Berkeley, California: Backyard retreat

Almost a country garden in Berkeley

The sound of a waterfall gently echoes through the kitchen. Outside, a soft breeze rustles a forest of bright green leaves. No, this isn't a country garden in the Sierra foothills; it's Lisa and Tim Goodman's small garden retreat in Berkeley.

The Goodmans, who work together as landscape designers and contractors, created the Japanese-inspired garden with a peaceful-sounding rock waterfall and stream, a variety of subtle and interesting foliage plants, and two vine-covered arbors. (Before the remodel, their backyard consisted of a lawn and flowers--no seating, and poor access from the house. "We finally asked ourselves, 'Why have a garden if it doesn't invite you in to linger?'" says Lisa.)

To improve accessibility, the Goodmans installed French doors off the kitchen. They added plenty of seating in the garden, making it function well for entertaining. But the garden has also become an exciting draw for their school-age son, Cole, and his friends. "The rocks and water are an instant magical playground," says Tim.


* Use slim fences. Narrow slats make the wood fence visually recede.

* Create privacy with sound. The murmur of water masks noises.

* Grow a screen of green. Small, narrow landscape plants (azara, Japanese maple, weeping bamboo) and vine-covered arbors block out views of neighboring houses.