Container gardening revives shady deck 

A garden can bloom anywhere.

With so many San Franciscans living in high-rises and apartment buildings, container gardening has taken off in a major way in The City.

For this deck garden in the Liberty Street Historic District off the Mission district, there were many challenges.

“It was just like a graveyard for plants,” landscape designer Randi Johnson of Third Nature Studio says. “There were dead plants, odds and ends.”

The client also had a limited budget, and — being a busy home decorator — limited time.

Johnson “cleaned it up,” throwing away debris, discarding “old, compacted soil in pots.” She filled containers with fresh, new, quick-drying potting mix.

Johnson looked at everything the client owned and brought key pieces of the client’s vintage furniture outdoors. The result was an outside living room good for entertaining and with a homey atmosphere.

Bright-hued plant containers owned by the client added to the ambiance.

For plants, Johnson predominantly chose succulents, which are “easy to care for, and while they look beautiful, they’re hardy.”

The deck is in shade, with high apartment buildings on all sides. With so much shadow, Johnson stayed away from cool colors — working against darkness.

“Otherwise, it could have ended up melancholy,” she says. She used oranges and “vibrant, grass-green succulents, bright colors.”

To create “leafy lushness,” Johnson introduced ferns, dwarf palms and plants in various sizes and shapes for a “jungly” feel.

There was an additional challenge: There is no water source on the deck. The client has to bring it from the residence.

Succulents have an advantage in that they don’t need much watering.

“What’s great about this is that the plants are fine in both summer and winter — they’re hard as nails,” Johnson says.
Johnson, who has a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley, worked for several large firms prior to launching her own firm in 2008.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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