The blooming spirit of The City 

Sometimes, a garden can seem to bloom in the sky.

This skyline garden in the Castro, designed and built by Beth Mullins and Mike Boss of Rock & Rose Landscapes, has panoramic, bird’s-eye views of downtown San Francisco.

It’s also a garden that incorporates the views into the backyard experience. The seating faces outward, and water features and ground elements resonate with the Bay and the shore.

“An urban garden, it encapsulates the glory of San Francisco in the clients’ own private space,” Boss says.

But there were challenges. It’s a small garden, and it has no side yard, so all building and plant materials for the backyard remodel had to be hauled in through the house.

The team was creative.

“It’s a small space yet we were able to get that expansive feeling,” Boss says.

They accomplished this by designing and constructing around one primary focal feature — a stunning reflective pool with a central fountain, which “adds to the tranquility” and is congruent with the shape of the overall backyard, providing symmetry, drama and singularity. 

There’s a low concrete wall around the pool, which can be used for additional seating.

“With the fountain as focal point, the eyes can then drift to the viewing seats, which visually propel you off into the city beyond,” Boss says.

Beyond the wall the landscape architects created a pebble “beach” — another enclosed area that is bordered by a low concrete wall and features a gravel play area. 

The garden has simple, classically elegant architectural lines.  It’s divided into four areas.  There’s a “viewing space” at the far end, with deck chairs that face outward, an outdoor dining area on a flagstone patio directly off the house, a “relaxation space” in the middle of the garden with the pool, and around the perimeter, on two levels, border plantings of perennials, as well as potted plants.

“This open layout provides a sense of expansiveness,” Boss says.

In the beds, there are Japanese maples of the Sango Kaku variety, dissectum fine leaf maple, daphne with purple-rose buds, phormium with its spiky leaves, heuchera green spice with silver leaves and white buds, and hellebore. And, as the garden is protected on the west side by a high retaining wall and is in full sun, the owners added some roses.

This is a garden in the clouds that is rooted in San Francisco’s nature — “an oasis high above The City’s bustle.”

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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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