Dry Garden Poetry

Honor Award

Residential Design

Santa Cruz Mountains, California, United States
Arterra Landscape Architects

Artistically crafted landscapes in response to functional spaces and the local environment. The muted palette and well-proportioned spaces allow the plants and context to be the stars of this beautiful project.

- 2023 Awards Jury

Project Credits

Bret Hancock, Architect

Mimi Snowden, Interior Designer

Jon Badeaux Construction, General Contractor

Far West Landscaping, Landscape Contractor

Level 5 Design, Plaster Finish

Kate Stickle, FASLA, Landscape Architect

Natasha Libina, ASLA, Landscape Architect

Project Statement

The clients had been living on a sloping two-acre site for 20 years and felt their traditional stucco home, enclosed by a tall wall, cut them off from the site and views. They approached the design team with a request to create a new energy and water-conscious home that fully utilized the land in the hills above Monterey Bay.

The LA worked closely with the design team and client to create a compound of small buildings that open onto the land and combine to define a series of outdoor spaces in a desert-meets-coastal landscape. The LA lead the site planning and building placement to create the Summer and Winter Terraces, which each take advantage of the sun, weather and passive cooling/heating to be comfortable in their respective seasons.

Project Narrative

The clients had been living on a sloping two-acre site for over 20 years and felt their traditional stucco home, enclosed by a tall solid wall, cut them off from the full extent of the site and bay views. They approached the design team with a request to create a new energy and water-conscious home that fully utilized the merits of their property in the hills above Monterey Bay.

Over a series of years and many charrettes, the LA collaborated with the owners, the architect and interior designer to completely transform the way the home. Careful study of the site, topography and coast live oaks woodlands that rimmed the meadow, drove the siting of the buildings. While the original house was set into the lower meadow, the new compound was set high on the property to look across the meadow to the bay.

The team used the architecture to create connection to the land, reimagining a large home as a series of small structures composed to encompass distinct outdoor rooms, in effect doubling the floor plan.

With hot summers and pleasant winters, the exposure and aspect of each outdoor room was considered to provide sun or shade when desired. The LA drove the site planning, building placement and massing to create the Summer and Winter Terraces. The terraces fall to either side of the largest building, taking advantage of being north and south facing.

The Summer Terrace is a refuge from the heat. The LA employed passive cooling methods by planting a bosque of olives over the dining area on the southern side. A covered loggia encloses the eastern edge with filtered light passing through the lacy filigree metal screen. The final defining element of the courtyard is an 8’ eggplant-colored stucco wall with a blackened steel box spilling water into a basin. A small cooking area with a Tuscan grill is tucked behind the fountain wall. Cantilevered off this wall is a long reclaimed timber employed as a bench. Between two small buildings is a vegetable garden and lounging nook in a 12’ tall stucco folly.

The Winter Terrace in contrast, is a bright outdoor room for use on cool Northern California days. The Summer Terrace connects to the Winter Terrace through pocketing glass doors. Long monolithic limestone steps lead down to the sundrenched patio.

A firepit of boulders emerges out of the terrace rimmed by water-washed stone and accented by boulders for seating. Here the reflected heat off the building walls sets up ideal conditions for cactus and succulent plantings. The LA composed the rhythm of architectural plants as an artful expression to complement the blank canvas of the dramatic walls. Restraining the hardscape to counterbalance the wild, drought tolerant garden the client desired, the LA selected cacti, succulents and grasses with native plants to weave a tapestry of texture for year round interest. Palo verde trees frame views from the large patio without interrupting views to the meadow below.

The grade of this terrace and garden is supported by a series of stacked water-washed boulders. The boulders overlap vertically and horizontally to make for a more natural transition from the house to the meadow below. A dry planting palette furthers the desert-like feel with four types of grasses, native buckwheat and coffee berry along with kangaroo paw and Leucadendron.

Responding to a range in microclimates, the planting varies to adapt and to create distinctive garden spaces throughout the site to create complex experiences.


  • Lighting
    • SPJ Lighting
    • MP Lighting
  • Other
    • Boulders: SBI Materials

Plant List

  • Quercus agrifolia Coast Live Oak
  • Rhamnus californica Coffeeberry
  • Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon
  • Myrica californica Pacific Wax Myrtle
  • Muhlenbergia rigens Deer Grass
  • Aloe striata Coral Aloe
  • Citrofortunella mitis Calamondin Orange
  • Citrus aurantifolia 'Bearss' Espalier Bearss Seedless Lime Espalier
  • Kumquat
  • Satsuma Mandarin
  • Meyer Lemon
  • Tangerine
  • Fuyu Japanese Persimmon
  • Pomegranate
  • Ficus carica Edible Fig
  • Olea europaea Olive sp.
  • Parkinsonia Desert Museum Palo Verde
  • Adenanthos sericeus Coast Woollybush
  • Arctostaphylos 'John Dourley' John Dourley Manzanita
  • Arctostaphylos 'Pacific Mist' Pacific Mist Manzanita
  • Arctostaphylos Dr. Hurd Dr. Hurd Manzanita
  • Chaenomeles japonica 'Cameo' Flowering Quince
  • Grevillea 'Austraflora Fanfare' Austraflora Fanfare Grevillea
  • Grevillea hybrid 'King's Celebration' King's Celebration Grevillea
  • Grevillea victoriae Mountain Grevillea
  • Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon
  • Lantana sellowiana 'Monma' White Lightnin' Trailing Lantana
  • Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike' Safari Goldstrike Yellow Conebush
  • Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' Spicy Conebush
  • Leucospermum cordifolium 'Flame Giant' Flame Giant Nodding Pincushion
  • Myrica californica Pacific Wax Myrtle
  • Protea compacta Donna Protea
  • Rhamnus californica 'Eve Case' Eve Case Coffeeberry
  • Rhamnus californica 'Mound San Bruno' Mound San Bruno Coffeeberry
  • Achillea x 'Moonshine' Moonshine Yarrow
  • Anigozanthos Flavidus 'Orange Cross' Orange Kangaroo Paw
  • Cerastium tomentosum Snow-In-Summer
  • Eriogonum crocatum 'Saffron' Saffron Buckwheat
  • Eriogonum fasciculatum California Buckwheat
  • Euphorbia spp. Spurge
  • Helianthemum nummularium "The Bride" Sunrose
  • Helleborus argutifolius Corsican Hellebore
  • Iris douglasiana 'Canyon Snow' Douglas Iris
  • Kniphofia Little Maid Hot Poker Little Maid
  • Salvia apiana White Sage
  • Salvia sonomensis Creeping Sage
  • Salvia spathacea Hummingbird Sage
  • Scabiosa stellata 'Sternkugel' Star Flowers
  • Thymus pseudolanuginosus Woolly Thyme
  • Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass
  • Festuca californica California Fescue
  • Festuca mairei Atlas Fescue
  • Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' Platinum Beauty Lomandra
  • Lomandra 'Seascape' Seascape Lomandra
  • Muhlenbergia capillaris 'Lenca' Regal Mist Pink Muhly
  • Muhlenbergia capillaris 'White Cloud' White Cloud Muhly Grass
  • Muhlenbergia rigens Deer Grass
  • Blue Flame Agave
  • Blue Glow Agave
  • Fox Tail Agave
  • Thread Leaf Agave
  • Queen Victoria's Agave
  • Octopus Agave
  • Weber's Agave
  • Fan Aloe
  • Spiral Aloe
  • Coral Aloe
  • Bulbine frutescens
  • Cotyledon orbiculata Pig's Ear
  • Echeveria 'Afterglow'' Hen-and-Chicks 'Afterglow'
  • Echeveria agavoides 'Ebony' Echeveria 'Ebony'
  • Echeveria elegans Hen and Chicks
  • Echeveria imbricata Blue Rose Echeveria
  • Echeveria
  • Euphorbia tirucolli 'Sticks on Fire' Red Pencil Tree
  • MacDougall's Century Plant
  • Dragonfruit
  • Dwarf Prickly Pear
  • Prickly Pear
  • Pachycereus marginatus
  • Sedum morganianum Donkey tail
  • Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'
  • Sedum rupestre 'Blue Spruce'
  • Sedum ternatum Woodland Stonecrop
  • Sempervivum 'Fuzzy Wuzzy' Fuzzy Wuzzy Live Forever's