From Calistoga

Napa County Hilltop Estate Garden

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Perched on a sunny hilltop in Calistoga CA the drought tolerant plantings connect the architecture to the native plants surrounding the garden areas.

The hot summer-dry landscape demands tough California native and other Mediterranean climate plantings. The sterile rock on which the house and garden were built also requires plants that can thrive with limited nutrients.

The owners desired a casual. relaxed looking landscape around the house, one that would transition to the native landscape on the property. And they wanted plantings that would look good throughout the year and not require a lot of maintenance.


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The driveway opens at its high point to a path descending to the large rectilinear opening which is the entrance both to the house and a large sunny courtyard beyond.


Before entering the vestibule to the house and tile courtyard, there is a smaller gravel patio on the NE side of the house which faces a landscaped hillside. This is a pleasant space to get the first sun in the morning or cool afternoon shade on hot days.


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Looking from the stone stairway descending from the driveway toward the open porch entry to the house and courtyard. Planted urns give the courtyard colorful flowers and foliage.
The morning patio side faces a slope planted with easy care, drought adapted plants combined for constant visual interest.


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The southeast side of the residence has a formal walled vegetable garden or potager which provides fruits, vegetables and herbs conveniently to the adjacent kitchen. The four central small trees are genetic dwarf nectarines.


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The potager also features fragrant roses to cut for the house, growing in beds with blueberries and strawberries. Roses perform excellently with the hot dry air if give irrigation.


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On the southwest side of the house, the hot tub is placed within a richer planting of maples and Wagner windmill palms and looks out over the pool and canyon beyond.


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The strong architectural features of the hardscape are balanced with a variety of plant types, forms and colors to give a relaxed feel to the garden.


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On the northwest side a small sedge lawn of Carex pansa looks up the canyon and mountains. Easy care perennials, roses and other shrubs accent the border.


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Strategically placed bold succulents like the beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata) provide focal points for the more casual surrounding plants.
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Australian grass tree (Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata) creates a energetic burst of plant energy to contrast with billowy Peruvian lilies.



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The house sits near the crest the hill and is surrounded by slopes of chaparral (summer dry native shrubs) and woodland. We created a meandering trail to provide a scenic route through the vegetation and connect with the creek at the bottom of the canyon.


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Descending the hillside, the trail passes many ancient manzanitas (Arctostaphylos manzanita) that have become tree sized.


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Detail of the richly colored, smoothly sensuous, muscular bark and trunk of the manzanita, The trail allows one to touch and experience this amazing plant.



A Welcoming Cottage Garden


Calistoga CA retreat garden extra 10

A diverse planting of succulents, shrubs, palms, perennials and annuals all attractively arranged for a long season of interest.




The driveway approach to this cottage in the foothills above Calistoga in the Napa Valley now has a welcoming cottage garden of diverse heat-tolerant, low water, all season plants. This garden border invites lingering and perusal of the plants, both as individuals and for their combinations. The stairway seen in the Before image is just beyond the gray shrub on the right.