In the spring of 2017 we were referred to a nice couple that lived on Dry Creek Road in Napa. Details Landscape Art is premier design-build landscape contractor, based in Petaluma and serving mostly Sonoma County. Occasionally, however, we venture into Marin County, and seldom to Napa. Upon meeting with the homeowners, and seeing jobsite, the project seemed interesting and would give us an opportunity to install a special landscape. More importantly, the homeowners were such wonderful people, that we accepted the assignment.

The initial challenge for us was the location. The most direct route from Petaluma was up Trinity Road, a twisty, winding road with hairpin switchbacks, that climbed up and over the Mayacama Mountains, and then descends the other side, changes name to Dry Creek Road and arrives at this rural home in an oak forest clearing.

The main house was being totally remodeled, and the homeowners were living in a fully furnished and comfortable ‘barn’ while the construction proceeded. Adjacent to the ‘barn’ was a large meadow, about fifty feet wide by one hundred fifty feet long, bordered by a welded wire fence on the property line. There was a natural swale created by the winter rains of 2016, and we designed a meandering dry creek bed the full length of this measure, mostly following this existing swale. We suggested that this dry creek bed (on Dry Creek Road) might be a wet creek bed during the coming winter rains. We planted a variety of natural grasses in and along the banks, and ran a separate drip line down middle. Large fieldstone boulders were placed among the grasses in natural groupings and then added different size and color gravel to fill the creek bed.

Both sides of this water feature were planted with a mix of evergreen and deciduous plantings, in a style that suited this country property. Large lavatera, sprawling ceanothus ‘Yankee Point’, and westringia rosemariniformis provided the backdrop along the welded wire fence, with ‘color-in-the-foliage filling the foreground.

We landscaped in front of the main house and around the perimeter of the swimming pool in back. To enclose the pool on one side, we built a two-posted, three-tiered arbor and painted it white to match the main house exterior trim. Most of the project had been completed by October 6, and then…

FIRE !! The great North Bay fires of October 8th struck on a Sunday night and left devastation in its wake. The homeowners were evacuated, and all roads to the property were closed as firefighters battled the blazes. Nobody knew if the house and barn had survived, let alone the newly installed landscape. The homeowners were to learn that the power was out, and therefore the pump that delivered water from the spring-fed storage tanks was not operating. So for the two plus weeks waiting in limbo for news and access, the 250 newly installed plants received no water. In addition, we were unable to retrieve our tools that were left at the jobsite, so we couldn’t even start another job.

Finally the road closures were lifted and we were able to return. The house had survived, the power was restored, but there was still no water. Amazingly, about three quarters of the plants were still alive! So we hauled buckets of water from the swimming pool to water the surviving plants, and then when water was flowing again, we replaced the melted drip lines and reset the irrigation controllers. The dead plants were replaced, and we negotiated a settlement with the insurance company so the homeowners were reimbursed for the cost of restoring the fire-damaged plants. The project was completed about three weeks late, but the homeowners were thankful their house had been saved, and thrilled with the beautiful landscape we had installed.