strong lines and bold arches transform a California hillside

Magic mountain: strong lines and bold arches transform a California hillside

‘FIVE ACRES +/-. Old home,” was all the sign said. It was a cold, wet November evening on Sonoma Mountain, about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, and it was growing dark. But my wife and I were tempted, and turned in for a look. The house and land were both old and derelict. Along with our disappointment at the state of the property, however, came the realization that we were never going to find paradise ready-made. The extent to which we would make our dream a reality would depend on our ability to transform what we were given. But was this the raw material?

Having decided that this was the place where we would live and stay, the process of transformation began. I immediately started drawing the lines and laying out the spaces. The orchard would be an essential element. We had room for a meadow and, of course, there was to be a real garden–not one of the “landscaped yards” I saw all around me, but a creation to involve, indulge, and reward us for the next 30 years. It would be a compilation of stored images–fragments of old gardens, memories of summer days at friends’ homes. But the garden grew from subliminal promptings as well as conscious memories. There was no Master Plan.

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