PROJECT LOCATION: Oakland, California
SIZE: 3,000 sq. feet
PROJECT TYPOLOGY: Residential
ROLE: Landscape architect
INSTALLATION: Vilchez Landscaping
When our clients bought their property, they inherited several mature fruit trees planted throughout the backyard. Although the fruit trees were immediately cherished, the ground was covered in non-native grasses. Consequently the garden did not live up to their goals for a native, biodiversity-enhancing garden. They wanted a garden their kids could explore, romp around in and establish a connection to nature that can be hard to find in urban areas.
As stage one, we worked closely with the clients to design the 1,200 square foot meadow of native grasses that now surround the fruit trees. The meadow is planted with clusters of primarily native, deciduous plants that add seasonal interest to the meadow as well as benefiting insects. Plants include California Aster, California Goldenrod, Pearly Everlasting, California Fescue, Small Flowered Melica and Ruby Chalice Clarkia. Subsequently, the air is now awash with insects, from tiny bugs only visible when the sun catches them, to butterflies and bees. This urban meadow is a haven for local biodiversity.
The sloping front yard was contained by a series of failing concrete retaining walls. Overall, the entrance experience involved a narrow, broken concrete walkway and stairs leading up to the house. The clients wanted to expand their driveway to allow for two parking spaces to accommodate their growing family. With this intention in mind, Field Colletive undertook a full redesign of the front yard as stage two. Also including 600 square feet of exclusively native planting.
Retaining walls were eliminated to the extent possible and now one new low concrete retaining wall retains the slope. Field Collective designed a planting scheme that is attractive, low water-use and provides slope stabilization. We worked with textures, colors, massing and seasonality, and placed larger shrubs towards the back and smaller, finer detailed plants along the edges where there is more visibility. Low-growing spreading plants are located in steeper areas to help prevent erosion. Lastly, boulders are also placed to add further interest and textural change.
Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour
In 2023, the garden was selected for the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour, which happens annually in May. Over 10,000 visits were made on the weekend of the in-person tour to 55 gardens. Here’s what people had to say about the Lewis/Rudraraju Garden.
“The meadow was unexpected and beautiful.”
“I appreciated the chance to talk with designers and to see a meadow that includes both natives and fruit trees.”
“This garden was wonderful!”
“I would like to express appreciation for the talk that was given at the Lewis / Rudraraju home; the information they shared was very helpful.”
“This garden had one of the best native grasses/meadow gardens I’ve seen in a while. I had an informative and informative discussion with the designer about meadow management.”
“I loved the grassland I saw at the Lewis / Rudraraju garden.”