2010-2011 Dream Garden Awards
Sustainability is fun in this Santa Barbara backyard, which has a hot tub and rock-lined firepit tucked behind the grassy “meadow,” but uses 95 percent locally sourced or salvaged materials. The judges’ take: “It says, ‘Grab the marshmallows and meet me at the campfire.’ ”
Why it won:
- Reuse of 200 tons of stone. The sandstone takes on a cobblestone-y Euro feel as seating, walls, and borders.
- Drought-tolerant grasses. These plants are low maintenance and eye-catching.
Design: Margie Grace, Grace Design Associates, Santa Barbara (gracedesignassociates.com or 805/687-3569). Custom design home by Michelle Kaufmann.
Years after an Oakland firestorm ravaged their lot, the owners of this garden decided they wanted a yard to match their rebuilt modern home. So they opted for a patio of bluestone pavers, crushed rock, and low groundcovers, edged with a sinuous concrete seat wall—and contained fire burns in a custom firepit of Cor-ten steel.
Why it won:
- Mod materials. Crushed drain rock adds a contemporary edge to bluestone pavers.
- Groundcovers. Irish moss, creeping thyme, and chamomile soften the rock.
Design: Mathew Henning & Heather Anderson, Henning-Anderson, Oakland (henning-anderson.com or 510/531-3095)
The judges were impressed that this family in Greenbrae, California, “created space where none existed before,” turning a sloped front yard into a modern play den. Concrete planters are placed along the sidewalk, with a firepit and raised patio inside. Phormiums and a gate add screening, while not totally blocking out the street. “This garden could change the whole neighborhood,” said one judge.
Why it won:
- DIY. A concrete fountain beside the path and a square firepit near the table are finishing touches, built by the owners.
- Friendly hedge. Phormium ‘Firebird’ and P. tenax flank the freestanding gate, creating light screening.
- Slope changers. Edged with concrete, the raised patio and its planter-retaining wall level the yard and make it more livable.
Design: Ive Haugeland, Shades of Green Landscape Architecture, Sausalito, CA (shadesofgreenla.com or 415/332-1485)
“This garden has created a new nostalgia, not for Tuscany or Provence or some other Mediterranean place, but for true California,” said the judges about this backyard in Paso Robles, California. The large native boulders—that form curved walls and are used as accents—blend the terrace with the landscape beyond. Planting native and Mediterranean grasses helps too.
Design: Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture, Los Osos, CA (www.jgsdesigns.com or 805/528-2118)
The tiny San Francisco backyard appears larger than its 1,000 square feet. Alternating bands of stone paving and pebbles give the ground rhythm and movement, while polished steel balls reflect light and clouds, adding the illusion of space. “It’s low maintenance but high style—a garden to live in but not take care of,” our judges said.
Why it won:
- Diagonals. Set at a 62° angle to the house, the courtyard provides the illusion of space.
Design: Vera Gates, Arterra Landscape Architects, San Francisco (arterrallp.com or 415/861-3100)
Anthony Exter placed these globe lights to suggest bubbles rising from the water—riffing off a comment overheard at a party here in his client’s Pasadena garden: “There’s enough bubbly here to fill a swimming pool.”
Design: Anthony Exter Landscape Design, Los Angeles (anthonyexter.com or 323/665-9995)
Rugged and natural-looking, this sunken firepit on Lake Washington is hard edged and geometric on the patio side but gently curving on the beach part, where natural granite boulders pack its sides. Feathery grasses blend with the shoreline habitat beyond. A boulder-seat is just right for extra guests.
Design: Randy Allworth, Allworth Design, Seattle (allworthdesign.com or 206/623-7396)
Let loose your creativity. That’s the message in this San Francisco garden where salvaged chalkboards, mounted to a galvanized steel wall, encourage impromptu scribbling (chalk is tucked into boxes mounted to the wall’s back). Out front, plastic fish bob in a tall, fiberglass fountain. But the staircase is just as mesmerizing: Its risers colorfully glow the words of poet e.e. cummings beside a constellation of wall lights. Once you climb the stairs, you wind up in a child’s secret garden.
Design: Topher Delaney, Topher Delaney/Seam Studio, San Francisco (tdelaney.com or 415/621-9899).
A shimmery stream sweeps across this front yard in Santa Barbara, CA, carrying a mysterious glimmer between its header-board edges. That sparkle is from tumbled glass mulch, custom-made from recycled Chardonnay bottles, which conceals an LED light cable buried beneath. Decomposed granite underscores the bright glass front, while Echeveria elegans blooms in back.
Design: Charles McClure, CM + LA and Associates, Santa Barbara (cmlasb.com or 805/696-6864).
Decorative metal panels, allowed to rust naturally, dress a once-plain wooden fence. Lighting behind the panels extends outdoor entertaining into evening and adds drama to the space.
Design: Tyler Manchuck, Jamie Morf, and Ive Haugeland, Shades of Green Landscape Architecture, Sausalito, CA (shadesofgreenla.com or 415/332-1485).
The beach continues to inspire our decor, indoors and out. A mossy seastar, inset with succulents that resemble sealife (mounding green Astrophytum asterias and pinkish gray Lithops), is an eye-catching centerpiece in a water’s edge garden in Malibu.
Design: Heather Lenkin, Lenkin Design, Pasadena, CA (lenkindesign.com or 626/441-6655).
Every garden needs at least one spot where friends can linger, day or night. For this backyard in Alamo, California, a poolside “room” is that spot. Crape myrtles and red phormiums, flanking the fireplace, define the room; the chimney creates a visual centerpiece for the area. At night, the fire’s glow reflects on the surface of the water while guests can hang out on the low walls of ledger stone.
Design: Stefan Thuilot, Thuilot Associates, Berkeley (thuilot.com or 510/848-3200).
The easiest and most natural-looking paths to install are meandering and unpaved. This one, in Sunol, California, leads over a footbridge and through low evergreen grasses such as Carex pansa, Festuca mairei, clumps of Lavandula ‘Grosso’, and Muhlenbergia rigens.
Design: Cynthia Tanyan, Mozaic Landscapes, Sunol, CA (mozaiclandscapes.com).