Coastal wooded hills dotted with countryside estates and open space nature preserves define the San Francisco Peninsula town of Portola Valley. Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) Bay Area district co-president, Janet Enright was challenged to reclaim a home’s driveway view overlooking the neighboring hillside which was hidden by a jumble of overgrown plants. Enright’s design would create a unifying transition of the home’s garden spaces incorporating mostly native plants. Follow Enright’s before and after landscape design process at the Portola Valley site.

Portola Valley
Portola Valley before design

Take Inventory of Surroundings

Before designing a landscape project, Enright will examine the site for calculations and inspiration. How the house sits geographically, the look and style of the home and what colors pop up throughout the property are important landscape design notes.

Assess Growing Conditions

Studying the natural resources available at a project site will guide what plants will be supported there.

“We take a look at sun and shade aspects, we take a look at soil issues, we take a look at where water is on the site and how it moves through the site,” says Enright.

At the Portola Valley project, many oak trees and native plants thrived on the property giving Enright clues into what would thrive.

Take Stock of Existing Plants

At the Portola Valley site, trees and plants needed to be taken out if they weren’t contributing to the mostly native plant scheme, the client didn’t like them, or they were unhealthy.

Working with a consulting arborist, Enright walked the property to figure out what was growing well and what wasn’t. After giving their recommendations to the client, the process of taking things out and replacing them with better options began.

Creating a Quiet Space

Crowded, overgrown and discordant plants effect how you think about your outdoor space if you’re conscious of it or not.

Enright tells her clients, “Once you start to take out the plants that no longer serve you or shouldn’t be there in the first place, it starts to quiet the space down. Once you start to take things out, it feels better already.”

Change the Landscape

After preparing the project site, the new landscape design can take shape. Using a landscape contractor like Bay Scenery to install the new plants and landscape features will ensure the project is completed properly.

At the Portola Valley project, native plants including colorful wildflowers and billowing grasses acclimated to thriving under oak trees were put in. The stunning valley view was revealed and greeted the homeowner as they drove up to their house.

Portola Valley
Portola Valley after design

Continuity of Outdoor Spaces

The driveway landscape project was just one of many outdoor spaces on the property. After the new landscape was completed, Enright ensured it belonged and flowed with the rest of the property. Color, shape, and design create the feeling of connection between spaces outside, just as they do inside a home.

Results over Time

Over the course of seven years, Enright has watched the Portola Valley landscape grow and mature. Plants with shorter lifespans have made room for full-sized plants which started off at a few feet tall and shot up to seven feet or more.

“You plan in advance for how you put things in,” says Enright. “We knew some stuff was going to come out because as things grew, they would fill the space.”

The shape of the garden has changed over time. The space started out with a sunny driveway now; the adult trees provide shade. Enright says that the beautiful view is still there, but shrubs and background manzanitas have grown up, and have changed the space making it look very different than it did seven years ago.