Remodeling and Home Design

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    Susan aka Miss R.

    Wow, wow, wow. What a beautiful transformation. I really like that you stuck to your designer's vision and have ended up with a space that says--'I'm a garden for an individual' rather than something less idiosyncratic. Bravo, I say!

    Thanks Susan! I actually thought of you as I was posting as this garden has more of an East Coast feel than what I usually design for clients. Maybe because of the shade?


    That looks amazing. I love the wall and the color. I also love the pathways and the plantings around them. The patio tiles make a huge difference. It is hard to stop ripping things out once you get started. I think that's why my husband always get nervous with my ideas, because he knows it never ends up being as simple as I say it is.

    The same fear of "ideas" exists around here, LOL! Both my contractor and my husband now roll their eyes whenever I start a sentence with "you know, I just had a new idea..."

    Brown Thumb Mama

    Wow, that's beautiful! Our backyard is microscopic too. I'll use your ideas to spruce up our space.

    Thanks! People sometimes think small gardens are easier, but they are usually harder because you have to make every square foot count.

    Laura Livengood Schaub (InterLeafer)

    I'm so glad I got to see your garden just before the renovation began; and glad my 'editing' thoughts were useful! That black pot water feature is really it a bubbler type (pump set in the pot itself?) Those are so nice and simple, mine has been burbling to itself for years now, can't imagine a garden without the sound of water! Brava my friend, I bet you enjoy it every day!

    Isn't it funny? I'm a designer and yet I was paralyzed by my choices and needed another designer to kick-start the process.

    Yes, it's a bubbler type. I like the disappearing fountains that spill over the edge, but what we love the sound of the water and it works much better in a pot. The hole that was drilled in the top turned out to be a little too small for the plug, so it's hanging out the back right now, but will be tidied up later. The other reason we decided to do a bubbler is for the reason you gave - it's so simple! And by the time you're at the end of a project, simple always wins out.


    I am a parishoner of the church of Susan and Laura. WOW. You guys are so talented. I love it.

    Katie, that is so a nice compliment coming from you, because when I first started blogging and found your blog, I remember thinking "her blog is so cool and has so many readers, I wonder if she'll ever visit mine?"

    Glad you like the design, I love before and afters and figure just about everyone else does, too.


    Susan that is some transformation!

    Your choice of pots among other things is terrific.

    Grape riot! you need a certain light intensity to carry it off. California has that, think also Morocco and the majorelle gardens.

    There could be some grape riot here if the harvest goes to plan.

    Enjoy your piece of paradise.

    I have to make do with grape paint, lucky you growing the real thing in your garden.

    You might be onto something with the lighting. Both walls are in light or dappled shade most of the day. For the short period in the middle of the day where the large wall is in full sun, it is not nearly as attractive. And the whole garden looks beautiful lit up at night. If I can figure out my camera's manual, I may try to take some night shots.

    Alice Joyce

    Reorganizing my google reader today - now I've got you where I want you :D

    Thanks Alice! I think I channeled some of the photos Laura took in your garden and tried to bring in some of those charming little details you have.

    rebecca sweet

    I just love a woman who would dare to use paint named Grape Riot! And look how beautiful it turned out - what a wonderful before and after transition you've created - thank you so much for sharing it with the rest of us, and for giving us courage to go to the paint store!

    Listen missy, I've seen photos of your purple gate on Twitter, so I don't think you need any courage from me! But glad you like the transformation, designer love is always appreciated!


    Oh my. Having been on the other end of quite a few phone conversations about this process, I developed a visual of the end product in my mind. Now that I see the results, they so far exceed the absolute best "mind garden" I could have conjured for you. This is personally inspiring to me on so many levels.

    The second, small wall, where the birches stood, is brilliant. Embracing the side garden as a "visual corridor" is the kind of design choice that our clients hire us for. It shows that you have thought deeply about layering levels of enjoyment into your experience in the garden. May we all be so creative !

    Let's see... well the rest of the things I love about this design you will probably soon see in my own garden, because I plan to totally copy all of your great ideas!

    One little idea I have for you is to paint the face of your serpentine wall in a subtle color that picks up on the tile and/or wall cap. Or bold, if you are so inclined. You could play with the limes, peaches, browns... Just a thought.

    I can't wait to see this in 3-D!

    Plantanista, your designy-sense (Get it? Like spidy-sense!) is right on the money. I refinished the stucco retaining wall and haven't painted it yet. You have now put the idea in my head to be a bit bolder than I had planned. Or as I will be saying soon to both Nick and my contractor Miguel, you know I just had a new idea...


    I thought your garden looked good before, but now it's gorgeous. Love the grape riot. I imagine we still won't see too much blogging activity from you unless you can access the internet from your garden... If I had that lovely space that's where I'd be, not inside in front of the computer! Nick should be grateful every time you say you have a new idea.

    Well, he likes a new idea when the first step is a trip to the hardware store, no question about that. But when I start going to far down the path of crazy creative he gets a slightly nervous look in his eye.

    All kidding aside, we both are enjoying this latest garden transformation. In the evenings we relax in our lounge chairs alternately reading and chatting about this plant or that view. Sadly, in the end we're like any old longtime married couple - shockingly boring despite the addition of grape riot paint into our lives!

    the inadvertent farmer

    That is just the coolest paint color...good for you for being so bold! What a stunning transformation, great job, Kim

    Hi Kim! Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed the tour. I'm reminded of the post you awhile ago about one of your relative's (sister?) garden, and how different it was from your camel and child dominated spread, yet how much you liked it. One of my favorite things about garden blogs, seeing what other gardeners are getting up to!


    And, I just want to say, I admire the superb craftsmanship that obviously went into those walls. Mr. Plantanista is going to have a lot of veggie bed building to keep up with a certain carpenter I know. This is a good thing. Showing him now!

    Plantanista, In fact Nick WAS a tad surprised that no one has commented on how masterfully he responded to my rather vague request to build a wall and paint it purple. I hope you can visit us soon, as he will happily describe his fabulously ingenious carpentry solutions in detail.


    Very nice! Such a fun and yet comfortable space. I had a purple shed in my old garden---the color was Grape, and I do believe the paint store asked me if I was sure too. What do they know?

    Exactly! After all, they sell these crazy colors. You think they'd enjoy a break from mixing navaho white and sage green.


    What a brave makeover, Susan--I like it. Lots more character than before. I can see how the lime picture frame on the purple wall might have sounded punchy and fun at first, but I like your revision of Plan A. It brings the focus back away from the fence and towards what's in front. I like the mirrors, too, in the photos they read like retro little cutouts, very Atomic Age.

    They read like cutouts in person as well. I've had a few people think that is what they were at first.

    The mistake with the green paint is a good example of how you just can't plan everything out on paper. Sometimes you have to try a new idea before you know if it works, particularly when you're trying something a bit different.

    Town Mouse

    Great design! Love the paths and the pots, and the whole garden already looks so lived in! I also really like the mirrors, what a clever idea.

    But, do I dare admit it, I don't like that grape riot wall. Maybe if there were a tall plant or two in front, with blooms that harmonized with the wall...But it's just too monotone for my taste, and anyway, I might have preferred orange or yellow for those winter days soon to come.

    But more power to you for choosing exactly what you like!

    I like the mirrors as well. Mirrors in the garden are not a new idea, but I think the shape of these cascading down the wall gives it a fresh look.

    The wall color is not for everyone. Nick was initially skeptical, but now he likes it, in part because he loves the contrast with the black. The plants are new and will play a more prominent role as they fill in. I view the wall, orange pot and red pot as all being variations on the same color scheme, so don't see a reason to specifically mirror the wall color. For me, the black and chartreuse are the unifying colors.

    If you are in the East Bay, I'd love you to stop by and see the garden in person.


    That is a fabulous project! I'm glad I made some time to catch up on blogs so I didn't miss this post. I saw the round mirrors at my Target and considered them for my powder room wall, but didn't end up with them. They look very nice on your wall. The Grape Riot is fun - reminds me of that iconic teal that was used in Monet's garden. Very dramatic. The hardscaping turned out nicely. I'm going to have to pause in my plant obsession to think about hardscaping one of these days, or our yard will be really missing out.

    Thanks VW! And let me warn you in advance, once you get caught up in creating layout plans and choosing hardscape, you will be just as obsessed with this aspect of design as you are with plants.


    I dig that wall and that lantern! I am trying to do catch up in my garden.

    Funny how the little things, like a lantern, are often what we respond to the most. Only problem is the bird feeder that used to hang there - we're still looking for the ideal spot as an alternative. Although I've explained to Nick that with four feeders in our small back yard (not to mention a squirrel feeder!) it's not like the birds are going hungry.

    Pomona Belvedere

    Brilliant transformation! It really opens up and enlivens the space - and I love the dry-laid flag-and-pebble paths, they're so woodsy-looking. (Pardon me, I appear to be having a hyphenation attack. It's sort of the written equivalent of hiccups.)Whether or not people choose to copy the whole thing, we can certainly gain a lot from our own interpretations of your design. And I agree: small spaces are hardest to design for.

    Susan, should you decide to accept it, I have a MeMe award for you at

    What a nice idea, that there is something for everyone. I rarely look at a garden and want to duplicate the whole thing, but often see a plant combination or a pot or something that I tuck away for future reference. And I should have guessed it was the free and easy woodsy side of the garden rather than the more stylized portions that would appeal to you!

    Thanks for the meme award, I'm honored! Love to participate if I don't have to do so immediately. I have my own meme coming up to promote the launch of yet another sustainability website and don't want to overwhelm my blogging friends. The new site is on lawn alternatives (what else, LOL!) but for there's a whole gang participating on this one, including Susan Harris from Sustainable Gardening Blog and Shirley Bovshow from Eden Maker's Blog, so a much more manageble project than Blue Planet Gardening.

    the inadvertent farmer

    Just came back to peek at your purple wall and ask myself if I have the guts to paint my chicken house that color...hmmmm, still thinkin'! Kim

    Well really, the decision rests entirely on the color of your chickens. If they are black, by all means go with purple. But brown chickens would look lovely with a muted gold or orange, and you can't go wrong with a classic pairing of white chickens and a cheery sky blue.

    the inadvertent farmer

    ROFL...I never took into consideration the colors of the chickens!!! I have white, black, brown, red, and tan and every color in between! The roof is evergreen so I was trying to keep that in mind...not the chickens!!! Kim

    Susan aka Miss R

    I know I already commented here, but I wanted you to know that I nominated you for a Meme Award. Stop by Miss R to check it out and see if you'd like to participate. It's kind of fun!

    Laura Livengood Schaub (InterLeafer)

    Hey you, I included you on my Meme list because you are one of my must-read blogs and I want everyone to know it!

    BeWaterWise Rep

    I like the new look of your garden! The purple color, the bright orange pot, the lantern, and the tiny mosaic starfish, all add to the beauty! While gardens are great to have, it is also important to watch the water that is being consumed; this is especially true as numerous parts of the world including Southern California are facing a water shortage. I would like to share with you some interesting tit-bits about water-wise gardening, this not only helps you save water but keep your water bills in check too. Visit and enjoy gardening!

    Hello Water Wise Rep, thanks for stopping by. You are preaching to the choir. If you read my blog regularly, you will see that I advocate low water gardens, lawn removal/reduction and water saving practices like ET controllers.


    You should be given a Nobel Prize for this design! Look how many people you've inspired by selecting a vibrant color! And who do these color-fear-mongering paint store guys think they are? Same exact thing happened when my sister bought paint for her front door, and when I bought paint for my kitchen cabinets--some neutral-fundamentalist paint store guy took it upon himself to try to talk us down. Your yard turned out fantastic in every way--love the purple, the lantern, the plants between flagstones, Peace Lady and everything!

    Exactly! Didn't anyone tell them real men aren't afraid of paint?

    I just noticed from your sign-off that you have a blog now. Yay! I'm heading right over to check it out.

    If you'd like to see the garden in person, you are welcome to drop by any time. Of course now that Troy has deserted me, the price of admission might just be a guest post...


    Grape Riot is now my favorite color ... I love that you went for it in a big way! This post gives me a big kick in the pants ... I need to paint a wall that is focal to my veg garden, and I was thinking cobalt, but now you have just thrown the door WIDE OPEN!

    These are fantastic photos, and what a great guide - we all need to know how better to maximize space in our small urban gardens. Thank you for sharing with us! Where you lead, I will follow!

    Germi, I was so hoping you would stop by to read this particular post! You have such an exuberant design sensibility I thought you would get a kick out of such an out there color choice. Although when you are actually in the garden it is really much tamer.

    Well, not MUCH tamer, but a little tamer.

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