Case Study


Marin county garden design by Suzi Katz
Side-by-side comparison of then and now.

A Case Study in Four Photos

The photo journal below demonstrates my approach to garden design. Contact me if you would like help designing your garden.


Photinia hedge before garden renovation
1. Before garden renovation (2011).

1. Before Garden Renovation

An overgrown hedge of red-tipped Photinia hides the fence on the right side of the photo. Although it provides welcome privacy from the neighbors, its red color and monolithic size bring us no joy. A large and weedy lawn requires frequent mowing during the rainy season and turns a crispy brown during the summer dry season. A lone flowering Quince (left) sticks out in the middle of the lawn area, adrift in a sea of grass.


Sheet mulching - marin county garden design
2. Sheet mulching begins with a layer of cardboard (2011).

2. Renovation In Progress

The Photinia hedge is still present but has been limbed up to make room for its replacement. It should, and will, be removed entirely for best results. The grass will be smothered with thick layers of compost and wood chips on top of the cardboard. This process, known as sheet mulching, will suppress weeds, build soil life, sequester carbon, and reduce the emissions from our gas-powered mower. Eventually, all of the grass will be eliminated and we won't use the mower at all.


Marin county garden design
3. It's starting to look like a garden (spring 2015).

3. Time Does Its Work

The Photinia has been removed and a mixed native hedge which includes Pacific Wax Myrtle (Myrica californica), California Lilac (Ceanothus), Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) and Bush Anemone (Carpenteria californica) has been planted along the fence to replace it. The new hedge provides a richly textured backdrop for the colorful flowers in the foreground. As the shrubs mature, lower-growing annuals, perennials, and grasses are filling in the formerly grassy area.


Marin county native garden design
4. Continuing to evolve (spring 2018).

4. An Ever-changing System

The area outside the garden bed is now chipped so that the relaxed character of the garden is defined by a tidy "frame" of wood chips. The composition of the perennial border changes subtly from year-to-year as some plants decline or die and are replaced by new ones. Some new plants are purchased at the nursery while others are welcome "volunteers" from parent plants that were allowed to go to seed. This garden provides seeds, berries, and cover for birds; pollen and nectar for bees; and food for caterpillars of a variety of our native butterfly species.

Next: California Native Plants Foster a Strong Sense of Place