Easy-care makeover in Richmond backyard

Gardens transition with each new generation and get fresh life.

When Stacy and Steve Jenson purchased their home in the Outer Richmond, they inherited a garden filled with so-called fussy plants — roses, hebe plants, vines and jasmine.

Yet the young couple wanted a backyard that was contemporary and interesting, but low-maintenance and easy to care for.

“There were lots of options,” says James Wilson of Ceanothus Gardens in San Francisco. “The yard has a great exposure — lots of sun and really sandy soil. Great to grow a lot of flowering Mediterranean plants.”

Wilson “got rid of everything” and injected movement to the shape of the garden by constructing a winding Arizona flagstone path that leads to an outdoor eating area in the rear of the property.

The Jensons knew they would use the garden more if it became a backyard destination of sorts. So when the wind blew away a shed, Wilson took advantage of the opportunity.

He installed a dramatic pergola built by furniture designer Luke Bartels of Refind Furniture. Bartels salvaged old redwood and used locally milled cedar and Monterey cypress to build the structure, complete with benches.

Wilson worked on the flow of the garden, crafting more “curve” by laying down decorative Lynn Creek gravel in blues and grays, along with smooth river stones beside the flagstone. The effect contributes to the dry, Mediterranean look.

Wilson ushered in native grasses, fescues, flax and species from warm tropical regions around the world.

From Australia, he introduced brightly flowering grevillea, which blooms in orange, spider-like clusters, as well the mint-westringia, bell-shaped flowering correa and pennisetum.

There’s dramatic, spiky orange grass: libertia, from New Zealand, silver spear astelia and phormium running along the side of the fence which “establishes repetitive lines.”

From South Africa are brightly colored honeybush plants that bloom along with red, waxy leafed leucadendron and Cape Rush, a tall reed with orange tips.

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