Create a hidden retreat

How to make every detail count in a tiny urban backyard

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Private spa retreat

The fountain's spherical shape is echoed by a trio of orbs carefully placed on the deck in the background.

Rob D. Brodman

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Privacy on a small city lot is an all-too-elusive concept. But in a neighborhood of compact lots, this San Jose backyard ? which sits right up against two-story houses ? includes a pergola-sheltered hot tub for long, slow soaks behind a curtain of vines.

Landscape designer Cathy Drees managed to create a tranquil outdoor room thanks to a sophisticated color palette, a screen of greenery around the perimeter, and a few artfully chosen accents.

Drees's first step was to heighten the garden's sense of enclosure. Along the fence, she planted an evergreen screen of Tristaniopsis laurina 'Elegant' and Thuja occidentalis 'Emerald', both of which grow tall but not wide.



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