Green Sunset garden made from scratch

Starting from a clean slate can be a good thing — even for gardens. There’s a newness and freshness that says “anything goes.”
Tyler Manchuck, of Shades of Green Landscape Architecture, designed a garden from scratch for a new residence in a “green” Sunset development in Menlo Park.

Since the entire backyard was visible from the house, Manchuck wanted to create “something that would celebrate outdoor living.”

She transformed the garden into an indoor-outdoor entertainment center.

She created an outside kitchen replete with grill, refrigerator, cement counter top and stools, and at the far end of the garden, an outdoor living room.

The garden also reflects the clean, spare, Scandinavian designs for which she and business partner Ive Haugeland are known.

Everything is connected via a geometric walkway of 2-square-foot concrete pavers.

“I wanted to push green materials — and concrete is porous,” she says. Between the concrete slabs Manchuck used dynamondia, a “zero-scaping” ground cover that needs very little water.

For overall garden sustainability, Manchuck chose a plant palette of California natives with New Zealand and Australian foliage.

“That way, there’s always something blooming,” she says, “California natives go dormant in summer, and the other plants don’t.”
Manchuck used California deer grass along one side of the walkway. She added dramatic focus with a modern metal-and-wood fountain by Hugo McCloud.

On the far side of the walkway, Manchuck rooted a series of agave plants in a bed of gravel, and more agave in planters. Beyond them, for height and contrast, she planted formium, New Zealand flax, tea trees and white sage. 

Along the side, there are bronze loquats and arbutus — strawberry trees.

Manchuck even added “green” to the rear of the property. She built a new back wall, alternating light and dark panels of a new, recycled concrete called Ecocem.

On one side of the garden there’s a metal structure that’s a canopied seating area featuring pillows of different colors over wood seating.

“It’s sort of cozy like a living room,” Manchuck says.

On the other side are a dining table and chairs. Alongside, for warmth, there’s a modern, lava rock fireplace.

The overall garden effect is restful and spare— very 21st century, with contemporary high design.

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