Details Landscape Art was called to renovate this Novato residential backyard on a hillside that sloped in two directions back down toward the house. In addition, the doors from the family room and from the kitchen out to the garden were at different elevations. No problem. A split-level Connecticut Bluestone patio was designed that accommodated both the elevation changes and the hillsides. Two semi-circular steps at the upper slider threshold, and with two more sweeping curved steps accounted for the full drop in elevation.

Masonry and Arizona Bluestone flagstone

The bluestone used was a variety called ‘full color range’, which included many shades of gray, brown, and gold, all in the same pallet, creating an interesting blend of colors. Both levels of patios were intended for outdoor dining and entertaining and since the homeowners were very light skinned and extremely sensitive to the sun, a large three-tiered redwood arbor was built spanning the upper patio providing much needed shade to this full sun area. This upper patio was used during the day; the uncovered lower patio was used in the evening after sundown.

The arbor was constructed using rough redwood con-heart grade wood. The post corners were routered, and notched at the top to receive the 2 x 8 crossbeams, which were also routered at the ends. The next layer of 2 x 6’s were notched to slide down over the 2 x 8’s and also routered. The top tier of 2 x 2’s was spaced fairly closely (about two inches apart) for maximum shade protection. The entire arbor was stained a rich redwood color to enhance the natural beauty of the wood.

Details always grades our patio surfaces so that water moves away from the residence. French drains were installed at the edge of the patios and tied into the existing downspouts to carry the excess water away from the house and out to the street.

The hillside was planted with a tapestry of interesting ornamental grasses, colorful foliage and ground cover surrounding a large scarlet maple called ‘October Glory’. The maple was strategically placed on the southwest side of the upper patio to provide addition sun protection in the afternoon. This is a tree that will grow to 30-40 ft. tall at maturity. Two other Japanese maples were used to enhance the Asian feel of this garden. In the shadier areas we used pieris japonica, azaleas, lorapetalum, rhododendrons, heleboris and hydrangeas. In the sun we installed a white iceberg rose, ornamental grasses, coleonema ‘Golden Sunset’ and a Japanese barberry called ‘Roseglow’. Groundcovers used were vinca minor and Manzanita ‘Emerald Carpet.

A low voltage lighting system was installed. The transformer was mounted on the side of the house, but easily accessible to the homeowners. Path lights were placed at strategic gathering places around the patio, and floodlights highlighted all the trees and the arbor as well.

This project was an excellent example of Details Landscape Art recognizing the issues and problems of a given yard, addressing and solving those problems, while, at the same time, creating a beautiful garden.