Designing with nature in Mill Valley

A Japanese garden in Northern California

Richard Ward discovered Japanese gardens when he moved to Northern California from New York City. "I fell in love with the Japanese way of gardening with nature," he says. So he developed one of his own.

The focal point of the garden is the raked-gravel pond, which Ward built over an old concrete patio. A stream of crushed granite winds to it from the back of the garden. Boulders as large as 500 pounds were carefully positioned and partially buried along its banks and elsewhere in the garden.

Ward planted lippia along the pond edge, adding 50-year-old, bonsai-like cypress (which had been growing in large containers), Japanese maple, and pine trees around the garden. Then he filled in with small-leafed plants such as boxwood, eugenia, and Kurume azaleas. "Using small-leafed plants makes the space seem larger," Ward explains.

Plants get watered by hand so he can interact with them and monitor their growth. And Ward keeps them shapely; "I'm constantly trimming the plants," he says.

DESIGN: Richard Ward, Mill Valley (415/388-9273)

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