In the Garden: Inner Richmond garden boasts beauty at the entry level

Sometimes, the most interesting gardens are right at the front door.

For an Inner Richmond residence, Mike Boss, founder and general manager of Rock & Rose Landscapes, and designer Beth Mullins had a challenge: to create a garden that had visual interest near the entry, and to provide privacy.

“It’s a classic situation throughout San Francisco,” Boss says, “where there are postage-stamp front yards and the same pattern is repeated over and over again — the typical lawn, driveway and pathway to the door.”

The Rock & Rose team came up with an innovative design to break the paradigm by using the driveway as an entry for pedestrians and vehicles.

They designed and constructed a front patio and garden that was a place to linger as well as a pathway — “a transitional element, not just a beeline to the house.”

The front fountain and the plantings give visitors more reason to stop and pause, to go from the outside to the inside world. The garden is screened using a combination of trellises and plantings. 

“The idea,” Boss says, “was not to make it a complete barrier but a see-through — you get a sense of coming into a different space without the feeling of being boxed in.”

To enhance the lightness, the team used variegated foliage, specifically silver screen pittosporum with bright leaves, as a screening shrub.

For ground plantings they laid down hellebores and mondo grass.

And for foliage accents, they rooted heuchera lime rickey, pieris —  variegated lily of the valley, and spiky-leafed phormium.

On a side post, star jasmine provides fragrance and softens the garden and arbor, and a Japanese maple with fine, lacy leaves adds texture and light colors.

The team laid Arizona flagstone to increase permeability, an important concept in urban landscapes and storm water recharge.

The City is adopting measures to foster permeable sidewalks, so water seeps into the ground rather than into streets and drains.

The result is a changed garden and a street dynamic that could, says Boss, who has been creating and caring for landscapes for two decades, “be repeated in so many situations.”

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