This design-build project began as a moonscape. Covered with rock, half buried giant boulders the size of Volkswagens and littered with wild scrubby weeds, this was easily the ugliest and most challenging project to date for Details Landscape Art. We knew going in that the demolition was going to be a major project – just taking it down to bare dirt was extremely challenging,. There were the beginnings of a cinder block structure long abandoned, and a huge drop in elevation from east to west.We designed this project based on the homeowners desire for a Mediterranean garden to complement the style of their beautiful home. The red tiled roof, and pastel stucco walls set the tone for soft colors, Arizona flagstone, citrus trees and colorful foliage. We interviewed them extensively about their lifestyle, and asked about their hopes for the garden. They indicated to us that they frequently entertained large groups of friends from their country club, and that they realized this was going to be an expensive landscape project. They asked for a hot tub and a gas fire pit. They were not gardeners, so required a relatively low maintenance garden, and we designed the plantings accordingly.

Heavy equipment – backhoes and tractors – was used for demolition, but mostly to excavate and move the massive boulders.

A dry creek bed and a fire pit backdrop enabled us to use much of the excavated rock, and we incorporated many placement boulders as well.

The forming of the hardscape was also a challenge, due to the severe drop in elevation. Steps down from the back entry to the large main patio were straightforward. The retaining walls, seat walls and the steps down from the main patio to the yard were difficult. Just driving support stakes into the ground for the form boards was a challenge as there was rock everywhere. We ended up drilling holes into the rock to be able to drive metal stakes. Where we moved excavated soil it was relatively easy to drive wooden stakes.

A beautiful flagstone patio was constructed, incorporating a corner seat wall and the fire pit, with flagstone steps to access the lower level. A hot tub pad was formed and built at the same time. The old fence bordering the property on one side was badly deteriorated, so we designed and built a tiered redwood fence as shown in the photo below.

Flagstone covers a masoned patio surrounded by natural boulders

Masonry and flagstone work together to create this patio

The lower level (not shown), included a small sod lawn, and a welded wire fenced dog area. Digging holes for the plants was virtually impossible, to say the least. There was rock everywhere, even after removing tons during demolition. We had to use a jackhammer for each hole, and remove the rock. We actually ended up using smaller plants than we had hoped – one-gallon containers instead of fives, fives instead of fifteens, etc. The plantings featured lavender, white roses, red phormium (flax), gold breath of heaven and burgundy colored barberry as a basic palette.

Dry creek bed meanders through the garden

We truly created a silk purse from a sow’s ear!