Mother Earth Living


Life in the Garden: A Sonoma County Permaculture Garden

Working with natural systems and patterns, permaculture experts transform a forest-edge hillside into a cascade of outdoor living spaces.



Selective thinning and pruning opened the yard to a formerly obscured westward view. Sentient Landscape terraced the slope and created a meadow of wildflowers and bunch grasses, including Achillea “Moonshine” (yarrow) and Festuca glauca (blue fescue). The slate pathway is planted with creeping thyme and Scotch and Irish moss. Beyond the path are plants that attract birds and butterflies, including mixed salvias, Philadelphus (California mock orange), Lavatera (tree mallow), Echinacea, and Asclepias (butterfly weed).
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BARBARA BOURNE
The pool brings a deep feeling of serenity to the garden. London Pool & Spa crafted the pool to blend into the landscape, with its infinity edge and dark, stone-like bottom. Solar panels downslope enhance the solar-heat-storage capacity of the water and stone.
Prostrate rosemary cascades over the stone retaining walls, while sprawling ground­covers and small perennials blend the stone steps into the landscape (here, thyme, Erigeron karvinskianus [Santa Barbara Daisy], and strawberries). Small planting pockets support annual food-producing plants like this cherry tomato.
Bodega, one of two resident golden retrievers, surveys the warm slate steps that lead downward from the kitchen garden and blueberry patch. Flanking the steps are oregano, verbena, rosemary, Heuchera (alum root), coreopsis, violets, nasturtium (climbing through the fence), and scented geranium. Irish and Scotch moss mix with creeping thyme amongst the pathway stones.
Kamala Bennett of Sentient Landscape, owners Mark Jacobsen and Pam Laird, and Geoff Hall, also of Sentient Landscape, relax on a log strategically placed to store water and provide wildlife habitat.
A young table-grape tendril climbs a chain on the outdoor shower gazebo constructed by Mark, promising clusters of tasty fruit for bathers.
Bodega enjoys the sunshine afforded by prudent trimming of the redwood trees. The garden is a natural to him, because his own trails informed the pathway design. The sweet fragrance of Buddleia (butterfly bush) makes his bliss complete.
Selective thinning and pruning opened the yard to a formerly obscured westward view. Sentient Landscape terraced the slope and created a meadow of wildflowers and bunch grasses, including Achillea “Moonshine” (yarrow) and Festuca glauca (blue fescue). The slate pathway is planted with creeping thyme and Scotch and Irish moss. Beyond the path are plants that attract birds and butterflies, including mixed salvias, Philadelphus (California mock orange), Lavatera (tree mallow), Echinacea, and Asclepias (butterfly weed).
Rosemarinus prostratus (creeping rosemary) spills like water over a series of terraces, down to the pool level. Mixed sedums and strawberries fill crevices between rocks, beneath stone steps, and along pathways for easy harvesting.
Cherry tomatoes, previously unsuccessful here, now grow abundantly thanks to solar heat stored and radiated by the slate steps and nearby stone retaining wall. They grow together with creeping thyme 'Pink Ripple,' within 'slipper distance' from the kitchen door for fresh salad-picking.
Selective thinning and pruning opened the yard to a formerly obscured westward view. Sentient Landscape terraced the slope and created a meadow of wildflowers and bunch grasses, including Achillea “Moonshine” (yarrow) and Festuca glauca (blue fescue). The slate pathway is planted with creeping thyme and Scotch and Irish moss. Beyond the path are plants that attract birds and butterflies, including mixed salvias, Philadelphus (California mock orange), Lavatera (tree mallow), Echinacea, and Asclepias (butterfly weed).
Thanks to the principles of permaculture, an enchanted landscape now opens up on Mark and Pam’s once dense and dark property. Lush, colorful gardens cascade down the hillside behind the house; fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants thrive in the abundant sunlight; fire fuel has been reduced; and beneficial habitat regeneration, soil building, and rainwater harvesting are built into the garden’s design.











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