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.

Existing trees removed – April 2021
Existing trees removed – April 2021

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

Backyard landscape plan
Backyard landscape plan

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

Swan Hill Olives transported
Swan Hill Olives transported

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.

Delivery – April 2022
Delivery – April 2022

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.

Bulletproof Trees

Newly planted
Newly planted

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.

Olive Grove
Olive Grove

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.

Marshall among the olives
Marshall among the olives

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

Southern view
Southern view

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.

Eastern view
Eastern view

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.

Garden Destination

3D sketch of back garden
3D sketch of back garden

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.

Toby in the garden
Toby in the garden

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.

For the love of nature,

XOX,

Linda & Tobywan-Kenobe

Showing 17 comments
  • Kathy t Higgs
    Reply

    Breathtaking !!!thanks tor sharing

  • Liz Nichols
    Reply

    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.

    • Brenda Cuzze
      Reply

      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!

  • Joan von Weien
    Reply

    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…..

  • Janice Weickum
    Reply

    Yes, thank you for taking us on the journey with you. This feels like real progress–you’ll be enjoying this garden soon!

  • Kay Criley
    Reply

    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??

  • Jeanne Hensley Smith
    Reply

    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.

  • kirby
    Reply

    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!

  • Jeff Lamoree
    Reply

    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.

  • Val
    Reply

    What wonderful views you have! I love seeing the progress of your home and garden renovation. Can’t wait to see more!

  • Kimber
    Reply

    Linda,
    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!

  • Jessie Allen
    Reply

    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💫
    Jessie

  • Jenny Duffy
    Reply

    Life arrives in the metamorphosis.

  • Ellen Filler
    Reply

    Amazing! Amazing! Amazing! Ellen

  • Kathleen Borkowski
    Reply

    I’m so impressed! What a vision & labor of love. I bet you can hardly wait to move in!

  • Maudie Vinci
    Reply

    Magnificent!!
    Love everything..reading the blog..
    Colors,Views..and all the dreams
    COMING THROUGH!!

  • Michelle Derviss
    Reply

    Looking absolutely lovely . Your artistry is coming to life .
    Fond regards and good gardening to you and Marshall.
    Michelle

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