Designer: Seed Studio Landscape Design
Size: Total exterior space is 700 square feet (65 square meters)
Before: This San Francisco side yard had good bones, including existing cedar fencing and slate pavers, but felt more like a walled-in pen than an inviting garden.
Instead of breaking up the slate patio into planting areas, Ritchey kept the floor space open, save for one area for a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) in the corner. He added planter boxes at the top of the fence filled with blue chalk sticks (Senecio mandraliscae), native island alumroot (Heuchera maxima) and western sword fern (Polystichum munitum), creating a cascade of foliage and an attractive view from upstairs windows. New steppingstones set in gravel help alleviate the canyon-like feeling of the pathway leading to the small back garden.
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Designer: Green Tree Garden Design
Before: This long, tapered backyard did little to inspire getting outside — save for retrieving something from the garden shed — and wasn’t much to admire from inside the house. The patchy lawn and encroaching trees from neighbors’ property emphasized the odd shape of the property, which is in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, England.
The central position of a Japanese maple in a circular bed halfway down the garden gently interrupts the sightline and encourages a visual pause.
Designer: Abigail Hazell Landscape & Garden Design
Size: 1,240 square feet (115 square meters); 46 by 89 feet, plus balconies and terraces
Before: Positioned on a steep slope above a ravine, this site in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England, presented little usable space. It did, however, offer the promise of dramatic views of the limestone rock face and water below. The original garden was overgrown and filled with construction rubble from the previous owners.
Here, in the bottom meadow section of the garden, gentle rock retaining walls prevent erosion down the hillside to the ravine, and a hanging swing seat provides one more place where someone can hang out and enjoy the view.
Before: While this lot in Berkeley, California, offered fabulous views of the San Francisco Bay, the original yard didn’t provide the homeowners with what they were looking for in an outdoor space.
Plantings include many California natives, including California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) and western redbud (Cercis occidentalis), as well as low-water staples such as rosemary and agave. The climate-appropriate plantings offer far more to local pollinators and wildlife — and interest for the homeowners — than the expanse of clipped grass did before.