Imagine stretching out on a chaise lounge chair under a big blue sky, to soak in the sun’s warmth or relax with a good book. No, you’re not at an all-inclusive resort, but your own backyard. For Astrid Gaiser, a San Francisco Peninsula Landscape Designer, the beach and swaying palm trees denote vacation, so she created a tropical oasis in her backyard. For many of her clients, the tamer Mediterranean and California native landscapes bring on vacation getaway vibes. To achieve sustainable and vibrant outdoor living spaces fit for an all-year staycation garden retreat, Gaiser loves to incorporate the following elements into her designs.

Outdoor Seating Areas

Even in a small yard a seating area with dining table works well says Gaiser in establishing a garden retreat. Of course the larger the outdoor space more seating options open up, like café bistro sets nestled under shade trees or a row of patio recliners one for each family member. For both large and small outdoor living spaces, Gaiser considers function first for practical reasons like placing the dining table near the kitchen (indoor or outdoor) to ensure food platters make it to their destination.

Fire Pit

Fire pits are one of the two most requested design features Gaiser receives from clients, the other being a dining area. She incorporates built-in or freestanding fire pits within a communal seating area. The orange flames of the fire pit pull family and friends to a central gathering place within the garden retreat. Socialize and rejuvenate near the fire’s warmth long after sunset beneath a blanket of sparkling stars.

Small Lawn

After putting in new plants, patios, decks, and walkways there’s usually a few hundred square feet of lawn area left in Gaiser’s outdoor designs. The reduced carpet of green grass is enough for kids and pets to play on with less demand for water and maintenance. A nice stretch of lawn visually connects design elements while adding to the lushness of the space.

Accent containerAccent Containers

Along with holding plants, containers are a versatile design element. Gaiser says, “Containers do a very good job at sectioning things off from each other.” When one section of yard transitions into another, containers physically and visually separate the areas all while holding interesting plants. Create traffic flow and additional privacy by strategically placing containers matching your yard’s character from modern sleek boxes to rustic water troughs. Add a few brightly colored containers to your garden retreat for an extra pop.

Seat Wall

Another way Gaiser likes to create structure within the yard is to put in a seat wall. The wall provides additional seating while sectioning off an area at the same time. Toss colorful pillows and seat cushions on the bench seating and even hang a canvas on the wall to create a private outdoor living room. Foliage Color Flowers don’t bloom all year long. Their fragrance and color disappear once they are out of season. To avoid long periods of drab landscape, Gaiser concentrates on foliage color instead of flower color. She likes to use bright red spiky plants and blue-hued succulents in her garden retreat designs. “Those bright red foliaged spiky plants are always there because they don’t go through the seasons,” she says.Seat wall

Drip Irrigation

When crafting plans for your new garden retreat, you’ll want to protect your investment with a sustainable drip irrigation system. Gaiser warns that if plants aren’t watered correctly by either over or under watering them, they won’t survive. She says, “Hiring a real good contractor that actually does a fine job with drip irrigation is the right thing to do.”

With all of these colorful, functional and relaxation-inducing design elements in place you won’t need to go further than your own yard for vacation again!