Hardy garden stands up to ocean winds 

Bay Area gardens often battle nature.

With strong west winds from the Pacific Ocean, salt-filled gusts that dry out leaves, and soil and fog that can foster mold in roses and block sun from plants, gardens have to be sturdy to survive.

This front-yard garden in the westernmost Sunset district has an additional challenge: sandy beach soil, where not many plants can grow. Owner Chrissy Lehn called on James Wilson of Ceanothus Gardens to create a design that would address her three major concerns:

First, the garden had to allow access from the driveway to the entryway. It had to be functional and streamline traffic to the home (the old plan forced the owners to walk around the yard to the front door).

Second, the garden had to look good. It needed to be visually interesting, aesthetically pleasing and hide some flaws contained on the house.

Third, plants had to be tough to survive the west-facing ocean exposure and be mole-resistant.

"This was not an easy task, even for Sunset district standards," Wilson said.

He set about facilitating a route from the driveway to the home by laying down a flagstone path connecting the two points.

He created a "seamless hard-scape design" by installing tumbled pavers to frame the space and hold the sandy soil intact.

For plant selection, Wilson chose "grassy" plants like cordyline and Cape rush. "They cast elegant structural lines" against the house facade while making "a dramatic visual statement" and hiding unsightly areas.

He used low-growing Mediterranean plants by the path and next to the sidewalk.

To keep pests at bay, Wilson sited many plants that have aromatic properties, which moles or gophers avoid, or ones that are poisonous or unappealing to those creatures.

Wilson added decorative gravel to give the garden a dry-garden feel. Colors of neutral gray tones contrast nicely with the green plants.

And because of the plant types, there’s minimal maintenance.

The result: not only a verdant Mediterranean garden that’s "the envy of neighbors," but a garden that’s hardy and beautiful.

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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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