How to Create a Garden That Pleases the Whole Family
This California garden checks all the boxes. Here’s how it came together.
This California garden checks all the boxes. Here’s how it came together.
THERE WAS was nothing you could call a yard,” recalled landscape designer Janell Denler Hobart of first visiting the San Anselmo, Calif., site where her clients, a young family, had recently bought a residence. The home’s main entrance opened onto a hillside that was extremely steep and utterly barren, said the designer, whose firm, Denler Hobart Gardens, is located in nearby Ross, Calif. “I think most people would have looked at it and thought ‘What can you possibly do here?’”
Happily, Ms. Denler Hobart was not deterred. Inspired by the owners, an accomplished landscape painter and a talented cook, she envisioned “a layered garden where the wife could work on her veggies, the school-age kids could explore, and the husband could have a spot to lounge.”
She started with a skeleton of hardscape elements dating to the 1939 construction of the French Mediterranean-style home, including a twisting stone staircase flanked by mature orange trees. She then introduced a mix of classical French design features—a parterre potager, or kitchen garden, espaliered fruit trees and geometric boxwood hedges—yielding a romantic landscape at once cultivated and dynamic. Inviting oases in which all ages can wander, gather, and play prove that a “family friendly” yard doesn’t need to be all lawn.
Here, five strategies to help homeowners recast a less-than-ideal plot into a welcoming haven.
Thanks to the quirks of the terrain, one of the yard’s primary outdoor seating areas—a grouping of chairs and table nestled against a wall covered in creeping fig and set among whimsical boxwood topiaries—sits in an unconventional location: directly across from the home’s front doors. Indeed, after the garden was completed, the homeowners staged a 40th birthday bash right there. “People have this reaction like ‘Can I really entertain here?’” said Ms. Denler Hobart. “But why not? It’s very welcoming and the perfect gathering place before setting off further to explore.” Potted evergreens, shorn into geometric sculptures, and a potted orange tree underplanted with million bells embrace the seating area to make it even more inviting.
Another lucky inheritance were the slender Italian cypress trees already on the property. “Here, punctuating the view, they create little moments of magic and really transport you to Europe and another time,” said Ms. Denler Hobart. Atop the winding stairs a newly added Arbutus tree brings dramatically textured red bark and jewel-like red berries that attract wildlife. To the right, mounds of dwarf olive bushes, “brioche”-style boxwoods and sprays of hardy carpet roses give way to a meandering hedge of Meyer lemons. “I encourage weaving fruit and vegetables into the landscape,” Ms. Denler Hobart said. “Line the front of your cutting bed with a border of strawberries, or plant blueberries with roses. To walk along a path and be able to pluck a bite and pop it into your mouth—it’s a happy thing.”
“Since the architecture of the house is French Mediterranean and the wife is a daily cook and out in the garden every day, I wanted to reference the history of the French cook’s garden, or potager,” explained Ms. Denler Hobart of the parterre vegetable garden, which combines herbs, flowers, and vegetables, set into one of the middle levels of the slope. Loose pea-stone gravel paths soften the bed’s formal edges, while tomato cages and bamboo cloches from England prevent critters from pillaging the family’s harvest. The contents of the beds are rotated seasonally, to include everything from spinach and other sturdy greens to buttercrunch lettuce, shown here deftly interspersed with purple-hearted ornamental cabbage.
This petite hillside landing with two cushy upholstered chairs perched above the potager commands a view of the house and Mt. Tam beyond it. The perch has become a favourite place for the family to bring friends for evening drinks. Even in northern California, however, the sun at cocktail hour can bring on a swelter. To take down the mercury and add another sensual layer to the European atmosphere, Ms. Denler Hobart installed a verdigris copper wall fountain that burbles gently into a trough below. “The old walls immediately made us think of old Italian or French gardens where you’d see water spitting out of the walls,” she explained, “and there’s something that really cools you, both physically and psychologically, when you have that little bit of water running.”
Left: Another angle of the poteger, or kitchen garden, shows chianti artichokes in the foreground and a bower of table grapes in the middle ground. Pea gravel paths traverse the whole property, said Ms. Denler Hobart, adding to the European flair of the garden. The gravel “has a tidy look but has an organic quality that feels natural,” she said.
Right: Sunflowers grow on the edge of the potager. “When the summer is winding down, it’s amazing to watch the birds come to eat the seeds,” Ms. Denler Hobart said. “That’s the kind of family this is—they really care about feeding not just themselves from the garden, but also the wildlife.”
Ms. Denler Hobart admits that the unorthodox topography of the home’s front yard—a steep embankment—freed her company to be a little less formal in its design. Still, the ever-changing assortment of colourful container blooms, dramatic potted dwarf Washington navel oranges and lush terraced beds above is grounded by the curving patio and walkway of rusticated stone, which is original to the home. “I think the best approach is always to try and find some sort of structure in the chaos,” said Ms. Denler Hobart. Similarly, a staid linear wall of creeping European fig contrasts with the tidal wave of distinctive, feathery grey cobweb bush (Plecostachys serpyllifolia) that crests dramatically and spills over it. “It’s fine if you want to plant eight different perennials in one small area, but everything can’t be wild and crazy,” she said.
Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: August 5, 2021
Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual
Data reveals house values have continued to decrease, but the rate has slowed as the RBA Board prepares to meet next week
House values continued to fall last month, but the pace of decline has slowed, CoreLogic reports.
In signs that the RBA’s aggressive approach to monetary policy is making an impact, CoreLogic’s Home Value Index reveals national dwelling values fell -1.0 percent in November, marking the smallest monthly decline since June.
The drop represents a -7.0 percent decline – or about $53,400 – since the peak value recorded in April 2022. Research director at CoreLogic, Tim Lawless, said the Sydney and Melbourne markets are leading the way, with the capital cities experiencing the most significant falls. But it’s not all bad news for homeowners.
“Three months ago, Sydney housing values were falling at the monthly rate of -2.3 percent,” he said. “That has now reduced by a full percentage point to a decline of -1.3 percent in November. In July, Melbourne home values were down -1.5 percent over the month, with the monthly decline almost halving last month to -0.8%.”
The rate of decline has also slowed in the smaller capitals, he said.
“Potentially we are seeing the initial uncertainty around buying in a higher interest rate environment wearing off, while persistently low advertised stock levels have likely contributed to this trend towards smaller value falls,” Mr Lawless said. “However, it’s fair to say housing risk remains skewed to the downside while interest rates are still rising and household balance sheets become more thinly stretched.”
The RBA has raised the cash rate from 0.10 in April to 2.85 in November. The board is due to meet again next week, with most experts still predicting a further increase in the cash rate of 25 basis points despite the fall in house values.
Mr Lawless said if interest rates continue to increase, there is potential for declines to ‘reaccelerate’.
“Next year will be a particular test of serviceability and housing market stability, as the record-low fixed rate terms secured in 2021 start to expire,” Mr Lawless said.
Statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week also reveal a slowdown in the rate of inflation last month, as higher mortgage repayments and cost of living pressures bite into household budgets.
However, ABS data reveals ongoing labour shortages and high levels of construction continues to fuel higher prices for new housing, although the rate of price growth eased in September and October.
Rocket, the parent of Quicken Loans, has surged 28% this week.