They undertook the initial garden project with the help of an energetic wheeler dealer kind of guy who oversaw the hauling of tons of material through a new underground garage and narrow flight of steps. My original design was rectangular to reflect the lines of the house and fences, but they successfully opted for a round flat space surrounded by curved retaining walls to deal with the slope. Re-sculpting the Earth's surface is how I describe much of garden building, having to move huge quantities of soil and bringing in truckloads of material. I was happy to have skipped the re-sculpting phase due to the difficult access to the site, and all the chaos of other work that was going on.
A bath tub was added to one side of the circular area, and small beige colored tumbled granite pieces were chosen for the paving and wall caps. They set tiny pebbles in to the mortar joints between the paving stones and stuccoed the curved concrete blocks walls. Funky vertical mixed stone sections were used to create transitions between the walls and steps.
|Round patio in the new garden|
The round area was planted with sod, which soon became a muddy mess where the dog liked to poop, and was none too inviting. So I was asked to come back and build a pebble mosaic patio, and a tile mosaic to cover concrete retaining walls directly off the new kitchen.
Since my friends are very artistic we put a great deal of effort in coming up with the perfect design. Eric owns the E.G. Smith sock company which makes a line of thick baggy socks that are hugely popular with school girls in Japan, so he and his partner Marc have a strong connection with that country. Marc works at the DeYoung Museum and Legion of Honor, two world class institutions. We went to Japantown to look at books for inspirations and found one with illustrations of various medallions that are essentially like western Coat of Arms for prominent Japanese Families. We were particularly drawn to a simple lotus design. So we adapted that form in a rather Islamic way to create a knot pattern lotus flower. We cut out plywood jigs to use to lay out the design on the ground.
|Pietra dura inlay of colored stone in marble at the Taj Mahal|
I used a brown tile for the background to match the stone they had already used, purchasing seconds from the Pratt and Larson Tile Company in Portland. These are tiles that had small imperfections when made to order and are then sold for a couple dollars a pound. The quality of the tiles and matte glazing are premium. I have purchased over a ton of various colored tiles for a number of mosaics, though I stopped doing this work because nipping tile caused me to have severe tendonitis in my hands.
|Grouting the tile mosaic|
|Matty takes a nap on the bed. A Taj Mahal inspired tile mosaic forms the back wall|
|Sorting white quartzite pebbles in San Mateo|
I then went about the laborious job of finding the right pebbles to construct the mosaic. I went to three different Bay Area stone yards to find black Mexican Beach Pebbles, Indonesian turquoise, white quartzite from the Sierra Nevada mountains, and red sorted out of a mix from Montana which is called Pame at the yard. A pastel blend from the same mix was used to make the border, and to fill in the drainage strip around the perimeter. This part of the project took about 5 days. Once an adequate supply of pebbles had been collected we were ready to start constructing the mosaic.
|Pouring a concrete sub-slab|
We hand mixed bags of concrete to pour a wire mesh reinforced sub-slab so that the patio wouldn't crack if there was an earthquake. We had calculated the grade so that the finished mosaic on top the sub-slab would be at the perfect height, being highest in the center and gently sloping toward the edges. Then we laid out the plywood jigs and used green marking paint to transfer the design to the slab so that we could begin setting the mosaic, starting on one side and working toward the other.
|View from the second story terrace|
Afterwards, Marc designed and built a form for a lovely little fountain, with a stone niche set in it that I brought back from India. The shape of the fountain is sort of like a little Nepali temple, with flexible copper tubing set in the mortar that can be attached to flexible tubing connected to the small pump that recirculates the water. This sits in a buried basin with a grille on top that is covered in river stones. The water spits in to a stone bowl and overflows in to the reservoir basin. It makes a lovely sound and birds like to come and bathe. Hummingbirds also like to drink out of the little stream of water arcing in to the bowl. It is quite magical. I recently build a larger similar shaped fountain for another client who loved the design.
|A simple fountain spills in to a carved stone bowl from China, surrounded by lush plantings|
|Dahlia imperialis in full bloom in November|
We planted the beds with an odd assortment of experimental plants that have been fine tuned over the years to create a lush subtropical eden. The garden is somewhat shady so there are a number of ferns, including tree ferns. Potted bromeliads and orchids are set in to the beds for added color and texture. In the sunnier areas we used succulent Aeoniums in varying colors. A large Brugmansia hangs its night fragrant trumpet shaped flowers overhead. At the back of one of the narrow beds they planted a lanky but impressive tree dahlia, Dahlia imperialis, that is in full bloom in November, towering above the garden and spectacular from the upper terraces.
Marc and Eric are avid flea market shoppers and have filled the garden with art, and covered the fences with a collection of mirrors, giving the garden a feeling of greater size. The garden is simply furnished with a hand tooled brass table from Morocco and teak folding chairs. Round cushions are set on the patio in summer for lounging. It is a wonderful place to entertain, or to take a hot bath. In fact it has the same allure as my garden does, a little slice of paradise. I hope to do more work like this in San Francisco in the future. If you have a garden you would like to develop, let me know.
|Resin balls hang from a spiral staircase connecting the garden to the second story terrace|