Calm, welcoming feel around medical office 

There’s an old joke that goes something like this: “When is a square not a square? When it’s surrounded by circles. Then it becomes a design.”

Even entrances to commercial property can be transformed by design into a beautiful garden.

For the offices of Dr. Bruce Hartley in Los Altos, Randi Johnsen of Third Nature Studio created a perimeter of greenery that softened the angles of the building, added a welcome display of foliage and transformed a flat lawn area into a textured medley of colors, patterns and shapes.

The drama is introduced through a parade of tall Chinese pistachio trees — with their vibrant fall hues of red, orange and yellow, and their small berries — that wrap around three sides of the building. They form a canopy of color as seasons change.

A high-low contrast is achieved with a ground cover of myoporum, creating a carpet of green.

On another side of the building, parthenocissus climbers reach upward along a wall, while on the ground, a row of phormium yellow chief plants, with light greenish-yellow spikes that rise skyward, add an injection of color.

More brightness is realized with Japanese maple trees, whose delicate fringed leaves change shades.

Johnsen injects personality by contrasting succulents such as blue-green agave in the beds.

The festuca, or grasses, give a “Heathcliff” air to the garden, making it more welcoming and further removed from the hustle and bustle of a busy street.

Added to that are ficus, along with stunning dasylirion, which looks like a pinwheel of thin fronds.

The hardscape, or man-made elements, add to the overall ambiance. Rock stepping stones and gravel contrast with the green and colorful foliage.

There is a sense that this garden relaxes and welcomes — perfect for any doctor’s office anywhere.

Third Nature Studio is a San Francisco-based landscape design studio “specializing in contemporary and contextual” projects.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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