Dramatic update for Hillsborough landscape 

Every garden needs a refresher now and then.

This Hillsborough garden, originally developed in the 1970s, had a specific feel from that era. The front yard was a typical lawn that led to a narrow staircase up to the door of the residence.

The owner, an experienced gardener, wanted to update the entry, expand the courtyard and open up the space.

“The goal was to give the house more presence — a sense of entry as soon as you got out of the car — more of an experience being in the garden before you got to the front door,” says Sarah Small of Small Brown Landscape Architects in Burlingame, who redesigned the garden.

Small, who works with Ruth Brown (each have 20-plus years experience as landscape architects), wanted to integrate the best of the old with the new.

Striking original retaining walls were composed of Hillsborough blue stones. Small hired Siteworks, from Berkeley, to build a new pedestal and rearrange and match existing stones.

The original garden was a study in green. The owner, a gardener, had been changing plants over time, introducing more color and roses.

Small worked closely with the owner and drew up a plan that blended elements of the greenscape with newer, mixed colors.
Key elements are dramatic Japanese maples and roses.

Small used loropetalum along the house on the right side, then added razzleberry with green and burgundy leaves, and a dramatic magnolia Elizabeth — a deciduous tree with yellow flowers.

There’s viburnum with white blossom. Rosa seafoam, a ground cover with white and pink blush flowers, cascades from large pots. Against the house is a tulip tree with yellow-green flowers.

For the side garden, Small created a stunning black fountain that has a large metal tray with black stones. Water flows in concentric rings and drizzles off the edges.

Throughout the landscape, Small expanded courtyards with buff, natural stone. She also inserted dramatic lighting against the residence and at key points in the garden. 

The fountain is up-lit (“for a quiet, Zen feeling”), as are the tulip tree and the red maple.

Near the kitchen, Small built a gravel outdoor seating terrace with dwarf olive trees in pots. A contemporary wall houses a fire pit and citrus trees in pots nearby, and a white crepe myrtle peeks over the wall.

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