From construction

Steep hillside transformed into an accessible oasis of flowers and foliage in Marin County

This steep hillside in San Rafael, Marin County, is the setting for one of our favorite gardens.  A large red-flowered horse-chestnut (Aesculus X carnea ‘Briottii’) is the main focal point in the spring in this garden.  An inviting set of curved steps leads up under the horse-chestnut to the beginning of the trail.  The switch back path connects to two sitting areas, a hot tub, and vegetable gardens. The views toward Mt. Tam gets better as one moves up through the plantings. From the perspective of the back patio of the house, the plantings are overlapping and layered, giving a simple cascading garden effect which is colorful yet restful.  The garden is a mixture of old fashion favorites and the newest horticultural introductions.  There are many edible plants and flowers for cutting.  Mixing a wide variety of unusual subtropical and Mediterranean shrubs and perennials combined make this a classic Planet Horticulture garden.

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The owner created this fish-eye photo montage looking off the master bedroom balcony. The lower level is the dining patio with a wall fountain opposite living room.  The curved steps lead up to another smaller patio and the hot tub under the tree.  The informal switch back trails pass an urn fountain (center), then the vegetable garden and then to upper view seating area, and more.


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The large red horse-chestnut tree is the focus from the dining patio outside the living room. The curved stairway invites one to go up and explore the garden.


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The colored concrete steps strewn with fallen flowers adds a casual look.


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Urn plantings add color accents against the stucco. Here Canna with Pelargonium and Oxalis ‘Plum Crazy’ balanced with reverted bronze stems gives seasonal interest.


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Containers support the in-ground plantings. Pieris ‘Katsura’, Aeonium ‘Swartzkopt’ and Loropetalum ‘Firedance’ create a nice burgundy accent.


Another rust colored concrete patio provides a separate sitting area
Another honey colored concrete patio provides a separate sitting area that is close, but separate from the house. Blue star creeper fills the interstices.


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The beautiful red horse-chestnut, Aesculus ‘Briottii’ as viewed from the first terrace.

Starting Big

Weeping Atlas Cedar

Planet Horticulture uses plants of all sizes from 2″ liners to amazing specimen trees. In this West Sonoma County garden we planted a uniquely trained 80 year old weeping Atlas cedar. A slow growing form of a drought tolerant North African native, this tree provide a powerful focal point and screening for the front yard of this delightful 19th century farm house. Once it was installed, it seemed like it had been part of the original landscape.

Guadalupe Island Palm

Brahea edulis, the Guadalupe Island palm, a rare endemic native of islands off the coast of northern Baja Mexico is very slow growing in cultivation and is also drought tolerant and among the hardiest of palms. This specimen was estimated to be more than 40 years old and helped to create an instant oasis effect in this wine country poolside garden.

Ancient Olive

The clients of this newly built modern home in the Oakland Hills wanted to start the landscape with as many mature trees as possible. We chose this special ancient olive as a focal point for the main entry courtyard. This gnarly old tree gave the house a more human scale making it seem more at home in the landscape.

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.