March 18, 2018


Featured Design Project:
Colorful Garden in Cupertino

“What can we do with all this dying lawn?” my clients asked.  “We want to get rid of most of it and replace it with lots of flowers that bloom throughout the year, but we just don’t know where to start!”  My clients, a busy Silicon Valley couple, have two active teenagers, and they want to revamp both their front and backyards so it will look great in time for their son’s graduation from high school next summer.  They reached out to me for help to design their Ideal Garden.

A selection of year-round blooming flowers in purples and pinks.

This Inspiration Board shows some of the plants I used to create all-season color in this Cupertino garden.

Year-round Flowers and Less Lawn

My client’s main priority was to reduce the size of the lawn – both front and back – and instead have a variety of low-maintenance, flowering perennials to add year-round interest.  They also wanted to enlarge their existing back patio for more space to entertain and create an area where they could grow their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs.


The Challenge – from Bright Sun to Dark Shade

The major challenge in creating the planting plan for this project was the wide-range of light exposures on site.  Some areas of the garden have harsh afternoon sun while other areas are in deep, dark shade.  I selected plants to thrive in each of the different sun/shade exposures and to bloom in different seasons to provide year-round color and interest.  To conserve water, I made sure that the plants in each area had the same water requirements to avoid over- or under-watering. 


Designer Tip:  Add plants with variegated foliage to create the illusion of dappled sunlight spilling into the shade garden.


A Unifying Color Palette to Harmonize the Garden

In order to blend the diverse range of plant-types in the garden, I used a consistent color palette throughout the garden.  It included creamy yellows, blush pinks, and warm lavenders, with added pops of magenta and chartreuse to give visual interest and contrast.


Visualizing the Planting Plan

To help my clients better imagine how the selection of plants would look in their new garden, I created Inspiration Boards grouping images of plants from each area.  I also included swatches of the unifying colors, so they could see how the colors balanced each other and coordinated throughout the garden.

Selection of low-water plants

An example of an Inspiration Board I created to show how a grouping of plants would look together in the garden.

Low-Water Plants for Sunny Areas

For the sunny areas of the garden, I used a selection of low-water, Mediterranean climate plants that included:

  • Several types of Salvias including ‘Playa Rosa’ and ‘Killer Cranberry’
  • ‘Platt’s Black’ Phormium, a deep burgundy New Zealand Flax
  • ‘Blushing Bride’ Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), a great summer blooming shrub with soft blush flowers
  • Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’, a creamy yellow daisy-like flower
  • ‘Hidcote’ English Lavender, with deep blue-purple flower spikes
  • And a show-stopping Euphorbia called ‘Bruce’s Dwarf’ with chartreuse mop-head flowers.
Low-water sun-loving plants

Inspiration Board with low-water, sun-loving plants including Euporbia (upper left corner), ‘Blushing Bride’ Rose of Sharon (upper right corner), and ‘Hidcote’ Lavender (lower middle).

Moderate-Water Plants for Shady Areas 

For the shady areas of the garden, I selected a variety of moderate-water flowering shrubs, including Camellias, Hydrangeas, and Azaleas, and a diverse array of flowering perennials to add color at different times during the year.  I also incorporated a wide range of leaf colors, textures, and variegation to grab your attention.

Plants in the shade garden included:

  • Creamy Yellow ‘Belgian Hybrid’ Bush Lily (Clivia)
  • Large-leafed Variegated Aralia (Fatsia japonica)
  • ‘Georgia Peach’ Coral Bells (Heuchera) with raspberry color foliage
  • ‘Kanjiro’ and ‘Peek-a-Boo’ Camellias
  • And Mother Fern (Asplenium bulbiferum) with  large feathery fronds.
Examples of moderate-water plants for shade

Inspiration Board with moderate-water plants for shade including Variegated Aralia (upper middle), ‘Georgia Peach’ Coral Bells (upper right corner), Mother Fern (lower left corner) and Camellia ‘Konjiro’ (lower right corner).


Low-Maintenance and Low-Water Option

In addition to year-round color, my clients wanted to reduce the amount of lawn they had in both the front and backyards, so I removed approximately half of the original lawn area and replaced the remaining grass with a low-mow variety that needs little maintenance and uses about 50% less water than a conventional lawn.

Low-Mow Lawn

Here is an example of what the low-mow lawn will look like


Eco-Friendly Patio and Edible Garden

Another element of the Conceptual Design was to enlarge the existing back patio for more entertainment space and add an area where they could grow their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

I designed an expanded back patio made of reused concrete – sometimes called “urbanite.”  The source of “urbanite” for this project is the back corner of the yard which has been a previously unused area of the garden completely covered in concrete.  This barren corner will be transformed into an area to grow a wide-array of edible plants with raised beds for vegetables and herbs and surrounded by a variety of fruit trees.  The entryway to this edible area will be framed by an arbor covered with yellow sweet-smelling climbing roses called ‘Golden Showers’.

Cupertion Conceptual Garden Design

The Conceptual Design for the Cupertino backyard includes a new “urbanite” patio (lower left corner), a low-mow lawn (center), and new edibles area with raised vegetable beds and fruit trees (upper right corner).


Want help replacing your lawn with colorful flowers?

If you live in the San Francisco or Monterey Bay Areas and are looking to transform your yard by replacing your lawn with low-maintenance, year-round flowers and shrubs, please contact me for a 30-minute complimentary design consultation.  You can schedule a call by clicking here.



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