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.

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