from the living room, dining room and downstairs family room - needed to be visually congruent with the interior's long strong lines and quiet vignettes. Cluttered or fussy wouldn't do. To complement the kitchen's dark-grey concrete counters and stainless steel appliances, grey slate for the back patio and gray Mexican La Paz stones for the lawn edging only seemed natural choices.

Disguised as an overgrown tree was a hidden treasure – a 50-year-old Japanese maple. This became the centerpiece of the backyard and was framed with strong linear lines and simple plantings to highlight its grace and age. The plantings repeated the theme of the front garden with color derived from foliage. Many of the same plants were used in the back and a lawn was renovated to provide a foreground for the focus of the garden: the presiding, unassuming Japanese maple.