Golden Gate Garden Plan
After five years of waiting, Marshall and I were elated when the city of Belvedere approved our renovation project. Dining on the terrace that night with Toby, we toasted our good fortune, vowing to preserve the historic roots of our 1927 Spanish Revival cottage and keep the surrounding property filled with beauty.
Sadly, however, a condition of approval was the removal of two dozen trees on our property that represented a fire hazard according to our local Fire District. I was heartbroken when I saw huge red X’s spray painted on the trunks of the condemned trees surrounding our home. Now that the trees are removed, our back garden is barren with only six ancient oaks and a few iconic Monterey cypresses remaining.
A New Beginning
Once the devastating extraction of trees occurred that I simply could not witness, the city requested a second landscape plan. I reached out to Michelle Derviss, a talented Marin County landscape designer. She graciously created a second backyard plan with access to the lower garden incorporating our four retaining walls. We felt these were essential due to the steep grade that could not be traversed on foot. Her lovely design included stairways, landings, a large planter, small stone patio, a bench and steppingstones. Michelle was committed to several other large projects at the time, but thankfully jump-started us with her concept. Our final backyard plan evolved with imbedding trees on the two lower terraces adjacent to a future expanded stone patio with a proposed wooden pergola attached.
The Olive Trees
We began the search for trees the Fire and Water Districts would approve to fill our denuded hillside, which was now at risk of substantial erosion. We noticed fruitless olive trees were on the list that my research showed were drought, disease and fire-resistant once they reached maturity. We purchased over a dozen elegant and versatile 50-year-old Swan Hill olive trees that not only thrive in dry, hot valleys like Sonoma and Napa, but by the California coast as well.
Last month, Marshall, Toby and I welcomed 15 silver-leafed, shimmering olive trees we had reserved a year ago as they arrived with bright red plastic bows tied around their golden trunks. A parade of three 19’ eight-wheeler flatbed trucks, each carrying five of the pollenless beauties, carefully delivered the trees to our steeply graded property. A huge 8’wide crane can be seen in the image gently moving an olive tree into place. The evergreens made their journey from the Central Valley to the coast on the Golden State’s highways arriving gracefully intact with their lush gray green foliage unblemished.
This legendary olive tree was the first to be planted on our property with its root ball submerged in a 4’diameter x 4’ deep hole in the ground by our expert tree crew from Sonoma.
A total of 7 evergreens followed that were lowered into deep circular caverns of rich rusty brown dirt between two 7’ high concrete retaining walls. Although these olives are drought-tolerant, they require moderate watering when first planted until their roots are established. Trees are strapped in place for now so wind can’t topple them.
Even Marshall’s six-foot-one height is dwarfed by these magnificent trees that range from 14’ to 19’ tall. They flourish in the Mediterranean climate of the Bay Area, enhancing hillsides with their sage green beauty and providing considerable shade for flora and fauna. Remarkably, these hardy fruitless specimens are easily transplanted and can live hundreds of years due to their unique root system.
Views Through the Trees
The southern view of Sausalito and the Marin Headlands will be visible from the upper terrace as well as the lower garden terrace once the proposed pergola is in place. Both vistas are framed by California grown classical olive trees in the foreground with the Golden State’s emblematic Monterey cypresses beyond.
The view to the east from both upper and lower terraces is of the San Francisco skyline. This image unveils the cityscape peeking through our neighbor’s Monterey cypresses while guests relax on the future sunny stone patio under the attached pergola.
Our project manager, Chuck Bond, created this three- dimensional overview of the terraced garden. The gray concrete retaining walls will ultimately be covered with rocks at their rims. Bay Laurel hedges planted behind will conceal the back of the 7’to 5 ½’ high concrete structures painted to harmonize with the color of the rocks at their apex.
A vision of the future destination in the center of our hillside garden consists of an expansive stone patio embedded in sand below a roughhewn cedar pergola that looks and feels as if they have been there forever. Lush green, flat-leafed foliage bearing crisp jigsaw edges delights with whimsical wandering vines growing up the arbor’s crusty vertical frame. Prolific grapevines energized by the sun entwine themselves into a 9’ high ruggedly arched rectangular grid supported by four legs. A rustic 5½’ rock planter bursting with aromatic French Lavender anchors the north footprint of the pergola. Depending on the time of year and type of varietals, the open air structure is filled with earthy fragrancies of luscious pink, blue, purple, red and green clusters of California grapes hanging from the rafters.
Groves of enchanting olive trees symbolizing peace, goodwill and the eternal link between man and the earth frames the entrance of our garden venue. In ancient times, extending an olive branch meant the end of hostilities and conflict, a much needed, soul-stirring reminder for today’s world. Toby can’t wait to greet friends, neighbors and doggies in the garden.
Breathtaking !!!thanks tor sharing
I LOVE LOVE LOVE olive trees. They are gorgeous and will be excellent. Glad you still have a view between the trees. When is the house going to have the work finished? It’s been quite a while.
The design of the garden, the breathtaking views, and the beauty of everything chosen is simply beautiful, and one can only imagine your pleasure in seeing it all in place and flourishing. Thank you for sharing, and Toby is so very handsome as he posed in his new garden. Blessings to you always!
Linda, I feel as if I am on this project with you! Marrying the garden’s outlook and the garden to the home is the project’s CORE! You have been through so much angst and so many plans which the original owner and builder most likely did not experience.
The olive trees! Wow, such a lovely grove it will be…cannot wait to see the landscape ‘finished’. It’s never finished, is it?
Thank you for taking us all with you…..
Yes, thank you for taking us on the journey with you. This feels like real progress–you’ll be enjoying this garden soon!
Oh Linda! Olive trees, grape vines, French Lavender, a pergola and patio, terraced gardens and a view of San Francisco through Monterey Cypress – Where heaven meets earth!! Will you ever want to venture elsewhere??
I am so excited for you and this beautiful project you are building! The day you move it…..take lots and lots of pictures to share with us.
OH MY GOSH! Never have I seen such breathtaking views! And what a gift to our world AND to us is Marshall’s and your’s sensitivity to the beauty around you. It is so so inspiring. Thank you Linda and Marshall….and of course Toby!
Just beautiful. Happy to see you utilize the lower wasted space from the past, when I lived there. I did have a “fort” down there. Having fun watching your progress. Thanks.
What wonderful views you have! I love seeing the progress of your home and garden renovation. Can’t wait to see more!
I am absolutely swooning over these views ,gardens and landscape .I’m so enjoying watching your vision blooming into reality! Thank you for taking us on this journey with you!
50, 75, 100 years from now the residents of your magnificent remodeled villa will be toasting the genius & vision of you & Mardhall💜
Ever in awe of talents💫
Life arrives in the metamorphosis.
Amazing! Amazing! Amazing! Ellen
I’m so impressed! What a vision & labor of love. I bet you can hardly wait to move in!
Love everything..reading the blog..
Colors,Views..and all the dreams
Looking absolutely lovely . Your artistry is coming to life .
Fond regards and good gardening to you and Marshall.
Love your garden plan and so happy y’all found the Olive trees! How special! Your views will be amazing as they are even now! This is such a very special property and project, I cannot imagine anyone else undertaking this enormous project! Waiting for more…..
It must be heaven!!!❤️❤️❤️
The planting of trees is always an incredible moment and these are SO beautiful and so perfect for your home. How exciting to follow this process Linda – thank you for sharing these milestones with us. I can just imagine Toby playing among the trees 🙂