Garden Design & Landscape Architecture

Parent Q&A

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  • We are looking to re-do our front yard and back yard. We are especially interested in adding more fruit trees, raised gardening beds, and maximizing the space for edible landscaping, while also having a space that is beautiful and easy to manage. Any recommendations are appreciated! I don't think we need a landscape architect, but we also want to remove the concrete steps leading to our porch and replace with something more aesthetically pleasing. 

    We have been working with Patrick Sunbury who has a farm himself!

    I highly recommend Janice Nicol, whose company is YardKit. She did our design to help us redo our yard, which was in major need of an overhaul. And we love it! We have great raised veggie planting beds as part of her design (in the same material as our deck so it looks great!) and I know she's knowledgable about trees and could work with the wholesale nursery to get you the right fruit trees (she helped us find a persimmon and a magnolia we were hoping for). 

  • Landscape designer by the hour?

    (3 replies)

    We have a small backyard that is largely already landscaped. We like some of the trees and plants but the overall vision is cluttered and disjointed. Hoping to meet with someone who can consult by the hour to make some suggestions. I’m sure this will be a high hourly price, but still so much cheaper than the thousands for a “full yard design”

    Has anyone done this and has someone to recommend (who doesn’t have a 20k minimum)?

    I HIGHLY recommend Will Boone. I have very small yard and Will has been amazing in designing, implementing the vision, and caring for it. I had an idea of what I wanted for the first area and Will got my vision right away and made specific plant and border suggestions that made the space better than I could have imagined. For the other part of our yard, I didn't know what I wanted, so I gave Will free reign and he created a beautiful space. He's knowledgeable, diligent, and a really nice guy (and charges by the hour): wrhblandscapes [at]

    Nina Mullen ( did something like this for us in 2016. We needed to submit a landscape plan to the city as part of the permit process for our second-storey addition, and she consulted for just a couple of hours and drew up a design we could use. We really liked her, and ended up implementing some of her suggestions anyway, but she did not insist on a full redesign project. 

    I recommend YardKit. We used them for our yard. Janice is an awesome designer and very responsive through her website. She'll answer questions you have before diving into any project. 

  • We are taking out our lawn and looking for someone who can help design/build a small yard using permaculture principles. We have some ideas and a rough plan, and seeking someone who can refine the design and improve it to make it more sustainable (including thinking about rain catchments, etc) .  Have you worked with a great landscape builder who can help build a sustainable and waterwise garden that you recommend? 

    Yes, Chris Schein has literally written the book on permaculture and is a local legend. He’s great and has done some work on our yard.

    +1 (510) 368-2811

    He may need more than one outreach to get back to you, but is worth it when he does - supremely knowledgeable and kind. 

    I don't know that they do permaculture per se, but these folks do some great work -- Farmscape.

    We are re-doing our yard space now with Paul and he's been great. Really thoughtful about sustainability and thinking through a grey water system, compost, etc.

    Good luck with your yard!


  • Fence rebuild and light landscaping

    (2 replies)

    Hello! We are looking to rebuild our fence + some light landscaping help and advice. We have a budget of about $25,000, and we expect most of that will go to the fence. Does anyone have advice of a company that can help us design the fence + plan out some landscaping + build the fence? We think we'd do most of the landscaping ourselves, but really want someone to come and help us plan what we can plant, where we can do some hardscaping, and help us think through what would look best. 

    We have worked with Casimiro Landscaping four times now--once for a fence, twice on our yard (front and side yard) and for our deck, and have been happy with their work every time. Jose is great to work with, and our landscaping/fence/deck still look amazing years later!  Highly recommended!

    Howdy landscapers-to-be,  I'm on the same path upon which you're about to embark, and can offer a couple of pointers regarding the fence. First of all, I'm having a hard time imaging what type / length of fence you envision, if you're thinking "most of" of your $25,000 budget will go toward the fence.  I'm getting about 95' of new fence installed, with three bids falling in the $6,500 - $7,500 range.  One company bid it at over $22,000, which struck me as offensive to say the least (and yes, I've done lots of hard manual labor, dug more fence post holes than I care to remember, and that price was somewhere between nuts and offensive).  

    You can go online and punch up a number of local fence building companies, most with good online pics of fence varieties, and most of them can help make recommendations during a visit.  If you haven't done it already, literally write down the purpose and goals for your fence:  privacy?  keep out deer, dogs, people?  design aesthetics?  As I'm sure you know, different fences achieve different results ... but talk and write them down!  

    As for actual companies, I got fence bids from Reuben Borg Fence 888-851-8888;  Bayside Fencing 925-420-6268 bayside;  and Lifescaping 916-984-4911 (has local offices) .   Good luck, and best to you, Kirk out.

  • Landscaper Sought

    (2 replies)

    I'm looking for recommendations for a landscaper for a fairly simple project -- we don't need a landscape architect (I assume).

    We want to remove the weedy lawn from the strip between the sidewalk & curb in front of our house, remove some of the dirt, prep for planting and put in about 7 pittosporums, and we'll top off with mulch. (I'm usually a DIY'er, but I feel done with moving a lot of dirt.)

    Can anyone recommend someone who is plant-savvy and reasonable? Preferably someone who has enough credentials to buy the plants wholesale. 


    We have been using Francisco Mayo ( for landscaping our yard and we've been very happy. He and his crew have been great to work with!

    We've had a great experience with Jose Casimiro at Casimiro landscaping:  He and his team landscaped our front yard and installed paths on both side of our house leading to the backyard.  They also installed fencing and decking and the results look amazing. We get compliments on our yard and deck all the time!  They were  friendly, kind, punctual and worked fast, and left our yard clean at the end of each work day. Jose is just a great guy and gives very reasonable quotes.  Highly recommended!

  • How much to budget for landscaping

    (11 replies)

    Folks that have recently landscaped their yards, what do we need to budget for the work? Is this something that can be done for 10k or do  landscapers end up costing something like 20k+ around here?

    As a follow-up, has anyone here gotten an outdoor kitchen built and what is the price range we should expect for that?


    We had a budget of $13000 and realized it was tiny and most reputable designers wouldn’t even talk to us. It was barely enough to cover labor and material, so we ended up going with the cheapest bid and without a designer which was a big mistake. 2 years later, we came up with additional $15k to hire a design and build outfit to fix the mistakes of the original work and improve the yard. He was more affordable and available  but dropped us after the majority of work was done. He was polite but seemed disappointed to find out our $15k budget. He told us there were few things that our budget will not allow us to do, so we should wait and complete when we have additional funds (hardscape, lighting and one of the two fences we needed) as well as some of the harder privacy landscaping and tree removal.  We are now in phase 3 of improvement and refinement and will likely need another $15-20k. 

    I think the size of the yard and the scope of work determine the budget. We were leveling the yard, building a swing set, replace a fence, planting trees, plants, and building a small retaining wall as well as sprinkler for grass and drip irrigation system and a small trellis for vines. 

    Thanks for the info. Yea, after posting this we ended up calling a few places and it seems like the majority of the popular places have a 20k minimum for jobs now too. Crazy how much landscaping costs!

    Similar to prices here.  Our front yard came in around $14k.  Our backyard quote comes in around $50k — we need to redo all of the drainage and remove lots of concrete.

    Landscape architect for drawing up plans and working with us was around $5-8k.

    Depends on the size of the job.  For a small yard my MIL was quoted $30k to remove a lawn and plant California native plants.  For our house, larger yard, we were quoted $60k.

    We just finished a landscape project. It cost way more than what we had anticipated and we just found out the irrigation wasn’t put in correctly. So we will need to redo it when we have the funds. Anyway, $20k will be enough to do planting and irrigation. Any hardscape, you’re probably looking at another $30k. 

    I really appreciate the question and answers, as we are in the same thought and looking processes.  For example, we want to turn our sloped front yard into a terraced yard, level the uneven backyard to make some playground, etc.  Looking at so many nice home gardens around us, wouldn't it be sufficient to ask a contractor to simply implement such ideas or copy the designs here and there?  I am particularly interested in learning what the big mistake was (in the first posted reply) without a designer.   A good contractor can handle material selection, lighting, and irrigation; whereas plant selection is rather personal, and nursery people could already provide advice.   So, what is the value added by a designer ?

    Thanks much in advance for sharing the experiences!

    We just spent $25k

    $15k labor

    $7k plants

    $3k design

    We just removed an old patio and put in a newer (larger) patio area, added turf, updated fence, added irrigation - total $24K

    My yards were already terraced but without plants. I spent $2.2 K on backyard irrigation (about 1500 sq feet of area where I planned to plant) I was also quoted about 2-3K for planting in plants in the front and back. Because I wanted to do the planting myself, I ended up planting in my own plan for a bit less, and I learned about surface irrigation and added onto the irrigation myself. I also replaced an old deck with a nice one for 15K, and a fence (with a neighbor) that cost about 13K. Hope some of that info helps. Each item was a different contractor.

    We just had our front yard landscaped (with rocks, plants, mulch and paver pathway/edging) with Casimiro Landscaping Services based in Richmond ( Jose and his crew were incredibly skilled, efficient, punctual and friendly. Our yard is not huge and the landscaping was relatively simple, and it cost about $5500 with plants included.  They also did fencing and deck railings for us for similar reasonable prices with excellent results! 

    Hello, we're in the middle of a landscaping project on our neglected small front and back yard spaces. I was surprised that most landscapers quoted us 15K - 30K to even start a conversation. I saw several recommendations for Al Moore (415-336-9694) on here, so I contacted him. We just started working with Al, and already we couldn't be happier. He is thoughtful with an eye for beauty, while also being incredibly practical. We're still figuring out what we want to do with our space, and Al has been great in guiding us through the process. So far we've done the first phase for 3K - a big clean-up, reshaping all the scraggly plants/trees we have into beauties, adding new mulch, gravel and a few beautiful rock and new plant elements. Our yard looks a ton better and now we can appreciate what we have before moving forward. Happy to add my recommendation to the other one's on here for Al, since he truly is wonderfully talented, kind, creative, reasonable, and enjoyable to work with.

  • Gardener for design and maintenance

    (2 replies)

    I’m looking for a gardener who will help redesign my 40x40 backyard and 20x20 front yard and who also does monthly garden maintenance. Any suggestions?

    thank you!

    Farallon Gardens / Matt McGrath did our yard and we couldn't be happier. Matt does offer monthly maintenance. We don't utilize that service of his as we tend to like to do it ourselves, however, we do have had him come by annually to check the garden, weed, and prune as needed - and I can report that he does a good job and is generally a delight to work with.

    Highly recommend Judith Irwin, founder of Wonder Women Gardening.

    She comes to our garden monthly with a lovely team of women.  My garden is thriving under her care.  No power tools!  She also redesigned our front streetside space (which was a sad looking lawn used primarily as a bathroom for local dogs) into a beautiful space with rocks, path and drought tolerant plants.  She’s also good with irrigation.

  • Lowbrow landscape consultation?

    (3 replies)

    I inherited a backyard full of concrete. I’m in the process of removing most of it, and my hope is to spend the rest of this year amending the soil and thinking about what I’d like to do with space, then be ready next year to tackle a redesign. I’m not a person who will want to outsource all the design and labor—I don’t have that kind of money, but besides that, DIYing both design and labor to the degree I am able sounds fun and rewarding to me, I’m excited to do it. Simultaneously I need a professional who understands about materials, water drainage and a million other things, to help me see possibilities and avoid stumbling into logistically problematic choices, and answer questions along the way.

    In this crazy place where so many people just want a fancy landscape architect to swoop in, design something slick and hire a bunch of contractors to execute it—and are able and willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars for that—who can I call? If I were just re-doing a garden and choosing plants that would be one thing, but I’m thinking about infrastructure challenges (ie water drainage), devoting some areas to drought tolerant soft coverage (maybe a grass or even just clover), maybe adding an outdoor shower with water going to yard/garden...

    Does anyone know of a landscaper who has this knowledge and would be willing to consult with me on a kind of piecemeal basis? 

    Oscar Martinez 415-786-2335 We worked with him for this exact kind of setup and his team did a really great job.  Another person I've worked with for fences and inside projects but I know he does full landscaping like you're describing too is Wullian Fuilien 510-719-0968.  Both these guys are very personable and easy to work with, same with the crew members they've brought with them.  I felt really good working with both, and both came recommended to me by folks whose judgment I trust (a very high end contractor friend recommended Oscar to us).  They don't have staff to do invoicing and such so the payment part can be somewhat ad hoc, so if you have specific budget and want detailed invoices just clarify all that with them.  Good luck!

    Call around and try to find a landscaper who might be willing to be and consult by the hour. A few years ago I found a nice lady who charged me by the hour and spent about 1.5 hours walking around my yard giving suggestions. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth it. I don't have her name anymore but you can try calling around to see if anyone offers that service. You can also try TaskRabbit.

    you can find someone to do a consultation with you from one of these directories

    Also, I might recommend going to the used book store and getting a practical landscaping type book. There are always tons of them. Sunset books or books from better homes and gardens will teach you how to build a path or whatever. As for what to plant try the EBMUD  Plants and Landscapes for Summer Dry Climates book.

  • We are starting to think about a multi-part project on our property. Does anyone have recommendations for great hardscape/landscape, deck, and ADU conversion companies?

    We live in Oakland on a unique property that we would love to see transformed into a beautiful and functional set of spaces. 

    You could start looking for a landscape designer or landscape architect to speak with.

    We had a fantastic experience with Hugo Larman who did a beautiful job with planting and stone work. I think he'd be a good person to start talking with as he's had a lot of experience. We're very happy with his work.

    We've used Robert Trachtenberg at Garden Architecture and he is creative and skillful--we loved working with him.

  • Any experiences with Yardzen?

    (0 replies)

    We are intrigued by Yardzen and their business model, but I haven't come across any reviews from anyone who's actually had a full design and installation completed. If anyone here has feedback, positive or negative, would love to hear before we contact them. Thanks!!

    Editor Note Aug 15, 2021: This business has asked not to be reviewed on Berkeley Parents Network in accordance with BPN's negative review policy. Four reviews have been removed and we are not accepting new reviews of Yardzen.

    No responses received.

  • Installing rooftop garden?

    (2 replies)

    I live in SF and have a flat roof. I’ve wanted to garden in my (small) yard, but I don’t get a ton of sunlight due to nearby shady trees. It recently occurred to me I could maybe install a garden on my significantly-more-sizable roof, which would also provide much-needed cooling insulation during our increasingly hot summers. I looked a little at local regulations and it seems it might be possible for me (I also have a spot in my house that would perfectly accommodate a stairway up to and through the roof). I’m wondering how (insanely?) expensive this might be and also if anyone with experience has pros or cons to share. 

    thanks for any input!

    I don't have costs to give you but the idea seems like a good one if you can get it to work. One thing to note is that roofs are typically only designed for minimal loading and aren't typically designed for gardens (soil weighs a lot!). Depending on how large of an area you would want to use for your garden you will likely need to beef up your roof framing and possibly the foundation as well. I recommend getting an engineer to look at your house. They can tell you how large you can go without affecting the existing framing/foundation.

    Roofs aren't designed to bear weight, and soil is heavy.  A couple of options to lighten that roof-top garden:

    Consider using planters rather than covering everything with soil.  This would work better for the plants because you could provide them with more rooting depth at the same time reducing the aggregated weight.  It would also make repairs to the roof easier.

    Second, make sure you have a low-density soil mix. Years ago the SF Chronicle did a series on a roof-top garden where weight was an issue, and they used a potting medium of perlite and compost. Perlite is very low in weight.

  • Backyard help

    (4 replies)

    I'm looking for someone who can help me rethink my backyard and, ideally, that same person would do the work on it. I want to do some planting and redo my patio...not sure what else. Hoping to find someone who is reasonably priced and a pleasure to work with. Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

    Hugo Larman is terrific and his work is just wonderful.   I highly recommend that you have a consultation with him.  He's great to work with.

    I highly recommend Backyard Permaculture Guild -- my family has worked with Nina on similar projects, and she is fantastic!

    Hello, I highly recommend our gardener, Al Moore. He is reasonable, has a real eye for beauty, and is one of the nicest people I know. Al has created space for us in our backyard and front yard, at a time when we need as much space as we can get. He has found unique and beautiful plants, for really reasonable prices. He created herb boxes for us. His wife refurbishes furniture, so we were able to save a ton of money and have places to sit and work now!  Al really does want to create beautiful spaces, he often surprises us with things as well. He has taken items I thought were broken and brought them back with a fresh coat of paint. . The list really does go on. We couldn't be happier. Al's is a Black-owned business. He can be reached at: 415-336-9694

    For anyone looking for a landscape designer, I highly recommend Deborah Kuchar with Green Alchemy.  I started a huge backyard reconstruction project (hardscaping and softscaping) with Deborah and am so happy about my whole experience.  

    Our backyard was a big chaotic awkwardly divided up space, with potential. It was overwhelming to conceptualize a design plan.  By chance, and after reading many reviews and researching online, I found Deborah.

    Deborah helped me design a plan for the entire backyard that reflects how my family will use the space so that we can maximize our enjoyment. The plan is incredibly thoughtful and creative; it is beautifully integrated, invites us into a flow between indoors and outdoors, is accessible, is conceptually brilliant, purposefully uses materials, and is stunningly beautiful.  

    It has been a huge relief for me to have Deborah at the helm of this project.  Throughout the iterative process, Deborah listened attentively. We met regularly and at each step I was impressed with Deborah's professionalism, creativity, communication, integrity, generosity, and brilliance.  Deborah's draft proposals exhibited the most beautiful attention to detail and amazing creativity inspired by her deep listening.

    She helped us work within our set budget and I am very pleasantly surprised with how much we were able to do using a staged approach.  Recently Deborah's crew completed the first stage, which was building a fence, patio and cabana for hammocks and hanging chairs. Seeing the design come to life has been incredible.  Unbelievably it's even more brilliant and beautiful in person than I could ever have imagined. I am so happy with it!  It makes me feel so excited to be outside to enjoy it!

    It was a joy to collaborate with Deborah and I was completely impressed with her wisdom from decades of experience in the field, how she gracefully led her amazing team of talented and diligent workers, and how she remained attentive and checked-in throughout the entire process.  

    I am deeply grateful for finding Deborah and would be happy to share more, my phone number is 510 292-9891.

    You can reach Deborah Kuchar directly here:
    510 502-5005
    deborah [at]

  • Garden "consultant"

    (2 replies)

    I want to establish a backyard garden and I have an idea of what I want to plant but I'm totally at square one in terms of my gardening knowledge. I'm hoping to find someone with expertise who can come look at my space and help me develop a plan (what to plant where and when, how to take care of it over time, etc). I'm not looking for anything fancy or expensive, just some basic knowledge to get me started and, hopefully, increase my chances of being successful. I live in North Berkeley, a few blocks east of the BART station. TIA for your recommendations!!

    Unfortunately I don't have recommendations but I want to suggest that when you do find names to call, you ask up front about their pricing. I contacted a local landscaper who promoted herself as great for small projects and shoestring budgets; it was my first time doing this in the Bay Area and I didn't think to mention a budget, nor did she. Only after she came to my house did she tell me that her minimum was $20,000. She seemed incredulous that I didn't know that this is "common knowledge." We ended up hiring a contractor for some clean-up and planter building, then did the rest ourselves via trial and error. Local nurseries like Annie's Annuals and Berkeley Horticultural Nursery have knowledgeable staff who can answer questions. One other thought, local school gardening programs have obviously closed down so the people who run them may be available. My neighbor is one such person and I could try to put you in touch with her if this possibility appeals to you. 

    Enjoy your garden!

    Enjoy your garden!

    We're working with Ingrid at Earthly Sites and love working with her! She's very conscious of our needs, including budget constraints and extremely thoughtful.

  • Seeking landscape contractor

    (1 reply)

    Hi there,

    We're looking for a reliable landscape contractor who can help us put in some astro turf, install some flagstone, install a weed barrier and do a few other things in our backyard. We have a good idea of what we want to do design-wise, and don't necessarily want to pay a design-build firm, since that's more than what we need. Would love any recommendations.



    We just had a similar project done with John Reppard’s Landscaping and couldn’t be happier with the results! Our backyard is relatively small, but it was a messy sloped area filled with bark, weeds, and flagstone — full of tripping hazards for our 2-yr-old, so we wanted to clean it up to create a low maintenance, kid-friendly yard. John and his team helped us level the area, put in pavers, a retaining wall, plants, and stairs added to the patio (which was standalone upstairs without access to the downstairs yard). I’m happy to share photos, etc. if you want to message me. 


  • Looking for landscaper recommendations

    (1 reply)

    I'm looking for a landscaper who can replaced the cement walkway to our front door with a paver/grass combo. If they do a great job, I've got tons more work for them!

    I highly recommend Hugo Larman.   We've worked with him and love his work:       

    good luck! !! 

  • Landscape architect or designer

    (4 replies)


    We have a blank slate for a backyard and need some help with design. Has anyone worked with a great landscape designer architect that they really liked? Our vision is pretty simple so designer is probably sufficient over an architect. Please let us know if you have any leads! We are located in Oakland in the Lakeshore/Crocker highlands neighborhood. 

    Yea, I'd recommend Seed and Stone landscapes -

    I found them to be really direct, reliable, with a high quality of design and craftsmanship.  

    Yes, I’ve worked with Jeremy Butler Pinkham in Berkeley under and he has a good landscape architect he works with too. Highly recommend. He knows Berkeley and lives there too so knows the planners and has been in the field a long time as well as is honest and super efficient and fairly priced. Good luck! 

    Suzanne Arca!!!  We tried a number of different designers to create a small garden between our driveway and the edge of our property, but none of them created anything that we really liked. Finally, we found Suzanne, and we have loved the design she created.

    Her phone is 510-558-0636, fill out the "contact form on her website, or visit their Facebook page.

    We recently had our small backyard redone with John Reppard Landscaping and loved the results! I’m happy to share photos. John was easy to work with and had great ideas. It’s really transformed the space into a usable space for both us and our 2-yr-old!

  • Backyard design

    (2 replies)

    I'm looking for someone to do landscape design including an outdoor structure.  I'd love to hear recommendations of contractors and experiences you've had with trustworthy, reliable folks.  Thank you!

    Deborah Kuchar at Green Alchemy.  She's re-doing my backyard right now, which has included rebuilding a 10-ft tall deck, installing a couple retaining walls, and adding plants throughout.  We've loved working with her.  She's detailed, thorough, and very dependable.  She does both design and build.  Her designs are clear, her estimates have been quite precise, and her crew has been considerate and skilled.  The whole process has been great.  

    We used Suma Landscape to redo our back yard—remove an unused decorative pond, reshape the space, design and put in new plants. They also redid our irrigation. They are more expensive than your regular gardener but they were reliable, sent a large team, was well organized, and finished on time. Altogether very professional. 

  • I'm looking to do some work on my backyard (building a gate, removing concrete slabs, adding grass etc) Does anyone have a recommendation for a landscape contractor?

    For a design and build, I highly recommend Tyron Perry. Let him know that Suhi sent you. He did our backyard and he has been by far the easiest and reliable designer/contractor we have ever worked with. He is licensed, bonded and insured.

    If you already have a design and know exactly what you want to get done and just need skilled muscles to execute your plan, call Israel at 510-706-2945. He is our regular gardener and he and his brother can build gates, fences, plant things, remove things, fix hardscape, keep plants healthy and alive. We inherited a garden full of plants and but for Israel's help, we'd have brown and dead garden.  

  • Habitat-friendly garden designer

    (1 reply)

    We have a small front yard that we're ready to redesign.  I'd love to hire a designer to help us maximize the space for local wildlife.  Any suggestions?

    Start here:

    I highly recommend the garden tour.  They have a lot of resources on their website, including garden designers.

    Also check out the California Native Plant Society -- the website and also the group on Facebook.

  • Hello,

    Can anyone recommend an affordable person/company to help with our front and backyard landscaping? 

    I had also been thinking about re-doing my yard. My plan was to walk around the neighborhood to see whose yard I liked, and ask them who they had do it. However, in all my walking around and looking at yards, I realized I could probably do it myself. I just redid by small, 250 sq ft, front yard completely myself in one weekend of really hard work (55 year old woman) and several trips to home depot. Keep in mind that affordable would be no less than the cost of supplies + $50 per hour per person. So it adds up quite fast. I spent $120 on supplies so far (a lot of mulch, edging, ground covering, some other odd and ends; no irrigation system needed because the space is so small), and I haven't even gotten any plants yet. Good luck!

    I highly recommend Justine Schwartz -1justineschwartz [at] - she redid our front yard recently and it is absolutely beautiful. She's very reasonable and delightful to work with.

  • garden coach and design recommendations

    (2 replies)

    We are looking for a garden coach who has a great eye for design and can help us with making our small yard more appealing.  Heidi Tarver (who I have seen recommended on BPN) is not taking on new clients, so looking for other options. Thanks!

    I have had Judy Gelb of Sprig Landscape Design Studio come out to my place in Richmond. She had so many great ideas about what to do with my yard, not just to make it *look* good but also to be ecologically sound. I highly recommend her.

    We used Christine Wiseman of GardenWise Landscapes to design and then implement our front yard. She can create a design for you that you implement yourself as well. She's created a low-water, easy care yard for us that looks lovely and keeps getting better as it fills in and grows. She listened to us and also had lots of great ideas of her own.

  • Hello, 

    We are going to be seeking out a contractor or garden professional of some kind to a) fix our stone driveway, b) install a patio in the backyard, likely using stone we already have, and c) create some pathways, using either stone or gravel. The backyard is fairly small. We won’t have trouble picking out which plants to use, but designing and/or installing the patio and paths is different. (It’s possible we will be able to mostly “sketch out” the desired areas, so it may be more a matter of installation than anything else. )

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a contractor or landscaper who does such hardscaping, and would be willing to work on a small-ish job?  Thanks for any recommendations you can provide. 

    Matt Hornby is a licensed landscape architect in Berkeley who does beautiful stone work. He built a flagstone walkway in my sloping backyard that still looks great 15 years later, and he also built me a stacked-rock retaining wall with a curving seat. He does top-of-the-line work and stands by what he builds.  You can view examples of his work on his website:

  • We are thinking of renovating our backyard patio to make the most efficient use of our relatively small space. We are looking for recommendations for landscape designers that could work with us on this type of project- from brainstorming the possibilities to implementing the design. Also, any advice regarding the process would be appreciated. For example, will individuals/companies come to our house to provide some ideas for free, or do we need to make some sort of commitment before using any of their time for ideas? Also, any thoughts on budgets for this would be helpful- even if just a ballpark range. I am not sure if we are getting into a couple thousand dollar type job or something much bigger....

    I own a landscape architecture firm and can answer some of your questions. Most designers will want to set up an initial site visit to come to your house. At that time you will discuss your goals for the project and budget. The designer will then prepare a proposal to provide services. The proposal can be for conceptual design only or it can be full services, which is through permitting (if necessary) and construction administration. It is unlikely anyone will go to your house and give you ideas for free. at the very least you should be prepared to pay an hourly consultation rate if that is what you are looking for. It is difficult to discuss budgets without having a better sense of the project size and scope.


    Hi, we just love Marco from MarcosGoodGardens. He designed beautiful, locally based, sustainable designs for us and totally respected our budget every step of the way.

    Good luck! Amy and Steven

  • Our backyard needs a fairly thorough makeover.  Our drip irrigation is leaky and in need of repair.  We have garden beds that we'd like to take out, and we'd like to put in a children's play structure.  And apart from those two items, we'd like our backyard to just be a more pleasant space for play with our two toddlers and dog.  It's a pretty shady space, too, which perhaps poses some challenges (grass does not thrive, for example).  Any suggestions for a landscaper who can brainstorm with us?

    Try astroturf! We've had it in our backyard for several years and it is AMAZING! You get all the benefits of grass with zero maintenance. It is expensive to install, and you want to make sure that the installation is done well and drains right. We love it, it stays usable all winter, and even with all the rain outside this winter, we were able to go outside and play on the grass right after it stopped raining. Our "grass" used sand, not the rubber pellets, so super great for little ones to crawl around on. 

    Hi--We have a small, shady yard, and we loved the makeover that Tamar Carson Landscaping did! Tamar and her husband (who works with her) have had two toddlers and a dog, so I think they'd be great for your project--we found them really creative, very easy to communicate with, and reasonable cost-wise. They don't have a website, but you can get info about them on Yelp, and this is their phone number: 510-654-8242. Good luck!

     Phone numbe(510) 654-8242

    No landscaper suggestions, but some plant suggestions based on my own experience gardening in Berkeley:  ferns of all kinds, calla lilies (they spread like crazy and thrive in shade), heucheras (so many lovely varieties), clematis, camellia, perenial ginger, hellebore, and Japanese maples.  (Hostas are a classic shade plant as well but I didn't list them since in my experience they do really well in the Midwest but not so well here).  After working with so many landscapers, over time I realized that plant selection is something I can do myself and save a lot of money and heartache, since I ultimately end up replacing the original plantings anyway.  If you choose some of the large varieties of plants above and place them as anchors, and fill in with some of the smaller ones, you'll have a great start, and then you can move stuff around, divide plants, and remove/replace the ones that didn't do so well, as time goes by.  You can also go to Berkeley Horticulture's shade section and just look at the plants and see which ones strike your fancy, but these plants are the ones I've had good luck with in this area.  Berkeley Hort also has some ground cover that does well in shade that you could use instead of grass.  Good luck.

  • Backyard landscaping

    (2 replies)

    My wife and I recently moved to Berkeley and our backyard is in need of a transformation. Could anyone please recommend a reasonably priced person to work with. Thanks!

    Zamora Landscaping!  Very affordable and easy to work with.  Jose and his crew transformed our backyard on a tight budget and short time frame. I highly recommend. 

    Welcome to Berkeley! I recommend Justine Schwartz. She just completed a project in our front yard that we love. She does small scale renovations, design and maintenance. Her email is- 1justineschwartz [at] 

  • Landscaper

    (1 reply)


    I'm looking for recommendations for a landscape designer for my small front and medium backyard near Piedmont Ave in Oakland.  Any suggestions would be appreciated!


    We were very happy with Jennifer from Greensmith. She did a good job on a drought tolerant changeover , drip irrigation and has been great with any problems we have had.  

  • We are looking for a recommendation for a reasonably priced landscape architect who can help us refresh our back yard, including some new  low retaining walls and steps for our sloped yard. Recommendations are greatly appreciated! 

    Consider saving a lot of money by not hiring a landscape architect and instead hire a well-qualified gardener who has a lot of experience with an eye for design suited to your individual needs and wishes.

  • Backyard needs a refresh

    (2 replies)

    we are looking for recommendations for someone who can help us with refreshing our terraced backyard without breaking the bank. We need someone who can rebuild one of the terrace walls, create a new path, and help with recommendations for planting a that would breath some new life into our backyard with a sense of year-round plant interest. Thank you! 

    Scott McCandless specializes in drought tolerant landscape and care:


    mscotfree [at]

    Good luck!

    I know just the guy for you. Contact Bill at Ledford Mills. He's a miracle worker. His team transformed my backyard, including patio, deck, and slope, in two weeks. The plants bloom all the time now and it is maintenance -free for me (low water use too). I bet he could do a beautiful refresh in just a day or two.

  • Hi all, 

    As much as we love the overgrown weeds in our tiny patch of jungle, it's time to redo our backyard. It's small, maybe 15 x 40, and doubles as a parking lot on occasion. Taller neighbors also loom over us, so we might some type of trellis/arbor for privacy. We imagine a mix of hardscape and plants around the edges. Do you have recommendations?



    No responses received.

  • We would appreciate a recommendation for local reasonably priced landscape designers or landscapers for a relatively small job in the Rockridge neighborhood.  We are doing a backyard refresh with landscaping and building a rock or brick patio?  Thank you. 

    No responses received.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Horticultural Expert and Irrigation

June 2014

In the two or three years since a major renovation of our Berkeley garden, a few large old plants have died and some of the newer planting hasn't worked out. We're looking for someone who knows plants well and works in varied styles to help us choose some new trees and other plants and integrate them into our garden. It would be a bonus if this person can help with installation. We are not looking to change the hardscape. Also, we are unhappy with the new irrigation system. Some plants get too little water while others (and the hardscape) get too much. We've made some adjustments, but it's still not good enough. So we're seeking recommendations for a plant-savvy, water-wise irrigation specialist. Thanks! cassis

I highly recommend Martina Ladova of Bohemian Roots Design/Build bohemianroots [at] 717-2236. She completely redesigned my back garden and installed an arbor, irrigation, lots and lots of plants and built planters as well. I get so many compliments now from everyone who comes over. She really has an amazing eye for design. She has a wealth of information on which plants work well locally, and she likes to pick out unusual varieties to make the garden more interesting. She's got several decades of experience in the local area. She also continues to maintain the garden after installation was complete, and is reasonably priced. rain

We had our backyard redone this spring from fence to flagstones and everything in between. I highly recoomend the people we worked with and their subcontractors: McCaffrey Brothers Construction, Darren and Kevin - Darren #(510) 455-0724 Also, their planting and irrigation guys were Indra Designs-Tony Poeck - We now have a smart system that monitors weather as well as ground moisture. After fine tuning our choices over a few weeks, all the major work was done in 10 days and we are thrilled. For our redwood fencing we got JB Fence Co. to do the job (this was done last fall) and that is all they do - (510) 339-6371 Sales: Matt Julian . Very good crew. Good luck, happy in my garden oasis. judy

Front lawn needs help!

April 2014

12 years ago we put sod/grass with a sprinkler system in our small front lawn, and it is now dying. We need recommendations for someone who can tell us what our options are for either fixing it, replacing it, or coming up with an option other than grass. We do not use this area; it exists purely for curb appeal, so we're open to a world of LOW-COST, low-maintenance options, but need professional advice. Thanks!

There have been so many people looking for landscapers recently... look no farther than Urban Botanics. Check them out on Yelp, Facebook, or their website (just google them) for pictures. You will be amazed! They are professional, reliable, efficient, and on the cheaper end. I used them to completely re-do my backyard and it came out beautifully. This was my first big project as a homeowner, so I was pretty anxious about it and pretty clueless, too, but they handled everything from soup to nuts and stayed within my budget. It was completely hassle-free for me and I am thrilled with the result. They work all over the Bay Area and they are just terrific at what they do. Definitely give them a call (415-734-1030)or shoot them an email. backyard makeover

Landscape contractor for permeable pavers

April 2014

I'm replacing the old concrete in my driveway with permeable concrete pavers. I'm pretty confident in the installation details but I'd like an installer familiar with this type of system. It seems like most companies that specialize in pavers are used to much larger jobs--this is a tiny area the size of one car, but I could include rebuilding the low concrete planter walls on either side too. Recommendations appreciated, especially if you've had experience yourself with this material. toshi

I highly, highly recommend Jose Zamora of Zamora Landscape. I have worked with him on three projects and my landscape design colleagues use him as their contractor of choice for their designs. He is working on my house at the moment, and it looks amazing. Among many other things, we are putting in pavers in the driveway. He has installed the same pavers but they are permeable on another job- they just have a gap in between for drainage and a permeable base. Both installations are beautiful. Jose is not only a small licensed business owner, but also a Cal grad- so he knows design, he knows plants, and he knows construction. Zamora Landscape Design Lic 971336 PO Box 2756 San Rafael CA 94912 415.419.4075

I think Matt Hornby would be perfect for the job you are doing. He is a garden designer (actually landscape architect)whose specialty is stonework. He has done some great work on my garden - design, pavers, carpentry - and is very reasonable. Rain

Landscaper for Drought Tolerant Design

Jan 2014

I live in North Berkeley and am looking for a landscaper/hardscaper to do a total redesign of my small L-shaped backyard. With the drought, I would really prefer not to have to water at all or to water very little. (Cactus Jungle in Berkeley has things I like.) I would like to make use of decomposed granite and concrete pavers and would like to go for a modern look with clean lines with some curved concrete seating structures and some low walls/borders to offset the angular look of the yard. And a place to have a table for dining. I want someone who has a modern flair who could help me execute this. Thank you!

It is SO dry and windy, I know why you're thinking about this! I would see if you can get Wabi.Co Urban Gardens. This fellow seems particularly 'on' the water thing. He has installed surface drip for our gardens and we run it sparingly. Managing the controllers is a thing he is good about training the owner too. Kathy

I can highly recommend Yard Art, a 2-woman crew of designer/landscaper who have been in the Bay Area for many years and have an impressive set of gardens, both big and small, to their name. They do a lot of low water, native native plant design that looks great. Not to mention they are just the kindest, most generous people you could imagine.

Carol and DJ (mom and daughter!) proposed a total re-do of our once unsightly back yard - a large flat space that was too much for us to consider tearing apart ourselves. They convinced us of removing most of the lawn (which I was happy to abide) and replacing it with smaller, more manageable plantings within a user-friendly design. The outcome was really wonderful. We now have what feels like a comfortable extension to our home that includes thriving, colorful gardens, lower water bills, and a place for us to retreat to when the weather is cooperative. They also come by once a quarter to do very reasonable maintenance and I look forward to seeing them. They are a joy to work with. Couldn't recommend them more highly. water-friendly yard owner

I have worked with Sue Oda, Landscape Architect, and found her to be very easy to work with and very knowledgeable in native and drought-tolerant plants. A recent project I have worked with her on is the 'Sacred Hoop Garden' at Northbrae Community Church in North Berkeley. It is all native plants, and has many of the elements you have in your program (decomposed granite pathway, low retaining walls, curved stone seating.) Howard

Check out www.bay area stone Bill is very well versed in creating a welcoming outdoor hardscape space that reduces water usage. Stacy

I recommend Claudio Rohrsetzer. He is an expert in California Natives and drought tolerant plants an also knows a lot about drip irrigation. If you want more information about his work and background, check his website: Freitas

I highly recommend Carlo Pessano for garden design, especially because you mention contemporary look, decomposed granite, and drought tolerant. He is an artist in the garden. I have used him for years for my own garden and for houses that I am preparing for market. He can be reached 967-4303. heidi

I had a border of some sort of bushes that would die one after another due to my lack of regular watering. Then Sue Oda came over and basically saved the day. Not only did the replacement plants solve the drought tolerant problem but the new plants create a much better division between our property and that of the neighbor. I recommended her to some people up the street who wanted a major project done and they were thrilled with her design. Sue is a landscape architect based in the El Cerrito area. She has a website which is and her phone number is 684 8789. symetrick

Backyard potential

Nov 2013

Greetings! I need the creative input from our community. My family has a modest sized backyard that has a few smallish but nice trees but is mostly a dirt patch. The space is primarily shaded and refuses to grow grass. I want to make it into something my family will use, as our home is on the smaller side, and this area could provide us another space to enjoy. There is a minor slope to the area and if we level it out, our fence will look funky. Ideas? Recommendations of an inexpensive landscape designer? Grateful neighbor

I have a recommendation for you. I have worked with Heidi Tarver (Berkeley Garden Coach) and I think she would be perfect for the kind of landscaping challenge you describe. My garden is also smallish and somewhat shady. Heidi helped me remove a tired lawn and convert the landscaping to plantings that were site appropriate as well as beautiful and functional. We have been really happy with the results. You can review her services and pricing on her website: She is very affordable, and great to work with. M.B.

Peter Gradjansky will help you work within your budget. He's a great designer and can do the whole job or help you piece it out to do it yourself. His work speaks for his skill and integrety. 524-6919. Good luck. June

If anyone can convince you that your tiny backyard has much more potential than you see in it, its Brother Perry. We have worked with him to completely overhaul our tiny backyard in a way that requires little maintenance and still looks amazing. We were so impressed with his work that we have recommended him to at least 5 friends where he's done similar overhauls of their yards. Can lay flagstone patios, create decking spaces, put down new sod, landscape, etc. He also does a lot of other home maintenance and repair. He has a website: and his email address is brotherperryhome @ yard happy

We contacted UC Berkeley's landscape architecture program, since students are always looking for experience. A first year student designed our front and back yards/gardens (planting plans) earlier this year for $300. Now it's just up to us to make it happen! Dean's Office, College of Environmental Design University of California, Berkeley 230 Wurster Hall #1820 Berkeley, CA 94720-1820 (510) 642-0831 Phone laepchair [at] Kiren

Hello, You mentioned that your backyard is too shady to grow a lawn and I thought of our experience with eco-lawn. We found that the shadiest side of the lawn area grew in the lushest and best, much to our surprise. If you are interested in having part of your backyard to be lawn, I'd recommend eco-lawn and we got the seed locally in Richmond at Annie's Annuals and Perrenials (we got just one bag and have used only a small amount). It takes much less water than a typical lawn, you don't have to mow it because it is slow growing and you might like the long length of the lawn look (we do). We found that it did take a few seedings to really get a lush lawn, it seemed to be really helpful to get special soil for seeding grass (we got that at OSH), and when you plant the seeds you do have to water it frequently until it starts growing. We really missed having a part of our yard where we could just plop a blanket down on a lawn and read a book and are happy with our new eco-lawn. K

I highly recommend Matt Hornby Garden Design in Berkeley. He helped turn my small backyard into a little sanctuary and his prices are very reasonable! good luck!

Landscape Designer needed

Oct 2013

Hi, I'm looking for recommendations for a landscape designer and or a landscaper who can create a design. Thank you! Amy

Hi- I'd like to recommend Cecelia Littlepage for your project. She's a design-build garden designer and contractor with a great eye and the ability to put your ideas into a coherent plan. She also has 30 years of experience so knows what she's doing. She helped me figure out how to make a garden out of a big mess of a yard and we love it. cflittlepage [at], 510-848-4178. Melissa

I recently re-designed my front garden, and I can enthusiastically recommend Heidi Tarver (aka Berkeley Garden Coach) as a terrific designer to work with. She was thoughtful, paid attention to what was important to me, and came up with great solutions for a couple of troubling challenges. She is very reasonably priced as well, which was important to us because we didn't have a huge budget. She doesn't do installation herself, but works with a great team that does - also reasonably priced. We were completely happy with her work, and have recommended her to some of our friends. Her website is, and all the contact information is there. Good luck with your project. Belinda

I highly recommend Manual Garcia for landscape design and gardening. He is very fast but shows careful attention to detail. He is easy to work with and has over 20 years experience in the field. I have also had several home repair jobs done by him and was very pleased with with his level of expertise and knowledge in this area as well. He mounted track lighting in my apartment in addition to a large curtain divider. His number is 510 652 5612. Felicity

I suggest you contact Heidi Tarver at She did a wonderful job creating a design for our North Berkeley garden. We are extremely happy with her work, and the project came in under budget. Dr. D

Backyard Landscape ideas - student or beginner landscaper?

Sept 2013

my backyard needs a facelift! It's an open palate. Does anyone know of a school or beginning landscaper etc who might want to use my backyard as a template or learning/experimental space? Or to give me ideas? It's flat, roughly 30' x 100'

They now have an online job board where you can post what your needs are. You might want to specify that you want someone who is a couple of years along in the program, then you will get someone who is just starting out and has both inspiration and a bit of practical knowledge. New landscapers build up a business client by client, so they should be quite happy to fix up your yard. I was in the program myself 25 years ago and now know someone currently in the program. They've come a long way in understanding the principals of sustainability and I think you will get a lot of great ideas from them. Liz

When I was looking for a student landscape designer, I posted a message on the bulletin board at Merritt Community College Landscape Horticulture School. I think I sent the post by fax or email and they printed it out and put it on the board. Joanie

If you decide to consult a professional we can recommend Geogia Madden: / 510-450-0803

Mid-century modern landscaping

June 2013

We just moved into our midcentury ranch and the yard is a mess of 'deferred maintenance.' We need a short-term and a long-term landscaping plan from a professional with a modern aesthetic. I love an English garden, I just don't want one, and it won't fit with the house. The plan would include a patio, fence, garden, as well as a long term plan for an outdoor kitchen. mid-century yard

I highly recommend Matt Hornby He has excellent design sense and is especially skilled at stonework. R S

Garden designer w/ style similar to Lurie Garden

June 2013

On a recent trip to Chicago, I fell in love with the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. The garden was designed by Piet Oudolf et al. using midwest perennials and lots of grasses for a modern, bold effect. I would like to do something similar in my front yard, but with California plants. Is there a landscape garden designer in the area who could do something for me in that style?

I highly recommend Suzanne Arca of Suzanne Arca Designs. She understands native plants and grasses and how to integrate them into your existing garden and she is skilled in drought resistant plants as well. She does beautiful designs as well as implementation but you can choose your preference. Her website is and her phone number is 510-558-0638 Sharon

I cannot say enough good things about our gardeners, Bill Lloyd and Dina Blackwell ( They have an extraordinary array of skills, to which they continue to add. We have three locations where they work for us, two of which have benefited from installations as well as on-going maintenance. They are efficient, thoughtful, thorough, and creative. We actually learned of them because of the work they did next door. Now, several neighbors have hired them to do their gardening. Specific to your needs, they are quite partial to using natives and minimizing water usage. One installation was chosen for the 2014 garden tour, a testimony to excellence in this profession. Nori

Looking for a landscape designer/contractor

June 2013

We're looking for a landscape designer/contractor to help us with a side yard project at our south Berkeley home this summer. Job will include some basic visioning and planning, removal of a fairly large tree (and stump), fence design/construction, construction of a garbage/recycling enclosure, landscaping and irrigation. We'd prefer to hire one company that can do it all rather than separately hire a designer and labor. We're looking for a good value but mostly we'd like to find someone reliable who will return calls! Thanks in advance. - Ashleigh

I love working with Kellie Owen - she's certified, from Petaluma, but works down here some days. She's done everything in my Emeryville garden from advising to clean up to installing irrigation. Kellie: 415 509 1431. louise

Josh Thayer at Native Sun Gardens is a plant genius! He can help you plan to get the most out of your yard spaces. He helped transform my steep, empty, arid yard in Montclair into an edible orchard, working with me and my wife to pick fruit trees and vines, berry bushes, and native plants that would work in pretty challenging terrain. He now comes by several times a year to check on plants and advise on care, which I try to do. He has a crew of workers that can come in and do the work for you, or he can just do the design work and advising piece. We did not use him as a 'one stop shop,' but he is well-connected to the landscape contractor community and could probably coordinate most of the work you want if you let him know that's what you're looking for. But even if he can't, I would highly recommend bringing him into your project so you are happy with your landscape down the road. - Ben

I saw your post in an earlier newsletter but didn't have time to respond then. Please call landscape contractor Cece Littlepage about your project. She's a very talented designer, extremely knowledgeable about plants, as well as very professional and reliable. Cece has helped me with a number of projects in my garden and her advice is always spot on. I feel like she really listens to what I'm wanting to accomplish and has the experience and expertise to put it all together into a plan that works. I also appreciate that she works to keep costs within my budget without ever sacrificing quality. And- she's a pleasure to work with! Call Cecelia Littlepage 510-848-4178 or email her at cflittlepage [at] Nancy

Need a landscaper for my front garden in El Cerrito

May 2013

Hi. I have had a lot of trouble finding landscapers who are either reliable or available to help me plant a new garden in the front of my house. Looking for a designer to help me pick out plants that will thrive without a lot of watering or fussing. A Mediterranean garden ideally with a lot of succulents and native plants. Also someone who knows how to transform our sprinklers in the front to an irrigation drip system. Please only recommend people who are known to you. Would also hire someone who is not a professional but knows how to do all of this. Thanks! Mari

Call Michael McFadden at Planted Earth, He lives in El Cerrito and has for several years, so the Planted Earth team has done lots of local work, both big and small projects. I have seen some of his low-maintenence designs and the are beautiful and practical, as well as kid-friendly. Welcome to El Cerrito! Long-time El Cerrito gardener

Landscape services needed in Lamorinda

April 2013

We need a landscape designer to help us add to the landscaping we have in our front and back yards. We also need this person to help us add an irrigation system. There are many recommendations on the BPN website, but I need someone who would be willing to work in the Lamorinda area. I would prefer someone who could help us design and plant a low-maintenance, drought resistant, dear resistant garden. Please send recommendations. Thank you! Seeking landscaper for Moraga

We live in Lafayette and have worked with a wonderul landscaper named Chris for several years. When we first hired him, he helped us design our sprinkler system and our yard. He's done our weekly maintenance since. Contact Chris (925) 788-3065 Happy Customer

Sue and Matt Royter of Lantech Design helped us put in exactly the type of yard you are describing, as well as an irrigation system, in our house in Lafayette. We also have them come quarterly or semi annually to do major seasonal cleanup...other than that and mowing our (now) very small patch of lawn, our yard needs almost no work. I have rarely seen people work as hard as Sue and Matt, and all the people who work for them are long time employees. Claire

Looking for Landscape Designer

March 2013

We would like to have help in transforming our disaster of a backyard into a beautiful outdoor space that we can enjoy. We have many challenges: There are safety concerns as we don't have anything blocking the backyard from the top of the garage; we have an old fireplace that we believe was part of an existing back house back in the day; there is an ugly, ugly fountain that we would like removed or hidden; there is a huge pergola structure that we would like removed; there is an ugly cement bunker looking space directly outside our backdoor that has steps leading up to the backyard that we would like transformed somehow,etc. You get the picture it is a mess. We also need advice on types of plants and spatial organization. We live in Oakland. We probably don't have the money to do everything at once but we need someone who has a vision and can provide plans in stages so that we can divide the project and take one thing at a time but have an overall picture of what the end product will look like. Any recommendations out there would be greatly appreciated. JC

Hello - last year I worked with Sue Oda ( to redesign my backyard. She spent a lot of time with me over a few visits to really get a feel for what I needed and would be able to maintain. She also brought her trusted contractors over to give me quotes on work that needed to be done. She gave me the whole blueprint for the re-do and a lovely binder with the plants and description and care so that when I am ready to install the design I have it and can use whoever I chose or do it myself. I know you can have a full service level from her and she will get the whole project done, but like you we have to do it in phases for budget so I have been very happy using her suggested contractors and doing piece by piece. I also like how mindful she was of my small children and making the space with them in mind. good luck! new yard mama

We used Lou Dixon with Bio Friendly Gardens and have been really pleased with the results. He is reasonably priced and does good work. Dawn H

I can heartily recommend Heidi Tarv\xc3\x83\xc2\xabr. She's an artist and sculptor as well as landscape designer, and she only does the design work, so no conflict of interest. Wonderful, beautiful ideas, but she works with you to get what you want. Landscape lover

Heidi Tarver ( Check out her website. Heidi is a good designer and affordable. I have a challenging backyard and a while back, I worked with her on a garden project that has made my garden a wonderful place to be! She is easy to work with, has great ideas, and she has a number of different design packages so you can find one to fit your budget. I have recommended her to several friends, and they have all been really happy with the results. Good luck! Elsa

The Berkeley Garden Coach is your answer! Heidi is sooo good: great eye, great contacts for contractors, just great to work with. We're in the middle of a big project transforming our barren hill and chicken yard into something really pretty and useful. She's really worth it. heiditarver [at] 510-928-5591 Not a green thumb

I can definitely recommend Tomi Kobara. We worked with her very recently on our back yard and she is happy to work in phases as you save up for different elements. What was previously a sea of lava rock is now a gorgeous multi-level deck, with small lawn, plantings, veggie box and more. Just what we wanted. Tomi works directly with a great, reliable contractor for demo/construction/installation and it was so nice having one point of contact for this whole project. Happy to answer more questions if you have them.

Landscape Contractor Referrals

March 2013

Hi there, We are looking to renovate our backyard this spring and are searching for a quality/affordable landscape contractor. We are in the Redwood Heights neighborhood of Oakland. We will be tearing out the old pavement, repaving a new area, adding a tiny area of grass and hooking this up to the sprinkler system. Forewarning, we have a huge Redwood Tree in this very small backyard and we have no idea what issues this will pose. If you have someone to recommend, please send them my way! Thanks! Alexandria

As the husband of a landscape architect, I would say that 'the huge Redwood Tree in your very small backyard' means that 'quality' will trump 'affordable' when searching for your landscape contractor. The plant pallet compatible with redwood trees is quite limited, so someone could design and install a very nice backyard for you that would slowly (or maybe rapidly) die out. Though it doesn't seem you are looking for one who works with native plants, I recommend Michael Thilgen (4 Dimensions, 510-893-1999) for his knowledge of plant compatibility. . Andus B

I would like to recommend landscaper Chris Freeman. He is new to the Bay Area and has a company called Deep Roots Urban Gardens.He did some excellent work for us recently. His website is He can be reached at 516-849-7970 douglas

Saw the responses to your post and have to chime in with another 'yes' for Michael Thilgen and Four Dimensions Landscape. We have two very large redwoods (and a massive cedar) and Four Dimensions created a beautiful new native landscape for our yard. They are extremely knowledgable and excellent listeners. Redwood garden too

Reasonably priced landscape design?

Jan 2013

I am looking for someone who can help me redesign my garden, but I'm on a tight budget, and the bids I've gotten from landscape architects are WAY over what I have to spend. Has anyone found a garden designer who charges reasonable rates? My garden space is small, but I think it could be really nice if I could get some help with design. Any suggestions are welcomed. Thank you so much. Belinda A.

I hired Lara of Bountiful Botanicals ( and liked what she did with my small front yard. I don't recall the price exactly, but I think she was reasonable. anon

Garry Bernhardt might be a good fit for your garden and budget. He is both a gardner and landscape designer, very creative and reasonably priced. Phone 847-5070. w

Hi Belinda, Check out Kroeger Gardens. Link below: Anne is very talented and it shows in her work. Her first consultation is free as stated on her website. In addition, you will find alot of free advice and information on the site, which in my opinion simply translates into an individual that is extremely passionate about what they do. Good luck with your project. julie

Consider calling Teri Hayes at 510-697-2503. She is not a landscape architect so her prices are as lot more reasonable. She is a gardener who has a flair for design and can work with an owner to plan a garden suited to his/her wants and desires. Her abilities also allow her to be able to create attractive areas as well as design drought tolerant gardens which save money on water and monthly maintenance. Roger

Take a look at this website: I worked with Heidi on a garden project last fall and found her help invaluable. My garden is also small, but she came up with a way of utilizing space that makes it feel much larger. I now have tiny 'rooms', different areas for sitting, veggies, flowers, etc. I love my new garden, it didn't cost an arm and a leg, and Heidi is also coaching me on how to take care of the plants and keep the garden healthy and beautiful. I really recommend her as an great alternative to expensive landscape architects. Her phone number is 510-928-5591. A.R.

We have been extremely pleased with the services provided by Heidi/Berkeley Garden Coach. I believe Heidi saved us thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars on our garden project. She worked with us to come up with a hardscape plan, identify appropriate professionals, select plants that would thrive in our location, etc. We did a lot of the labor ourselves, and with her guidance it was fun and we learned a lot. Heidi was respectful of our likes and dislikes, she listened carefully and made suggestions that were in keeping with our goals and vision for the garden. She never tried to push her own agenda, which we really appreciated. In the course of a year we were able to redesign our whole yard and get most of the ideas implemented. With her help we were able to avoid making the kinds of errors that could have cost us a lot of money and also a lot of headaches and frustration. We could not be more happy as we see our garden (and ourselves, the gardeners!) evolving. Check out the Berkeley Garden Coach website at Amy

Need a landscape architect for Kensington home

July 2012

Hi, we are remodeling our yard, and need a landscape architect to help us with the hardscape and landscape design for our home in kensington. Any recommendations are greatly appreciated. Lesbeth

Contact Lesley Golden. She did my parent's garden and it turned out beautifully. lesley [at] Kelly O

Gardening/Landscaping advice for new house

May 2012

Hi all. My wife and I recently bought a house that has a huge back and side yard. It's been relatively maintained, but not much love or creativity has gone into it. We see amazing potential in it, but are frankly overwhelmed with the possibilities and work involved. Ideally we'd like to do the work ourselves, but we have a 6-month old and I'm having a hard time finding the time to do even basic maintenance. We'd love to have a deck or patio type space where we can eat and BBQ. We also want to grow our own food, probably in garden beds. I think the lawns need to be replanted and there are a bunch of bushes that we want to remove, but what we do with the space is the big question. I look at a lot of yards when I'm walking my dog around the neighborhood, but then get overwhelmed with the possibilities. Where can I get ideas advice on this type of thing. Is it crazy to think that I can do this all myself? Are there landscapers/gardeners that can help with the work and/or give ideas? How much does it cost to get a landscaper to completely redo the yard for you? I have no clue when it comes to these kinds of things. Overwhelmed gardener

You should call Heidi Tarver, the 'Berkeley Garden Coach'! We had a similar problem, and she worked with us to develop a vision for our garden, then put us in touch with professionals who could help us turn our garden plan into a beautiful livable outdoor space. Heidi has both the creative vision (she uios quite the artists) and the organizational skills to help you move forward on your project, and the cost is way less than hiring a landscape architect to install a garden for you. Also, she can coach you on how to care for your garden so it will stay beautiful all year and for years to come. She is a pleasure to work with. Her website is Liz J

You should definetly check out Bill Armijo is very good and can help you with what you want as well as suggest ideas. He's very easy to work with and there are a number of BPN readers who have used him. He makes the process simple. Happy Customer

I can't say enough good things about Arthur Brito of Arboralis, but fortunately I don't need to because you can see his designs on his website. We used him for a small project, but he works well with projects of any size. He's easy to talk to, and he'll work within your budget. For a small investment in design at the start, you'll end up with a landscape you're really happy with - at least that's my experience. You can reach Arthur at or 510.522.2708. Good luck!

You certainly could do it yourself, but it sounds pretty overwhelming to me. I recommend you give Joshua Thayer of Native Sun Gardens a call. (510 332-2809 Josh is a wonderful designer who likes working edibles as well as decorative plants. He's also super flexible about how he works with you, he'll provide everything from a quick sketch to a full blown plan, to an installed garden and coach you on how to plant or maintain it. He can also plan in phases if you know what you want but can't afford to do it all at once. He did a great job taking into account the different tastes of my partner and I (I love cottage, he loves Asian, and did such a great job with our front that we hired him to do some things in our backyard. Kirsten

I would like to recommend a unique and amazing designer and gardener, Michelle Bayba. I have never had a gardener like her. She is knowledgeable about all aspects of gardening, and she designs gardens as if they were her own. She's full of energy and natural creativity. She is personable and fun to work with, willing to roll up sleeves with me or leave me homework, she does amazing work, and has very reasonable rates given her skill level. She's now worked with four families in our neighborhood, and I attest to the fact that one of her many strengths is helping people to formulate a realistic plan based on their budget, interests, and the limitations of their location. A Berkeley native, Michelle knows the local plants and takes into account the practicality of a garden and how you use it. She knows how to design a garden from scratch, or as in my case, take a straggly garden and properly prune it, fill it in with new plants, nourish them organically, and upgrade the irrigation system. As I said, since I hired Michelle, she now has four clients just on my neighborhood block. She has individualized to each of our needs-- and we are all thrilled. She can be reached at 510-385-6535. anon

Garden design that can be implemented over time

May 2012

We would like to redesign our backyard; a design employed a dozen years ago did not end up being very workable, and our sprinkler system is pretty much gone, so we need a new one. Our goal is to have an area for seating with room for a table, chairs and so on so we can eat outside now and then as well as entertain. We would like to form a division from the front and back part of the yard so we can have raised beds for veggies. We would like to have mostly native/drought resistant plants. We have a small side yard that we would want to retain for flowers--the only area I would want to give a little more water to, as it is small. I do love roses. We need to put in some trees for screening and privacy, as well. We also have the unfortunate presence of a neighbor's redwood tree, which scatters debris into our yard. We need someone who can work with these issues and restraints. So we are talking landscaping/hardscaping (we want the seating area to be one that does not require any weeding--weeds poking through pavers is not in the picture for me--done that). Here is the biggest issue: we need a plan that can be carried out over time, as it is not affordable for us all at once (self-employed spouse). Does anyone have experience with any landscape designers who will do this? Thank you!

I saw your post and have to send you a recommendation. Last year we hired Sarah Ray who had worked with a very good friend of mine. We also had a difficult time finding anyone who would work with us in stages. Sarah respected our budget and was able to design a master landscape plan that we could implement over time. Having a plan in place before we began the actual work, allowed us to budget for each phase. She was amazing and insightful and was able to actually hear my ideas, even if they weren't exactly what she would have done. So far we have done our front yard and back patio with a trellis. We are so happy with our garden and having someone so knowledgable and approachable made the whole process enjoyable. We would hire her again in a second! Her phone number is 510-812-7498. Good luck to you, Gina

Paul Burns has done a lot of multiuse spaces like the one you describe, and would likely be open to working in stages. He's honest, reliable and pleasure to work with. (510) 390-1057. MV

Landscape designer to include children's play

May 2012

We have a large backyard and would like a designer/landscaper help plan for optimal use for child play -- jungle gym, bikes, grassy area, etc. Do you have any recommendations?

There is a garden designer/coach in Berkeley who I think is really exceptional. Her name is Heidi Tarver, and her website address is My neighbor worked with her last year on a back yard design that included a lot of play space for their 3 young children, and while I don't have children myself, I was extremely impressed with the result in terms of how she integrated the play spaces into the overall landscape design. After seeing my neighbor's yard come together, I hired her to work with me on my garden, and I love her designs, which I am in the process of implementing. I would definitely recommend you check her out. A.J.

We have used Tomi Kobara,, Landscape Architect, for our backyard, frontyard, and deck remodel. She is wonderful at bringing our ideas to life, and our backyard and front are both beautiful and functional (garden space, pingpong table, planting area). She also was great with working with existing materials and incorporating new ideas. I highly recommend her. She can be reached at tomiskye [at] Chan

Diane designed a functional (for our 2 kids) and beautiful (for the parents) space for us in the front of the house. We love her work! Your backyard sounds bigger and I'm sure she can come up with some great ideas for you! She incoporated most of her design and love the yard. Her contact info follows. Feel free to email me for more information. Diane Bloomberg Landscape Design & Aesthetic Pruning 925-382-3516 dianebloomberg [at]

Landscape Architect Sketches/Ideas for large yard in South Berkeley

April 2012

We are looking for some recommendations for landscape architects who will do up some sketches for our yard. We already have a pretty good idea of what we want the yard to look like, but we need a professional to let us know how and if our vision would work, and how much. We'd like to get multiple bids, and it would be great to have someone who would do multiple sketches for us - to give us options. We live in South Berkeley and have a large yard. Part of the job includes a large play structure, raised beds, and a deck. Thanks for any leads! Heather

I've worked with and highly recommend Arthur Brito of Arborealis (510.522.2708) and Robert Cruikshank ((510) 486-8282). Arthur is a landscape designer, is very low key, willing work with any budget or job size, and is very willing to give you several design options so you can choose. His designs are creative and beautiful, and he's good at designing spaces that are both affordable and comfortable to live in. Robert is a landscape contractor, who is also willing to work with you and very competent. He specializes in wood and fine masonry construction. Arthur made several sketches for us, and Robert did some wood and flagstone work to enclose a tricky porch area. Good luck with your project, Pat

Looking for good landscape designer in East Bay

April 2012

Hello, We're looking for a good, affordable landscape designer to help with a front yard. Thanks, Julia

After many years of unsuccessful starts on our backyard, we broke down and finally hired a professional to do our backyard. We hired Fiddlehead Gardens in Berkeley and we are so happy about our decision. The back yard is finally a place where we can relax and entertain. We have a small back yard in Berkeley (1000 square feet) and Mya (the Fiddlehead owner) helped us transform it into an outdoor living space. It looks gorgeous and fits all of our needs. Mya was really great about working with our vision for the backyard at a reasonable cost. We have yet to start working on our front yard (we need to save up a little more before we do so) but when we do, we will definitely hire her again. I highly recommend that you contact this company. You will be so happy that you did. hilge34

We hired Sandra Nevala-Lee to help us w/ shady & windy spots in our yard. She introduced native plants that do well in windy West Berkeley. And it's been amazing! Things are growing, blooming, etc. Sandra is also a lot of fun to work with - and very informative. You can contact her: 510-502-0992 s.nevalalee [at] P.O. Box 2128 Castro Valley, CA 94546 Her website: a flower lover w/o a green thumb

I highly recommend Tamar Carson Landscaping (tamarrogelio [at] Tamar and her husband/partner Rogelio were brilliant last summer in design vision and execution of the project of my back yard cement driveway which was transformed by unbelievable stonescape and equally impressive ground preparation and selection of plants. They are extremely knowledgeable and creative in their solutions. 9 months later, my garden simply gets better and better. It was such a pleasure to work with them and their staff. I enjoyed the process and the result. Excellent follow through, attention to every detail and a wonderful collaboration. Tamar gave me about 20 addresses in Bekeley to show their work and seeing what they have done locally is what convinced me. kstreets

Heidi Tarver ( might be just the designer for you. Check out her website and I think you will see what I mean. She is very affordable for one thing. And she is a fabulous designer of gardens, as well as furniture, jewelry and probably other things. I worked with her on a garden project a few years ago, and I was delighted with what she came up with for my complicated, challenging back yard. She is really easy to work with, full of great ideas, and she has a number of different design packages so you can find one to fit your budget. I have recommended her to several friends, and they have all been really happy with the results. Good luck! Angie

Check out the website for Berkeley Garden Coach Heidi Tarver ( I am currently working with Heidi on re-landscaping our back garden, and I am delighted with her work. She has great design sense and creative ideas, but also really listens to what I want and works with me to bring my vision into being. Her pricing structure is extremely reasonable, and she is very flexible and accommodating. Really a great person to work with - I couldn't recommend her more. My project isn't finished yet, but I have seen some of her finished work and it is absolutely lovely. Her phone number is 510-928-5591. Good luck with your project! kb

Review of Tamar Carson - Landscape Architect

March 2012

I'm thinking of using Tamar Carson for a much-needed landscape design for the front of our house...We've heard good things but most of the reviews are old. Does anyone have recent experience with her? We've done a lot of work on our home including re-shingling and now want a landscape project with a lot of visual impact, something that will highlight the house and give us strong curb appeal. vanclej1

Hi, I wanted to respond to the question about Tamar Carson landscaping. Tamar redid my yard last year, and the garden she created is a source of ongoing pleasure, pride and joy for us. She basically took the most hideous patch of weeds and concrete and turned into a glorious, lovely garden -- for sure the nicest on our block . Please email if you want to come take a look!!! What I love about Tamar is how personal her artistry is. She really listened to my preferences about plants and colors, studied our house (paint colors, architectural style) and designed something that feels both very personal and beautiful and harmonizes with and enhances our home. She's an artist and a great listener and brings, with her wonderful husband and business partner Rogelio a lot of integrity to her designs - it's not cookie cutter but totally personalized. I really, really love my garden and of all the work we've done on our house, this is the project that gives me the most ongoing pleasure. Email me if you would like to see it - now that it is early spring plants are flowering and looking better than ever. Tamar's email is tamarrogelio [at], 654- 8242. Rinat

I'm glad you asked about Tamar--you never know what to think when the reviews are old! I'm happy to say that she did a fabulous job for us--our front and back yards were both total disasters, and she transformed them. In the back, she needed to take out a jungle of plants, plus some broken-down structures, and she replaced them with a yard that everyone comments on--a combo of paving and wonderful plantings. In the front yard, she removed our decaying benches and plants, and created a lovely, unified garden (and low wall) that passersby always stop and admire.

She's also GREAT to work with--truly good listener, totally approachable, smart, creative, knowledgeable, etc. And her crew is her husband (a great person himself!) plus longtime workers who are incredibly considerate. Really, we can't recommend her highly enough! --LOVING our landscape in Albany

Artful Landscaper with a Berkeley feel

Jan 2012

We've decided that first impressions really matter.. so we want to improve the landscaping in the front of our house. We'd like to work with someone artful, but who listens, and does not promote their design. I really don't want to be pushed toward drought-resistance or irrigation project. I want to be guided by plants, a sense of place, and a Berkeley feel. We want that feeling to surround our house. Anyone have recommendations for people, companies, or interview questions for landscape architects. -chris

I would like to recommend Heather Clauss at Aspect Design Landscape ( Heather really listens to her clients and comes up with designs based on their desires and the needs of the site. She has a lot of experience with local residential gardens, she is reasonably priced, and she has a fabulous design aesthetic. She also has great taste when selecting plants. Leslie

I know exactly what you mean about wanting a garden resource who really listens carefully for what you're after and then looks for ways to work with the energy in the existing plants and landscape. Heidi Tarver ((510-928-5591; is an affordable Berkeley garden expert who does exactly that. What I loved about working with her was how much she taught me about doing as much as I could for myself. But she also put me in touch with good helpers when I needed more muscle. She's great. --Happy Berkeley Gardener

I highly recommend Heidi is wonderful to work with, really listens to what you want, and is an incredible artist, with plants and otherwise. Really great at helping you explore possibilities, giving you options and ideas and helping you find your own dream garden. No cookie cutter here. (and her own garden is to die for!) you can reach her at 510-928-5591 love the garden

Heidi Tarver (510) 928-5591 ( is wonderful - she's an artist and also a garden expert, and works with you to design the garden you want. ThumbNotSoGreen

Hello, I would recommend Julie Hicks of Hahn and Hicks Landscaping. Very open to design, not pushy and likes to work with people to get the design they like. Her work is beautiful! Here is her email address. juliehicks24 [at] Good luck Eric

Hi there - I have to recommend a FABULOUS and inexpensive landscaping team - Pat Hannon of Your Green Spaces ( and cell 925-435-2801. He has been doing various improvements for me since last year, and I have recommended him to several people - all are delighted. He can do everything from hardscapes to fences (just finished a huge one for a friend of mine), lawns and irrigation, and very knowledgeable about plants and landscaping. He also does yard maintenance and clean up. Moreover, a super nice guy, responsive and responsible, honest, and very reasonably priced. Give him a call. Sarah

I highly recommend Tracey Goldberg of GoldDirt Design to find the right solution for your front garden. She's easy to work with, listened to our needs, likes and dislikes, incorporating all that into a design that works beautifully with the architecture and aesthetic of our house. It's easy to maintain, relaxing to live in day after day, lovely without looking too fussy or designed. She has a strong knowledge of plant materials and hardscape and has no agenda or axe to grind. Email her at tracey [at] Jane G

Need someone to advise me about the plants in my yard

Dec 2011

I am a new homeowner in Albany and need someone to give me some info about my new backyard. I basically want someone to walk around with me and tell me what type of trees and plants we have, how to care for them, etc. Our backyard is tiny and I am not asking for landscaping advice. Just a green thumb to help me out. Also, we are going to put in a tiny patch of lawn (I want my kids to have some grass to play on) so I'd prefer not to have someone who will give me a really hard time about putting in grass. Thanks! New yard owner

I recommend Berkeley Garden Coach Heidi Tarver. She does landscape design, and also the kind of coaching/advising you are seeking. I worked with her on several projects and found her to be extremely knowledgeable, creative and fun to work with. You can check out her rates and also her blog at Couldn't recommend her more highly. A.Smith

I think our gardener, Sai Duhamel would be a great fit for you. He's a 'plant nerd' who used to work at the Botanical Garden and a great guy to work with. He's been a great help for us in planning our edible backyard and maintaining the decorative landscape up front. I think he has small children at home too so probably could help you make child friendly decisions. His cell number is 310- 428-8092 and home 510-495-9500 Christine

Landscape designer needed - modern Mediterranean

Oct 2011

I'm looking for someone experienced in landscape design who can help redo the plantings in our relatively small (approx 25'x15') flat front yard. The hardscape (garden wall, path) as well as irrigation system was installed two years ago and in good condition, we simply need assistance with choosing plants and designing a garden layout. Our garden is currently a hodge-podge of plants, some old, some new. It definitely lacks cohesion and that 'wow' factor. We know what we like (modern aesthetic, Mediterranean plantings) but really need help with choosing plants and designing the overall look. Thanks for any suggestions! brown thumb in Alameda

I know a GREAT landscape designer. He has wonderful ideas about how to create 'just enough garden' for his clients. If you want 'more' he will also pay close attention to his clients desires. Peter has many beautiful pictures to show you the work he has done in the past. Aside from that, he's just a really nice guy to work with. He worked for me quite recently and it was a very harmonious experience! You can reach Peter at: 699-5441 or gradjansky [at] Best of Luck and have fun! Leah M

I highly recommend Michelle Bayba (385-6535). She completely designed/ landscaped my front and backyards (she also did the irrigation and continues to do maintenance/pruning) It is a joy to work with Michelle and my backyard is a beautiful retreat which has now become the favorite 'room' in my house. Michelle is an excellent listener, creative and dependable. I went through a number of gardeners over the decades and when I wanted someone new I interviewed about a dozen people from BPN and looked at their gardens. Michelle won hands down. 524 4867

Definitely recommend Heidi Tarver. She's a wonderful sculptor and painter who is also a landscape designer, and she works closely with you to shape something that reflects your aesthetic. She's lovely to work with, as well. Dan

I recommend you contact Heidi Tarver. She redesigned my neighbor's garden, and it went from juniper and weeds to a lovely mediterranean hillside full of colorful and interesting plantings. The redesign happened in the spring, and the garden looked great throughout the season. Even now the colors and textures are gorgeous. I am planning to make some changes to my own garden in a few months, and I will definitely be working with Heidi. You can look at her website: for lots more information on her services. Incidentally, the website itself is a good source of garden information, including a great blog about Bay Area Gardening. Good luck with your project! Alice

Designer for small garden who will work with me

June 2011

I have a small, very sunny garden that is, quite frankly, a mess. I would like to redo it completely, but maybe keep a few of the plantings that I like. The hardscape is mostly ok, but I want to add a stone path and maybe a little terracing. I want to be involved in recreating the garden, so I'm looking for a garden expert to work WITH me on remaking this space into something lovely. I don't want someone to do it for me - in fact I plan to do most of the labor myself, with hopefully a little help on the heavy lifting. Mostly what I need is someone with vision, who can see the potential in my space and help me redesign it, for a reasonable price. Any recommendations would be much appreciated. Alana

Leigh Gronet can help you create a wonderful garden design. Here is the link to her website: She did a plan on paper for our small Berkeley yard which we then had some help with planting and installing. She can also do a digital garden design that allows you to see what it will look like before it's finished. Our yard has become a little paradise for the local birds, including some nesting hummingbirds. A small fountain that she suggested has become a favorite drinking and bathing spot for our feathered friends as well. Melanie H

Heidi Tarver,, 510-928-5591. She's a wonderful artist/designer/coach who works closely with you to design your garden in a way that speaks to your personal taste. It really turns your garden into something sculptural and beautiful that fits you very specifically. Inspired Gardener

I can personally recommend Claudia Vieira. She helped me re-make my yards of water-devouring lawn to islands of beautiful, native and drought-resistant plants. She worked with me as a garden coach - offering instruction and inspiration. I did most of the hands-on work, but she was there to literally 'dig in' when I needed it. And I learned a lot from her expertise. Call her: 510.653-6535. Pat C

Heidi Tarver is wonderful to work with on small gardens. I hired her to work with us on an overhaul of our garden, which had been neglected for years. She had wonderful ideas for reconfiguring the planting spaces, and for an extremely reasonable price developed a whole step-by-step plan that we were able to implement with ease. Heidi has great vision and a deep knowledge of Bay Area gardening. I really enjoyed working with her, and I love my new garden! Her web address is, and her phone number is 510-928- 5591. Amy

Landscape designer for Oakland front garden

June 2011

I'm looking for a landscape designer to help me develop a plan for both hardscape and plantings for a medium to small front yard in Oakland. I would be willing to hire a student or someone just starting out -- I'm on a tight budget. I want to do as much of the actual work as I can myself, but cannot do the plan myself. It's hard times out there for these folks, so I wonder if anyone knows of someone who might want a smallish project. Thanks for any ideas. Signed, my neighbors will thank you

Sounds like the Berkeley Garden Coach would be perfect for your needs. I have been working with her on a similar redesign and it's been a great experience. She helped me figure out what to do with my overgrown and not very interesting back garden, then put me in touch with some really wonderful people who helped install irrigation, clear some of the old ugly shrubs and prep the soil for planting. I am doing quite a lot of the work myself, but needed some assistance in specific areas, especially design. Her pricing is extremely reasonable, and you can tailor it to your specific needs. Really great, and she is super easy to work with. Her website is Good luck with your project.

I've used Arthur Brito of Arborealis. He does only design work, not the actual planting or construction, if any is needed or desired. I like his designs a lot - you can see his style at He works in different ways. We just needed ideas and a rough sketch, and he charged us a very reasonable hourly rate. He also does complete construction drawings and will arrange for subcontractors for bigger projects, but sounds like your needs are closer to ours. His number is 510.522.2708. Good luck

Heidi Tarver is an accomplished painter and sculptor who is a wonderful landscape design coach. She works differently from most, she collaborates with you, works with you to come up with the design you most want and coaches you through that process. It's a more personal way of getting the garden you want. Much less expensive than a landscape contractor. Happy Gardener

Landscape Designer for small backyard in Berkeley

May 2011

My family lives in Berkeley and we have a small back yard that we would like to landscape. We do like to go to nurseries, look at plants and garden ourselves but what we don't do is agreeing on an overall landscape design. We have two kids and a dog and ground cover needs to be picked carefully (grass, stone, gravel, sand?). Also, where does the grill go, what type of flowers/plants grow in the semi-shade and are we able to accommodate a vegetable garden? We are looking for a landscape designer who is willing to meet us in our garden, spend two hours with us and come up with a 'vision'. I will be happy to execute the project once we know how to arrange things but we need some basic ideas first. Can somebody recommend a landscaper who is not after 'the big job' but would be willing to brainstorm some ideas for/with us? Wanna-be-landcape-designer

A great company is TrainaThought Landscape Designs. They are out of Southern California, but are often in the bay area. I heard about him through a friend and was able to find a time that worked for us both to meet. He does amazing work and isn't too expensive! Minor changes have made our outdoor space more enjoyable and even added value to our home. The onwers name is Jason Traina, 805-801-6439. Joedy M

Josh Deutsch is a gardener and landscaper with a bent towards sustainability--using yards for growing food, reusing materials that would otherwise become landfill, etc. I knew him when he was tutoring my son, and just getting his landscape business--his true love--off the ground. I think he might be very flexible in suggesting yard alternatives and encouraging the homeowners to take care of the yard. His contact information is at Cynthia

Jeannie Fitch is very good at looking at your property and coming up with a variety of very creative ideas that will all work with your particular yard. She is very knowledgeable with landscaping and in many different kinds of gardens. She will come to your home and give you her suggestions and a price of how much it will cost at no charge. She has worked wonders at my preschools where there are children playing. My yard is beautiful! I would gladly recommend her.Her tel # is 925-922-0322 a fan

Hi there. I would highly recommend you call Kathleen Carson-Asher of LANDesign. She used to work for a big-name high-end landscape design firm but now has her own small but powerful team. She literally loves plants (and understands them and what they need) and loves to educate her clients about them. She does hourly consulting as well as on-going 'garden coaching' for people who want to steer their gardens themselves.We have her come once per quarter and do a major clean-up, and she always takes time to replant, make recommendations, and cut back very carefully and skillfully. We love her -- and so does our garden! Call her at 510/531-4905. Good luck! Lauran

We hired Lara Wilson from Bountiful Botanicals for our landscaping. We have an unusual yard space with some sloping and it was difficult to envision a plan for our yard. She worked with us to come up with a plan that met all of our needs (we have young kids and one of our priorities was a very safe, kid-friendly yard). She is very reasonably priced with no cost surprises, meticulous, and creative, and the end result looks terrific! She knows her plants, what grows best in shade vs. sun, colors that look good together, etc. She also is very good with choosing between flagstone, mulch, grass and granite. I would highly recommend her! Rebecca

I do have a recommendation and that is to Michael Monahan. He is a 25 year Certified Arborist, Green Certified Horticulturist and a CAL Poly grad in Horticultural Science. But more importantly he is a great person with great prices. I have used him for various projects over the years and have been extremely satisfied with his work. He also is avialable for consultations. So give him a call at 510.501.6791 or email him at michaeldmonahan [at] Carol

I have just the person for you!! Her name is Jamie Rutherford, and she has 10 years of landscaping/gardening experience in the bay area. She specializes in mixing ornamental and edible landscapes and focus on keeping the garden organic and inviting to nature; birds, bees and butterflies. She has been working for Sacred Space Gardens for the last 6 years as the head gardener and is currently working on going into business for herself. I emailed her to ask if your type of project was interesting to her, and she replied, 'I would love to consult and help design her space with an active family in mind while respecting budgetary constraints.' Kim rutherfordgardens [at] kimander

Anthony Fontaine is incredible. He can walk into any size garden in any shape and have a vision that is classy, clean and in line with the structures around it. He's also incredibly affordable. He's a one man whirlwind - jackhammered out about 40 square fee of our driveway and then went on to replant a 4'x4' sage, dig up a weeping cherry and amend the soil in about a 1/3 of our garden all in about an hour and a half. He'll work with you and your ideas or he'll give you his and then you can work together to plan. Ask him for his photo albums of previous jobs - amazing. Fontaine Design 510-320-0184 or fontonio [at] happy garden owner

You should check out Brian Whyte of Brian Whyte Designs. Super nice guy who knows his stuff. He is based out of North Berkeley but works all over the Bay Area. I've found him equally willing and able to do small and big jobs - from irrigation to full design. 510-388-4006. Heather

I recommend you contact Heidi Tarver, Berkeley Garden Coach. We hired her for a small garden redesign similar to yours, and she was terrific. Heidi consults with clients on an hourly basis, and also has several cool packages that include an initial consult and then a written plan and, if you want, ongoing coaching. She also does full installation for clients that need it. Take a look at her website and see what you think: Angie

Landscape architect for child-friendly backyard

March 2011

Hi, We are looking for a landscape architect that can help us design a backyard that will be toddler-friendly and grow with us as our family grows. We have a steep upslope in our backyard with some terracing, but it is a 'death trap' for our toddler. Our hope is to put in a play area for our child, a dining area, maybe a firepit, and a space for a garden. We are really interested in using edible plants in the landscaping. We are looking for someone who has great ideas on making this a usable space for our family, listens and responds to our ideas, can make drawings for the backyard, help us phase the overall plan, and is responsive. Needing an outdoor space

I highly recommend Arthur Brito at Arborealis. We've worked with several landscape professonals over the years (we have kids and a steep slope too), and Arthur is a great listener, thoughtful, willing to work with our ideas and budget, and great at proposing a design that works in stages (do some now, some in a few years). His number is : 522-2708 Pat

I recommend Larman-Garro landscape architecture ( They designed our entire yard including retaining walls, paths, patio, fences, irrigation,and planting. They even designed our deck for us (though we used our building contractor to install it). They are a design-build firm, so they do the design work and have their own crew do the work; so it coordinates nicely. We were happy both with the quality of the design work and the construction. DR

Looking for a great gardener/landscape architect for Rockridge garden/patio

Feb 2011

My wife and I live in a Spanish style home in Rockridge. We are in need of a competent, reasonably priced landscape architect to help us with our patio garden and an upper lawn areas. We need someone who can a) help with space planning, b) make sound planting and landscaping recommendations, c) source materials and d) handle the actual work itself. Lastly, we hope to find someone who is pleasant and reasonably priced. Many thanks and always! Fred

We love Sarah Herman. Knowledgeable, practical and lovely to work with. Mardawn

I highly recommend Claudia Vieira landscape design. She lives in Oakland, very knowledgeable about plants, esp drought tolerant natives, great resources for contractors, artistic, low key and easy to talk to. heidi

It sounds like a fun project! I'd like to recommend Jeni Webber. She is marvelous. She re-did my backyard a few years ago and I've been extremely pleased with the results. We did a total re-design with space planning, planting drought tolerant plants, building a beautiful stone patio, installing a small pond, and setting up an efficient irrigation system. She did a lot of the actual installation herself with several very competent helpers. You can see samples of her work on her website at You'll love it. Rosie

I would like to recommend our beyond fabulous landscape designer to you. His name is Andy Lenz of Sempervivum, Tel. 510-812-8954. He can help you with everything on your wish list. He just turned the weed-and-concrete landscape of our recently purchased fixer into a jewel of a front and back yard that is beautiful, useful to the kids as well as us, and was very reasonably priced. We needed to address major drainage and irrigation problems, and Andy came up with functional as well as creative solutions, e.g. diverting rainwater into a large, stone filled pit in the corner of the backyard that soaks up the water and slowly dispenses it into three neighboring gardens. Andy seems to know every plant under the sun and is able to make great recommendations towards more traditional or more native plants, whatever is needed. He is a very gifted designer and I was able to just let him know how I wanted to use the space and design solutions would just come to him. He is very conscientious of the environment, which I was very pleased with -- in our case we were able to use the larger concrete pieces and old bricks salvaged from the yard and put them back together as a retainer wall and walkway which looks amazing -- we get so many compliments and inquiries as to who did the work. And he and his crew are really nice and very easy to work with too! We are really happy we found him. Happy As Can Be

I highly recommed Sarah Ray Landscapes to anyone looking for an amazing landscape designer and contractor. After interviewing several landscape companies last year when my wife and I needed to revamp our steep North Berkeley backyard, we ultimately chose Sarah Ray Landscapes. Sarah was recommended by a business associate who worked wonders on his backyard in Orinda.Being a landscape company that does both design and construction (Sarah is a UCB trained landscape architect and licensed landscape contractor) was a selling point for us. Sarah and her workers turned our weed infested hillside into a totally usable, beautiful space with a outdoor dining patio, trellises, vegetable garden and lawn where my son and I practice soccer. We are always in the backyard and it feels like we doubled the square footage of our home. Sarah Ray Landscapes isn't the cheapest company, (nor the most expensive), but it was the best investment my wife and I have made for our home. Sarah Ray Landscapes 510.812.7498 sarahray_landdesign [at] Michael D

I would highly recommend Francisco Mayo (510 207-4974 , fmayo3065 [at] We have a big garden in North Berkeley and Francisco has been continuously working for us since 2001 and we couldnC,bt be more pleased with him and his crew. They do the regular maintenance and through the years they have done a variety of jobs, all to the highest standards. Francisco also helps with gardening/landscape decisions. We have always been impressed by his tremendous talent as a gardener and landscaper and also by his organizational and managerial skills. He has been totally reliable and available and is a very nice person. Barbara

While my husband was in Mexico our water main broke. Thinking it was an irrigation sprinkler problem in our garden, I called Bruce Sutorius for help. I can't say enough good things about Bruce. I found him extremely knowledgeable, professional, reliable and trustworthy. He quickly assessed that it was the water main instead of the sprinkler system. Not being able to turn off the 60-year old main water valve and not wanting to risk breaking it, Bruce called EBMUD and requested that they come out and turn it off. Bruce then referred me to a reputable plumbing company. After taking his wife and sick newborn to the hospital, Bruce returned the same day and thoroughly checked the water and irrigation pipes/systems to give me added pertinent technical information to the problem. Per my request, he then gave me a recommended design and estimate for having the galvanized water pipe replaced with copper piping. Bruce also recommended questions and things to consider when getting estimates from other contractors. His fee for his time and work was extremely reasonable. More importantly, Bruce was able to explain the problem to me so that I was able to understand the technicalities. Bruce answered all my questions and was able to 'think out-of-the-box.' Talking with and listening to Bruce enabled me to calm myself and feel like I could handle the situation to the surprise of my husband who was getting ready to fly back from Mexico. My husband and I would not hesitate to hire Bruce for any irrigation-type work. He has good, working technical expertise in his field, high work ethics, and exceeded my expectations of customer service. He is local -- lives in Richmond. Best to call him on his cell 510 332 0076. toconniem

Recommendation for Landscaper that does small yards

Sept 2010

We've attempted to contact many of the landscaper listings on the website and we've only had one actual reply (they said no). Everyone else did not reply at all. Sooo... We need a landscaper / landscape designer for a small front yard. Is there someone you know is willing to take on smaller jobs? Rich

We were very happy with our landscape architect Matt Hornby (not to be confused with matt horn - who may also be very good). Matt designed the outdoor space for our small Berkeley yard. We had him draw the plans with the intention of phasing the installation. Matt then installed the first phase of the design and he did a great job. He is a well trained landscape architect with tons of hands on expertise in masonry, fence and gate building. We are constantly receiving compliments on our front gate and fence from people passing by. He also strives to re-use materials and uses good environmental practices. His contact info is: bv

I recommend Heidi Tarver (Berkeley Garden Coach) for your job. She is actually a garden coach rather than a landscape designer, which means that in addition to redesigning your yard she will also help you learn how to maintain your plantings and continue to nurture a healthy, happy garden. She can teach you how to perform the work yourself, or hook you into her extensive network of garden professionals who can do the job for you. Heidi is great at understanding your needs and turning your vision into a magical garden space. Her rates are really reasonable too. Take a look at her website: or give her a call at 510-928-5591. Best of luck with your garden! Maxine

Landscape architects -- Four Dimensions?

Sept 2010

Has anyone worked with or knows of the work of Four Dimensions Landscape Co. in Berkeley? The pictures on their website look gorgeous, but I'd love to hear more about the process of design and build oversight with them. We are looking for someone with landscape architecture experience to advise on regrading and hardscaping our yard. Thanks! Anon

You may also want to look at Stacy

We just finished a major grading and hardscaping project at our house. While I know you've asked specifically about Four Dimensions, I wanted to respond to your question. We met with 3 people (from landscape architects to landscape contractors) and went with Matt Horn We are thrilled with the outcome. He completely transformed our space. He was able to get our vision (veggies, play space, eating space) and make use of all aspects and challenges of our yard without charging a lot for plans. Our lot is sloped and he problem solved the issues with us. He met with us often and was mindful of our budget constraints. His crew is kind and efficient as well. We highly recommend him and truly appreciate the space he has created.

Hi, I'm not familiar with Four Dimensions, but I do know a great landscaper: Pablo Cepero, of California Landscape Service. He does beautiful work and is super reliable and well priced. His number is 510.635.7017. Kathy

I have known and worked with Michael Thilgen of Four Dimensions for many years and I highly recommend them! Michael is a great listener, extremely creative, budget conscious, and a local expert on Bay Area plants and ecology. I am sure you will be very happy with his work! Kathy Rogers, Architect

I first heard of Michael Thilgen because of his work on Sausal Creek near our house. It turned out he was known for his work with native species, propagating many small plants wherever he could. Later, while working on a Kitchen Remodel in Rockridge, I had the opportunity to work with him. The project included a deck and a postage-stamp back yard. He was very responsive, and the project turned out really nice. Andus H Brandt, Architect

Landscape architect to transform lawn into Japanese garden

Dec 2009

Hi there, My North Berkeley house is set back from the street with a garden in front; much of which is a water-guzzling lawn. I am looking for a landscape architect who could transform my lawn area into a Japanese garden, possibly with a small meditation area. Any new design would need to integrate with my existing fruit trees and flower beds. Many thanks, jamie

Richard Larson in Piedmont is an outstanding Landscape architect! He's been in the business for more than 20 years & has done work on residential projects as well as large scale corporate projects. He's a great resource that I would highly recommend. His phone number is (510) 652-4456. Shaun

I have just had my backyard landscaped by Leigh Gronet, owner of Leigh Designs. Call (510) 559-6969 or visit I love her design-it is everything I asked for, and of course more as I have no creative talent at all. She has a wonderful computer program she made that will show you exactly how your landscaping will look with the finished design. Judy

A fantastic lanscaper is Brad Goya - SF Greenspaces, 415- 845-3596, sfgreenspaces [at] He does small yards, big yards, builds decks, fences, irrigations systems, lighting, stone and concrete work... Great designs with drought tolerant, native plants. He's fairly priced, honest, and easy to work with. Elizabeth

I highly recommend Sue Oda Landscape Architect she is highly experience and her portfolio is wonderful you will be really impress once you see it her number is (510) 684-8789 give her a call you will be glad you did. Mr. Martinez

I highly recommend Sue Oda, Landscape Architect. She's very experienced in native and low maintainance garden design, as well as Japanese gardens. I'm sure she'll do a great job in creating a design that integrates with your existing plants and architecture, gives expression to your aesthetic vision, and enhances the curb appeal. As an architect, I've recommended her often. She's very attentive to the needs and wishes of the client, loves her work, and is a pleasure to work with. Her website is, and phone is 510-684-8789. You can also call at 510-234-4088 Milton Tong Architect

Pamela Gleason does beautiful garden designs. She's very knowledgeable about all aspects of landscaping and plants. She does whatever you want - in the way of just a discussion to throw up ideas, a plan, or following through a whole project, plus organizing maintenance. Fiona

Stephan Landau of Landau Landscapes (316-6691) is a great designer, should you decide you don't need the expense of an architect. He's got decades of experience and also installs hardscapes in stone and wood, water features, and ecological irrigation and water cachement systems. Stephan's done many Japanese-inspired, zen-like gardens, including a recent koi pond and waterfall, and has great taste. He knows how to integrate design with existing plantings and trees (like at my place and my hillside neighbor's). He truly blends form & function, aesthetics & ecology, listening & creating - all within a budget. Stephan's a real pleasure to work with and might be the right match for your project. Good luck. goldman

Landscape designer needed in Rockridge

August 2009

Hello. We are in need of a competent, dependable and reasonably priced service to help up landscape/maintain our garden and assist with the repair of (or perhaps installation of a new) an irrigation system. We're in the upper Rockridge area. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks! Fred

We recently had our backyard landscaped by McCaffery Brothers and had a very positive experience. Darren spent great time and effort writing up a detailed menu bid based on our needs. We live in the Berkeley Hills and had special problems with our shady, sloping back yard. Darren was able to come up with cost effective suggestions, always detailing exactly what his crew would do and what materials they would use. His bid was not the lowest one we received, but it was the most precise.

When Darren and his crew did the work, the only surprises were good ones. The work they did was excellent and cost exactly what he promised it would. I heartily recommend them for any landscaping project.

In addition to being honest, skilled, knowlegable, and professional, Darren and his workers (some family and some long-time employees) were great to have around. They were very kind to my 2-year-old son, who became quite attached to them. My son started calling our yard ''Darren's back yard''. They were also considerate about noise during his nap times.

I wish that everyone we had hired to work on our house had done as good a job as McCaffery Brothers. I encourage you to talk with them about your project. phone # 510-455-0724 Anne

Want to dress up my deck and patio

July 2009

I have a deck and patio that are a blank canvas and I'd like help putting in place a nice ''look'' plants in pots, etc. I think it's less than a landscape designer, but someone who understands plants and placement and watering needs. And although I have a very modest budget I'd love to achieve a sunset / smith look ....any suggestions on with whom to work? Thanks for your recommendations!

Francisco Mayo (510-527-1355 or cell 510-207-4974) is a landscape designer with a wonderful aesthetic eye. He will understand your small space and will know what plants will work, what irrigation to use, etc. He is genuine and easy to work with. We have used him for several projects (big and small) and have always been pleased with the result. Good luck! -RK

James Bronson is a landscape designer who worked for me. He's very reasonably priced and does a very nice job. He's also very pleasant to work with. You can call James at 544-9729. David

Landscape designer who listens!

July 2009

Can anyone recommend a good landscaper with vision at an affordable price. we want to re-do the area in the front of our house. Right now its full of weeds but I was thinking with the water conservation everywhere, that a nice rock design might look nice. Maybe a few drought resistant shrubs in the middle surround by black rock/bark/mulch. Nothing too complicated I've had bad experience with landscapers not doing completely what you asked for so I am looking forward to referrals from happy customers. Please advise if you have someone in mind. Hopefully i can take a look at their previous work. HELP!! es

We had a terrific experience with Lara at Bountiful Botanicals (415-290-6609) when we re-did our front yard earlier this year. She listened to what we wanted, incorporated all of our requests, and made terrific suggestions for things we would never have thought of. She and her crew have a great eye for aesthetics- what they designed and installed ended up even nicer than I could have imagined. They took care to preserve existing structures (walkways, brick) that we didn't want to have to re-do, which was a challenge since we were also installing irrigation and lighting. Lara was mindful of costs, and the project ended up coming in slightly under estimate. The final result was gorgeous- I truly enjoy coming home to my house every day. The crew was professional, and it was a pleasure working with them. I couldn't be happier with how it all turned out. Lauren

I would highly recommend Jose Curiel and his crew for landscape projects. They did numerous jobs for us (and our neighbors) this spring. Jose did everything he told us he would do and then some. Everyone was reliable, friendly, flexible, competitively priced and everyone worked hard every single day. They never showed up late, and in fact, they were always early. I give Jose and his crew the highest possible recommendation. Jose can be reached at 510.821.4270. kw

Landscape Architect to design our front stairs and yard

June 2009

We're looking for a Landscape Architect to design our front stairs and yard. We would like a recommendation from a happy customer. Mary

Michael McFadden at Planted Earth Design does a beautiful job. He's very easy to work with and ''gets it.'' I think he's even won an award for his work. You can check him out at or call him at (510) 868-2733 Jo

I highly recommend Feyerabend & Madden Landscape Design (510) 450-0803. They create high quality beautiful gardens - stone, brick, decks, arbors, stairs, retaining walls - all outdoor structure. They have an amazing plant knowledge and palette. They are sensitive to the client's needs, desires and budget. They work with highly skilled contractors and are dedicated to making sure the project comes out exactly right. I have been associated with Bobbi Feyerabend and Georgia Madden both personally and professionally for 10 years. Check out their simple website Stephanie

Tomi Kobara as a landscape architect in Oakland that has a lot of experience designing and planning gardens in the East Bay. You can check out her website at: She has done wonders with steps/walls, hardscape, deck and planting design. She designs artful spaces that function nicely with the house and site. She is also very professional and reliable. I have really enjoyed working with her and we love our garden. You can contact her at (510)420-1197 Priscilla

Architect to design deck and patio area

May 2009

I need a reliable and visionary landscape architect to design and build a new deck and patio area in my backyard. Does anyone have any recent deck and landscape architect recommendations? Thanks! judye

InsideOut Design did an amazing job on our back yard. Gorgeous, unusual design for deck (curved, no less!) and hardscaping (decomposed granite with slate for paths; stone benches). Creative plant and tree selections. Penn Phillips, who heads up the landscape end of the design firm is easy to work with and very hands-on and accessible when the project is being completed. He remains a good resource to consult as our yard evolves. I highly recommend their firm for landscaping and architectural projects alike. Contact Penn Phillips of InsideOut Design at 510-655-7674. Jenny

You should contact Erin Conner ? she and her partner Anne started their own architecture and design firm several years ago after both working for well-known design firms in San Francisco. This project sounds like it is the exact kind of work they do; focusing on the connection between indoors and outdoors with an emphasis on maximizing living space in creative and cost effective ways. Both of them have extensive backgrounds in residential architecture and landscape architecture / horticulture so they are really good with projects that integrate both. They have designed some of the most creative decks and back yards that I have seen. We hired them to do some schematic design on a house remodel and they were wonderful to work with and affordable compared to others we interviewed. They do have a website ? - but you should call or email them to see more in-depth photos & projects ? their phone is 510-531-0540 or email erin [at] Best of luck with the project! meghan

I would recommend Tomi Kobara as a landscape architect who designs beautiful, unique and functional gardens. She has lots of experience with deck/patio and planting design. She is very professional, reliable and enjoyable to work with. I have been very satsfied with her work and the resulting garden spaces are quite lovely. Her number is: (510)420-1197. Good luck. P.

Redo Yard - make it usable for 7yo son

May 2009

Hi: I'd like to find someone who, at a low cost, can come and design a user friendly backyard for our 7 yo son. He's into basketball, skateboarding and baseball. We have a pretty small space...however, if properly utilized, could be much more conducive to what he wants to do. Currently, we have to go to the park for every activity. It'd be nice to have a space where he could go out right here at home. Thanks. Mom of Active Boy

Jose @ Maravilla Landscaping 510-381-0399,has been my go to guy for quite some time now. He is amazing. He's very reasonable and does exceptional work for the price. Just last year he installed an all new irrigation system, built a pergola and layed some stone in my backyard. He's always been a pleasure to work with and really has good ideas. Best of luck. A

Green Gallery Landscaping

May 2009

If anyone has worked with Nathan Parsley of Green Gallery Landscaping in Berkeley, I'd appreciate hearing about your experience. We're thinking of hiring him to do a rather extensive overhaul of our back yard, including a deck and patio. We're not working with an architect - we have a conceptual design but no specifications and will rely on him to work out the details - so I'm particularly interested to hear if you had a similar situation and if you're happy with the end result. thanks! anon

Green Gallery Landscaping does excellent work. Nathan Parsley has a great crew of guys that work for him. They come on time and get the job done in a timely fashion. We had them do a few jobs for us over the years and have always been happy. I also have friends how have worked with Nathan and been quite pleased. He has a complete understanding of landscaping and plants and knows how to get the job done. You'll be happy with your results using Green Gallery Landscaping. marie

Landscape designer/contractor for small garden walkway

March 2009

I would like to take out some parts of our backyard lawn and make it into a walkway to save water and to give my three year old an area where he can ride his tricycle. We have a well established garden with plants so the project will be small, just the walkway. I haven't decided whether to do natural stone or gravel (recommendation welcome!) I am hoping to find someone who doesn't mind small projects, has a good design capability so that the walkway will be integrated smoothly into our existing landscape, and can install at reasonable cost. I read past posts but most of the recommendation seemed to be for larger projects. We are located in Orinda. Thank you! shiho

You should call Tamar Carson Landscaping. I started with her for a small project and have since used her and her company to redo all of my yards. She and her husband are a great team, reasonably priced and very detail oriented. They also know how to stick to a budget. I was really really happy with her and have recommended her to a lot of people who are also happy. Kim

Landscape design for major yard re-do

Feb 2009

I am planning to re-landscape my large yard in North Berkeley, and am more than a little overwhelmed with all the choices presented here. Can anybody help me narrow it down by recommending a local, personable contractor who is reliable, skilled, and reasonable? My project involves tree work, lots of carpentry, hot tub installation, some stonework, planting, irrigation, etc. Thanks, Renee

We LOVED our work with McCaffrey Brothers last summer. They re- designed and re-planted our backyard...including dealing with a lot of bamboo, building a fence, putting in a watering system, replacing stairs, facing a retaining wall and more. The folks are GREAT to work with and their prices were favorable compared to 2 other bids we got. Nikki

I would definitely suggest you call Matt Horn for Landscaping. He helped us plan and design our front and backyard, demo an old brick patio and an overgrown jungle, level out an uneven slope, install a drip system, build a beautiful fence and arbor, and put in a large flagstone patio. He and his crew were always polite, neat, and friendly and showed up everyday, in spite of some pretty horrible weather. Matt is a great guy and although his bid wasn't the lowest, it was reasonable, and you get what you pay for. His number is 510-658-6088 or matthornlandscaping [at] sarah

You need Matt Horn Landscaping! We had Matt and his team do our front, side and back yards last summer. We had lots of rock and overgrown, leggy plantings that just weren't working for us. Now we have a beautiful flagstone patio with pathways throughout our yards, gorgeous fencing (that our neighbors like as well -- nice on both sides), wonderful arbors and raised-bed planting boxes, not to mention the amazing plantings throughout! We were able to save what we wanted and Matt welcomed our participation--as much as we desired--to pick out and place the plants. He installed a small lawn for us with pop-up sprinklers and drip irrigation throughout. He's also an arborist and really helped bring in light on one side of our yard that is dark due to a neighbor's huge tree. With our neighbor's permission, Matt trimmed their tree nicely for both of us. He transplanted a tree we wanted to keep and gave us great guidance on all the plantings. Matt and his team were also wonderful to work with. The project lasted exactly the estimated amount of time and on budget. His crew left everything clean and tidy at the end of each day and were great with my toddler, who napped through their work every afternoon. Matt moved to Berkeley last summer from Marin, so he's local. Our lot if fairly small, but with all the demo required, ours was not exactly a small job. I know he has worked on much larger yards as well. I can't recommend him highly enough. You can reach Matt at 510.658.6088 or matthornlandscaping [at] Good luck! Tamara

Jan 2009

I strongly recommend Bountiful Botanicals. They recently designed and installed an amazing garden for our Oakland residence. Lara, the owner, was so helpful and really listened to what we wanted. The garden came out better than we had expected, and on a smaller budget than anticipated. The crew that worked at our home was respectful and cleaned up everyday before they left. Their attention to detail was amazing. I wish all contractors could stay on schedule and budget like this. We also hired them to maintain the garden going forward since so much care was given to it from the start. You can call or email Lara with any questions. lara [at] or 415-290-6609 Betsy

2007 - 2008 Recommendations

Landscape architect/designer for tiny backyard

Oct 2008

We're ready to give up our tiny patch of (now dry) grass that has passed as a backyard. We'd like professional help (landscape architect or designer?) in creating a primarily hardscape design that is appropriate to our home, our soil (yes, it's clay), our lot, and community. Any suggestions? Looking forward to being outdoors

Hello, I would like to recommend Jose Maravilla (510) 381- 0399. He's fabulous, he will work with you to create a beautiful and functional backyard. He has been my go to guy for a few years now. He is knowledgeable in masonry work as well as irrigation, decking and more! He's also very reasonably priced. I am sure you won't be disappointed with his work. Best of luck! Aurora

Try Sharon Silverman, proprietor of Dans le Jardin; 510.851.2203;Kensington. She is in the business of designing, building, and maintaining gardens, (in conjunction with a network of skilled experts). I have not used her services, yet a group of ladies met in her garden to tour her work and learn how she approaches her business. She is a gracious hostess, maintains a beautiful garden and enthusiastically/competently addressed our gardening questions. karen

I know someone who does beautiful natural stone work -- laying flagstone patios, walkways, retaining walls, etc., along with designing the whole space, including all the planting. He's done work for two friends of mine, and transformed their yards, and has done some lovely stone tree surrounds for my sidewalk. He's really an artist with a great eye for design, as well as a skilled craftsman. He can work wonders with a dead, weedy back yard! His name is Robert -- his business email is urbanoasissf [at] Mary

As has been posted to similiar questions, Bay Area Stone Gardens (Bill Armijo is the owner) has done some beautiful work in the East Bay. Check out for before and after photos as well as contact info. He is very easy to work with and has a keen sense of detail. He walks you through the process, takes you on stone tours and lays out everything so it is easy to understand. Happy Customer

You can contact Tomi Kobara, a licensed landscape architect in Oakland. Her new website is under construction ( so it's best to phone her at (510) 420-1197. (She was also featured in Sunset magazine last summer). She specializes in residential landscaping -- she works closely with you to determine what works best for your family. Her work is beautiful, ecologically sensitive, and she is also a very lovely person. My friends have all been really happy with the work she's done. Karen

I can highly recommend the Bluhon Planning Group (contact Peter Bluhon, 510- 841-3255). We hired Peter to implement a design plan for our front yard. He did an amazing job! He was able to evaluate the plans with a critical eye, suggesting changes to create a more functional and beautiful space. He approached each decision with great thought, care and precision. Peter has a great vision for overall site planning, materials and plants. He also took into account the budget we were working with. Our project included hardscape (stone steps and walkway, cement driveway, stucco), planting and irrigation. His group of workers were highly skilled and hardworking. We will be using Peter's full range of talents, design and build, to landscape our backyard. Peter is a perfectionist, which shows in his work. It was a pleasure to work with Peter and his group. Nancy

We hired Tamar Carson Landscaping (510-65408242) to design and install our back garden 5 years ago and it has been fabulous. We were so happy with what they did that we had them come back and do our front garden this year! Tamar and her husband Rogelio totally transformed our front garden and entry, re-doing the front path and stairs, building a beautiful wall that also functions as a bench, planting, and even helping us choose new house paint colors -- all with tremendous attention to detail and craftsmanship. They worked hard to find out what would reflect our tastes and style and choose plants and materials that are appropriate to the site and to our climate and this area. Although they tend to do mostly larger projects, they are still very cost sensitive and attentive to requests for creating low maintenance gardens. In invite you to walk by and see our new front garden and entry, 1610 McGee Avenue. Caroline and Robb

Major landscape/pool project in my back yard

Sept 2008

I live in Lafayette and am considering doing a major landscape/pool project in my back yard. I did speak with Lazar, I like the fact that they do everything from start to finish. Design, construction and maintenance. Does anyone have any experience with them. If you have other recommendations that would be great too. Carole

We hired Lazar last year after reading good reviews on the BPN. We were very pleased with the work they did, and they were great about working within our budget. One thing I really appreciated was the money planning part. At the beginning, the owner, Gary Lazar, was very straightforward about the big picture - what we could do given our budget. So we knew we could get the fence and new walkway we needed, plus some of the plantings we wanted to do. Then the designer filled in the details - this type of material, that kind of tree. We knew before work started exactly how much it was going to cost, and that is how much it cost, not a penny more. They were great about coming back out to finish up details as needed. We got a beautiful redwood fence, designed to blend in with our 100-year-old Craftsman, and a gorgeous flagstone walkway that is edged with bricks we salvaged from our old chimney. We get compliments all the time on the cutouts in the fence they crafted to accommodate old trees in our yard. I wish we'd had the budget to have Lazar do everything we wanted to do in the garden but we are very happy with what they did. Look at their website to see examples of their work. Ginger

Someone to help us make sense of our tangled mess

August 2008

Hello, We are looking for a talented and reliable (very important) landscaper/gardener for our front and back yards which have been sorely neglected. We just need someone to clean up and perhaps help us change some of our plants. Eventually, we'd like to plant a vegetable garden, but for now we need someone to help us make sense of our tangled mess before it's winter! Thank you. Bethany

It sounds like you may have a project similar to one we just completed in July. The previous owners of our house put at least 3 layers of rock in our back and side yards. This along with crazy out of control bushes was the landscaping we inherited. We hired Matt Horn Landscaping and couldn't be happier with the results. Our lot was scraped clean (we marked plants we wanted to keep, but there weren't many) and Matt and his crew gave us great usable spaces. We now have new beautiful fences and arbors, gorgeous flagstone pathways and patio, a small patch of lawn for kids to play on, wonderful water-saving plants and trees, and two raised beds. He transplanted one magnolia tree we did want to keep and it's pulling through even after going through some heat waves right after the transplant. Matt gave us an accurate estimate, was able to begin work quickly, and finished the job on time. We added a couple of things as we went along and Matt kept us in the loop of the cost and time of everything. His crew was very friendly and cleaned up our yard at the end of every day. Matt is also an arborist and was able to trim our neighbor's tree (with their permission of course) that was blocking a lot of light and overtaking some of our smaller trees. We're very happy with our yard and would highly recommend Matt. You can contact Matt Horn (he recently moved to Berkeley from Marin) at 510.658.6088. He can put you in touch with me if you're interested in seeing our yard. Tamara

Redesign of our small yard in Alameda

August 2008

I am looking for someone who can re-design our small front and back yards at our Alameda home. It needs to be someone who can help us make the best use of our very small backyard, minimizing dead spaces, optimizing 'traffic' flow, and making it feel as large and airy as possible for its size. We'd like to stick to drought-resistant native plants and other materials light on the environment. We would love some sort of artificial surface in part of the back yard that can be used like grass but does not need to be watered or mowed (field turf?) as we have two small children who would love to play out there, and maybe even have a small play structure. And of course we don't have a huge budget, so we are hoping to find someone who can give us a range of options based on our limited means. Anybody have recent good experience to share? Thank you! Sara

Hi Sara, I can highly recommend James Bronson III who is a great landscape designer. He designs, installs, and also does yard maintenance. You can email James at 544-9729 or email him at jbronsonlll at (those are three ''L''s in the email address, not ''ones'' or ''i''s). David

I highly recommend for landscape design Ive Haugeland of Shades of Green Landscape Architecture (323 Pine St., Sausalito, CA 94965, 415-332-1485. info at I saw an ad in Dwell Magazine and the aesthetic was modern and functional. For a one hour consultation in our yard she had great ideas. Hugely imaginative. Then we paid for a proper design, and she was really great about letting us decide what to do first and when to implement the elements. She was a dream to work with and not, ''What's your budget? Blah, blah.'' She put in everything that we wanted and more. Months later, we had friends and a favorite contractor actually install her design, over the course of the summer. I highly recommend Bob Devengenzo (925-930-7186) for that). His work is immaculate, he has been in drainage, construction, and landscape for 40 yrs. He read Ive's plans handily, and the next day had everything ready to go to start construction. The deck he just built for us is like art or furniture. We love it. He is VERY detailed and is always thinking ahead and solving problems. We've used him for 12 years, mostly drainage, sprinklers, and landscaping at two houses, though he does major construction of houses, too. We trust his work--thorough and meticulous. He has the same crew working for him for at least 10-20 years. I'm happy to answer more questions about Ive Haugeland or Bob Devengenzo. They both work all over the Bay Area. Kim

Worked with Robert Trachtenberg?

August 2008

Has anyone worked with Robert Trachtenberg for landscaping? Please advise on the pros and cons. Thank you! anon

We had Robert Trachtenberg design and install our garden and hardscape last year. He came up with terrific and creative ideas, integrated our chopped up yard remarkably well and was very receptive to our input. He and his crew were reliable, respectful and truly a pleasure to work with. I highly recommend him. jennifer

my mother recently hired robert trachtenberg, and this is what she had to say: 'i have loved working with robert trachtenberg and particularly the designer with whom i worked directly on my project, david lindberg. they are conscientious, honest, relatively reasonable in cost and very imaginative. i could not be happier with the results.' i'd like to add that her garden - albeit small - turned out GREAT! it's creative, unique and beautifully reflects my mom's aesthetic. love mom's garden

Need a skilled design firm for backyard plan

June 2008

We are looking for a landscape design firm to develop a design plan for our backyard and make specific recommendations about location of and materials for our hardscape, as well as the overall design. We are design dummies and really looking for input based on the layout of our yard, architecture of our house (story book tudor), personal needs (we like to entertain), etc. We are on a budget but at this point we realize it's probably worth it to engage a very skilled individual or firm even if it means spending our 2008 budget on the design plan then implementing it in phases over the next few years. Can you help? Thanks in advance Jane

I am happy to recommend the Bluhon Planning Group for a project like you describe. It sounds very similar to our backyard relandcaping project that they did for us recently. My husband and I knew we wanted to completely re-do the backyard of our El Cerrito home but we didn't know exactly where to start. Peter Bluhon and his team were wonderful to work with. He and his designer Elise had immediate great ideas about streamlining and simplifying the space, making it kid-friendly, deer-proof, drought-resistant and beautiful. Their landscape architectural design services were great. Our project included new concrete, patio, minor grading and planting. Peter has a keen eye for clean, elegant design and can guide the project from start to finish. His team of workers were highly skilled, warm-hearted and hardworking. They are licensed landscape architects with a focus on overall site planning, hardscape, materials, and planting. You can reach the Bluhon Planning Group at 510-841-3255. Contact is Peter Bluhon. Feel free to email me if you have any other questions. Good luck! Kim

We were very happy with Lazar Landscaping, who did exactly the kind of planning you are talking about. We could only afford to implement Phase One of the design they did for us, but in another year or two, we'll have them back to do Phase Two! Their website has a lot of nice examples of their work.

Help designing a garden that we will plant

May 2008

Can anyone recommend a garden expert or landscape designer who would be willing to work alongside us to put in a garden? We want to do something nice with our garden but don't quite have the skills & know how. We want to do the installation, with help, and want to do most of the design, with help, rather than hand the whole business over to someone else! We'd rather hire someone than lean on our more garden savvy friends for such a big job. Thank you. Jenny

It must be the ''Greening'' of Berkeley and Albany this year: so many requests for garden help. Once again, I'd like to recommend Claudia Vieira Garden Design for help with your garden design, and she is also available for garden coaching. She can help you design and install the garden of your dreams, or just help you choose plants, and generally figure out what's working and what's not in your garden, and how to make it thrive. She has been helping me in my garden this year with great results. She can be reached at 510/653-6535 or cvgardendesign at

I can't say enough nice things about Lara Wilson from Bountiful Botanicals at . Despite not having any recommendations on BPN, I gave her a call. She's the best contractor that we've ever had the pleasure of working with and it gives us hope that there are indeed great contractors out there.

Lara can be as involved as you want. You mentioned you needed coaching and would be great for that. She is extremely knowledgeable about plants and a great communicator/teacher.

Though our yard is relatively small, she invested lots of time with us. She is genuinely concerned that she was giving us exactly garden that we wanted and more.

She is even happy to meet with us on weekends (so rare!).When we couldnmt meet, she e-mailed us extremely detailed e-mail, which I loved. One other thing is important when considering a contractor is Larams prices. Her prices are reasonable and she is extremely conscientious of staying within our budget. And if something is higher, she makes every effort to explore other options and make other suggestions as well.

We are at the final stages of our front yard makeover and have gotten so many compliments on it already. We live in a pedestrian and biker friendly street and so many strangers have come up to us to say what a wonderful job Lara has done. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I can share some pictures with you. Happy in my garden

I would like to recommend a unique and amazing designer and gardener, Michelle Bayba. I have never had a gardener like her. She is knowledgeable about all aspects of gardening, and she designs gardens as if they were her own. Shems full of energy and natural creativity. She is personable and fun to work with, does amazing work, and has very reasonable rates given her skill level.

A Berkeley native, Michelle knows the local plants and takes into account the practicality of a garden and how you use it. She knows how to design a garden from scratch, or as in my case, take a straggly garden and properly prune it, fill it in with new plants, nourish them organically, and upgrade the irrigation system.

Since I hired Michelle, she now has four clients just on my neighborhood block. She has individualized to each of our needs-- and we are all thrilled. Elizabeth

Native plants landscape gardener needed

May 2008

Looking for a landscape gardener who specializes in Bay Area (or at least west coast) native plantings, but who is also willing to put in a lawn (native grass?) and can help repair sprinklers. Saw only one old recommendation online. The natives part is key here. anon

My native garden was designed by Claudia Vieira and it is lovely and flourishing. She is also available for garden coaching to help you learn to maintain your own garden after it is installed. 653-6535 heidi

In response to your question, I highly recommend Christopher Shein of Wildheart gardens. He can be reached at wildheartgardens at or 510-368-2811. e has over 15 years of experience on the subject. He also lectures at Merrit College on the subject. I also have personally worked with him and recommend him highly. His knowledge of natives is impressive and he also works with edibles and medicinals. anonymous

Native plants are so rewarding to grow! The hummingbirds and butterflies will be most appreciative, and you can look forward to a beautiful yard. So check out this website: This is for a local annual native plants garden tour, organized by Kathy Kramer. The website includes a list of Landscape Designers who work with native plants. You also might want to tour gardens (like the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden) featuring native plants to get some idea about what you might like. Note that if drought-tolerant native plants are what you like, after the first year or two you will not be watering them very often. In that case, you may want to design the yard before putting a lot of money into fixing an obsolete irrigation system. LK

Check out Vanessa Kuemmerle at Vee Horticulture.... she does beautiful work with native and low water plants. I used to work for a landscape contractor and we installed lots of her designs - they were all lovely and she's a great person too. She was featured in the April issue of Sunset! Jennifer

May 2008

Re: Searching for a wonderful gardener/landscaper
I can highly recommend highly James Bronson III. He has an incredible eye for landscape design -- and a way with plants (a friend raves about how her bougainvillea have thrived since he began taking care of her garden). You can contact him at 544- 9729, or email jbronsonlll at Best wishes for your garden project! David

May 2008

Re: Relationship Help - With My Garden
You sound like me. I had gotten tired of relying on professional help to keep my garden manageable, and even with professional help and an irrigation system, many of my plants weren't thriving and I couldn't figure out why. Claudia Vieira is a landscape designer who has just recently branched out into garden coaching. She is helping me learn how to maintain my garden so I will enjoy it more and not keep wasting time and money on things that don't work out. In our first session we analyzed problems, and she showed me how to trim, move, feed, and adjust water to the plants that were in trouble. Suddenly I am enjoying puttering in my garden and thinking up questions for my next session of garden coaching. You can reach Claudia at cvgardendesign at or 653-6535. Heidi

Gardener who also works as a consultant?

April 2008

Hi - I'm looking for a gardener who I guess also works as a consultant? I have several smaller garden projects that I want to do around my house (mainly involving plants) and I'm limited on funds so I'm trying to do it all myself. What I'm hoping is to find someone who can come over here and sit with me a couple of hours and go over all the ideas that I have. I'm just learning about the gardening world so I want someone who can help me pick out plants right for my area, talk to me about what's feasible and not feasible, and really help me come up with a ''plan'' that would work with my skill ability and also time constraints. I guess maybe they would charge me by the hour? Anyone have a recommendation for me? would-be green thumb enthusiast

I know of a wonderful ''Garden Coach'' named Christine Wiseman. I've seen what she can do in a garden, on a limited budget, and it's truly amazing. She can help you plan your garden; pick out your plants and teach you how to care for your garden and she can come back as often as you need her too. Christine is also a professional artist and is trained in landscape design so she has a wonderful eye for design and aesthetics. You can call Christine at 909 908-0868 (she lives in Oakland) or try her email at Christine at

Leigh Gronet, of Leigh Designs, does fabulous digital garden design (you get to see what it will look like before it's planted). She can also do a design on paper with a key for the plants for a lower cost. Her website: Phone: 559-6969

I highly recommend Alisa Seidliz with Loving Gardens as a garden consultant. She has a great deal of experience in planning gardens to honor the feel & use of the space not just for people but also for butterflies, wild life & pets. Alisa helped us figure out how to create flow & form for our pathway. She would be an excellent choice to consult in the formative phase of a garden plan & project. Deena

Garden remodel - the whole 9 yards

March 2008

We need someone to help us navigate a garden remodel including lighting, masonry, water feature, the whole nine yards. We had one person by and did not find it helpful. Has anyone got a recommendation? Actually, I'm not even sure who we need; a landscape architect? Landscape designer? Our yard is average sized. Anyone out there had a good experience? MM

We worked with Matt Hornby, who has a masters in Landscape Architecture from Cal and does wonderful work with stone (his specialty). He dealt with irrigation, lighting, etc... The yard looks amazing. He can be reached at (510) 717-1342 or matthornby72 at Good luck Sheri

I highly recommend Jeni Webber (! She did my gardens (frontyard and backyard) and I've been very very happy with the results. The garden design included a raised patio as well as a pond. She also took care of the irrigation system. Truly excellent and lovely work. Jeni is very personable, knowledgeable and dedicated to native plants and sustainable design. Enjoy! rosie

When I started to write this post, I had trouble finding the right way to express how happy our whole family has been with Julie Gordon Landscaping in Berkeley. Julie redesigned and transformed our backyard from a depressing, dark space into the highlight of our house. We used to daydream about selling our house, but what she did for our yard has made us want to stay, just so we can enjoy it. And Julie is conscientious, responsive, on-time, and on-budget. Oh, and she listens to her customers, too. You will not regret giving her a call (510-507-7373) or email (julie at

Landscaper who specializes in native plants

Feb 2008

Hi All, I would really appreciate recommendations for a good landscaper who can help us achieve our dreams for our yard. We hope to find someone who specializes in local east bay native plants and can help us design a garden that is low maintenance and attracts butterflies and wildlife. All suggestions appreciated! Nicole

yard art is a wonderful, small, creative landscaping business in berkeley/oakland that specializes in hands-on design, installation and maintenance of gardens and beautiful outdoor spaces. we worked with them over the fall and loved them! they create their environments with no chemicals and emphasize natives and drought-tolerant plants. they also build with salvaged materials when possible, and the result is a magical, eco-responsible transformation of your yard without breaking the bank. this is a mother-daughter team of artisans (dj & carol). i highly recommend their services. great to work with. dj's cell is 510-292-1512. lesley

Check out InsideOut, they are local (Berkeley/Oakland), wonderful people, and we were very pleased with their work. They have a website at or you can call them at 655-7674. Brenda

Hello, I would like to recommend Steve Rudy of Rare Earth Landscape. He has had his business for over 30 years. He is a great person to work with and his crew is very hard working. His work has been featured in Sunset magazine. He has great ideas and a vast knowledge of local plants. anon

We just finished a fairly large landscaping project with Matt Horn Landscaping (510) 658-6088 and couldn't be more pleased. He and his crew were considerate, flexible, honest and did a beautiful job. They worked throughout December and January; often coming to work even when the weather was miserable. Matt is a super nice guy and very knowledgeable. He advised us on hardscape, built a gate, fence and sandbox and helped us choose plants/trees and flowers that worked for our space. He also put in an irrigation system an lighting. They were not the least expensive bid but they were reasonable and I think we definitely got what we paid for. We would absolutely hire him again and recommend him highly. sarah

We worked with McCaffrey Brothers landscaping on our back yard project this past year,. This was our fourth project with Kevin and Darren. We always get competitive bids, and the McCaffrey's came in near the middle. Here's what they did for us:
- they evaluated our plans over several sit-downs, and came back with an estimate that was granular, and where appropriate had several choices for us with expense ranges noted
- they went to American Soil with us to advise on stone, decomposed granite and arranged for delivery
- we had daily check-ins where they detailed what had been completed, and what, if any, challenges came up and worked with us to figure out design changes when they were needed.
- they cleaned up the yard EVER DAY, leaving it tidy, even though it was under heavy construction
- they installed an irrigation systems with large feeders, and then trained me on the installation of drip runs to plants and trees.
- they provided a detailed invoice every week, which Kevin reviewed with us, and at the end of the project presented us a portfolio of invoices (a copy of everything we had paid) and a neat and tidy stack of receipts for raw materials, dump runs, and other supplies. Anyway, you can contact Darren or Kevin at 510.455.0724 and their web site here:, or me and come over and see their work. tjay

Landscaper for "white" garden

Feb 2008

We are going to be planting a ''WHITE'' garden on a blank canvas. We would like to work with trees, shrubs, grasses, vines, lawn, flowers all in shades of green, and white/cream, (hostas, jasmine, crepe myrtle), but no color. Has anyone had experience with a landscaper who is versed in ''moon gardens''? Moon Garden fan

This isn't a direct answer to your question and you might already know about this...but one of the most famous ''white gardens'' in the world is that designed by Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst Castle in England. The following are links to photos and plant descriptions of that garden: This might be additional inspiration and information for your garden! Garden lover

Garden design using native plants

Feb 2008

I'm thinking of removing my front lawn to replace with natives. I started doing it last fall but got bogged down with the design. Want to hire consultant who can look at the big picture to assist me with design; I want to do the work myself. Any recommendations? Thanks. anonymous

To the person looking for help with garden design using native plants, I know just the person. You can get more information about Roxy Wolosenko at her website: Good luck! Chris

I am responding to the 'native plants garden design consultant needed' question and the 'need to help plant a vegetable garden question.' I would highly recommend Christopher Shein from Wildheart gardens for both questions. He has been planting and teaching about native and edible gardens for greater than 15 years and also teaches about the subjects through his permaculture design class at Merrit College landscape horticulture department. He converted my lawn into a prolific and beautiful native and edible garden that is partly on a greywater system. He works efficiently and with integrity, and I found him to be very knowledgeable about natives and sustainable landscaping. He can be reached at 510-368-2811. He also has a website at Runa

I recently hired a landscape designer, Sharon Silverman from Dans Le Jardin L.L.C., who has been gardening in the SF Bay Area for over 20 years, and provides every level of landscaping service: garden design, installation, maintenance and garden coaching (by the hour). She is well-versed in California native, drought tolerant gardens and has recently installed such a garden in the front of a home on the Arlington near Kensington. I know she would love the opportunity to work with someone like you that is truly interested in learning how to install and care for onems own garden. Moreover, she has lots of experience with working on projects in stages, while keeping the lbig picturen in mind, so I know she would respect your goal of wanting to have the ultimate design in mind that is to be achieved over time. She can be reached at 510-851-2203 or by email at Sharon at Kathy

check out under professional landscapers for several good folks, most of whom work with natives. good luck! Tamara

Landscape architect who can do both hardscape and softscape

Jan 2008

Hi There, I'm looking for more recent recommendations for a landscape architect who can do both hardscape and softscape and who is reasonably priced. Thanks in advance for your recommendations! Elaine

I'd highly recommend Sarah Ray of the Strada Design group in Kensington. Sarah designed and installed an elaborate English perennial garden in my backyard, including tiered rock walls, and a graveled courtyard and planterbeds in the front of my house. Both yards were total messes to begin with. I gave Sarah an idea of what kinds of gardens and plants I liked and a budget and she came back with several design options for the front and back yards that were great! She also used great contractors-- especially the person who did the walls. And I was so happy with the results--beautiful gardens that are becoming better with age. Sarah can be reached at 510-812-7498 or at sarahray_stradadesign at She listens well, does great design, and aims to please so I highly recommend her. Virginia

I was delighted with the landscape design and installation done by Habitat & Devries. Omar Khorsheed was wonderful to work with - an amazing artist and it was great to watch his designs come together and then come alive. 925-279-3006. Rahel

Garden design by a student?

Dec 2007

I live in Lafayette and have a fairly large backyard in need of some new life. I'm hopeing to get some ideas and a plan from a Landscape designer and do the work as we can. Does anyone know if this can be done by a student (almost finished with school) from UCB? I thought it might save some $$$ using a student. Any thoughts??? Yard needs love

Merritt College has a landscape design program attended by new and experienced students. I've posted notices there about need for landscaping help and have gotten responses. That may be a better bet for you to get landscape student help. Rebecca

Nov 2007

We are looking for someone to lead us in getting our back yard together. This would include putting in a sprinkler system and lawn. Any recommendations?

My wife and I recently relandscaped our backyard in the Berkeley Hills. We used Strada Design Group 510. 812. 7498 who was referred to us by our neighbor, whose garden is incredible by the way. The principal designer and owner, Sarah designed a really incredible plan incorporating all our needs. Then the crew broke ground and before we knew it our family had the garden that we always wanted. I highly recommend the landscape services of STD! Jerry

Pamela Gleason of Gleason Landscaping (510)486-2680, is a landscape designer who created a beautiful Berkeley garden for us, and then for several of our friends in Berkeley, Oakland and Walnut Creek. She was very easy to work with, reasonably priced, timely, and had a wonderful hardscape contractor who made us a stone patio and paths. Pamela was very creative and responsive to our needs, working well with me ( a picky amateur gardener myself). She works well within budgets small and large, and helps think through options.Our garden was shady woodland, but I have also seen her create beautiful sunny gardens, large and small, with patios, paths or not. I highly recommend her. Mary Anne

Oct 2007

I want to recommend Manuel Garcia, 510-652-5612, for drainage, landscaping and other yard work. Manuel installed a French drain in our yard and not only did a wonderful job, but was a pleasure to work with. He is very knowledgable, and helped me understand my needs and options. Manuel also does landscaping, cement and other yard work, and I would strongly recommend him for any of these kinds of projects. Martin

Sept 2007

I would like to highly recommend Matt Horn Landscaping and Tree Care (510-658-6088). Matt just finished a job for us (August 2007) that included an irrigation system, lawn & plantings, flagstone patio, concrete stairs, fence, and tree pruning, and we could not be happier with it. Matt does extremely high quality work and he and his crew were a pleasure to work with. He has a really good eye for design, and was able to suggest several different options for consideration that fit within our budget. He finished the job within budget despite us having to make some adjustments to the project along the way. Matt is extremely professional, friendly, and left the job site clean every day. If you hire Matt, you will not be disappointed. Lucy

Sept 2007

I want to update the recommendation for Tony Lau (510-604-3410) that was first posted in 2006. We found Tony through the BPN newsletter and were very pleased with our experience. Our yard was a debris and weed filled mess that we wanted to convert to a beautiful and kid-friendly space. Tony and his crew cleared the yard, installed walkways and raised beds, built a playground area with recycled tire tiles, built a beautiful fence and gate, and helped us select appropriate plants and ground covers. The result was exactly as we wished. While Tony gave us great suggestions, he was very flexible and allowed us to determine what would work best for our yard, lifestyle, and budget. Tony was very easy to work with, and hems been great about answering questions that have come up or giving us advice, even after the project was finished. Imd be happy to provide more information about our experience or show you before and after pictures of our yard. neriss

July 2007

Don't know if anyone is interested/has need in re-doing their yard, but just saw an acquaintance's new backyard with a play area for their small child & a stone patio for general outdoor use. The backyard was virtually un-usable when they moved into the house, but Bay Area Stone Gardens (Bill Armijo) was able to make it a very nice place for the whole family. She said that he asked a lot of questions about what they wanted and was able to make the yard ''child friendly'' but also adult as they entertain outdoors in the summer. stacy

June 2007

Hello. We are looking for a great landscape architect to collaborate with our pool contractor on our backyard project. We know this is the pool guy we want to use, but need a whole 'design' for the yard. We live in Alamo. Thanks. Karen

Tom Bassett is a fantastic landscape architect. We are currently working with him on a plan for our entire yard, including the pool area. (We live in Moraga.) He did our friend's house and pool and it is fantastic. He is truly an artist and looks at the yard from all angles, including the view from inside the house, when designing. I am into gardening and design on an amateur level, and his ideas and theories were things I had never considered. He also used to teach landscape design, which I think is a plus, as it means he has studied various approaches to his craft. His info: Tom Bassett 925-279-3338 415-495-3338 (cel)

For a landscape architect I recommend Mary Fisher, of Mary Fisher Landscaping. She is located in Alameda. I bought her former home, and we are thrilled with the yard! We get raves from everyone who comes here, Truly beautiful, ecological and very little care need for the mostly drought resistant native plants she installed. Good luck! Susanne

In the June 15th newsletter someone posted a glowing recommendation for Mary Fisher. I can only second the praise; however, no contact information was included, and with Mary's permission I am posting it: Mary Fisher Garden Design, business phone 510-409-9857, email mary at Additionally, Mary asked me to clarify that she is a Landscape Designer, not a landscape architect. Lorraine

June 2007

We just had our front yard designed and installed by Deborah Kuchar of Green Alchemy. I read about her on the BPN website and found her website to see some of her work. We wanted to have boulders incorporated in the design and she works with boulders among other things. I was sure she would think our job was too small. But in fact, she was very open to working with us. She came to our house twice after we agreed to work together. She helped us pick out the boulders. She was clear, pleasant, and has an excellent design sense. Irene

June 2007

I just wanted to recommend Don Silva Landscaping for anyone who needs backyard work done. Don is a licensed landscape contractor and has recently finished re-doing our backyard (along with the work of Tomi Kobara, landscape contractor). We were at the tail end of my pregnancy when backyard work began and the project continued past our delivery date. What could have been a stressful project, (ie. new to parenting, new baby, and having backyard work done) was all in all, completely stress-free. Don and his sons were completely unintrusive. Don would check-in at the end of the day to give us a head's up regarding progress or to discuss the next phase of our project. At the end of each day, Don and his sons made sure to clean up their job site. I hate to say it, but they kept the exterior of our house tidier than I normally do. We would use Don Silva again in a heartbeat. To contact Don Silva, he can be reached at: 510-685-5175. Regards, Julie

May 2007

I need help drawing up plans for and installing (something!) in my small-ish backyard in the laurel district of Oakland. For a variety of reasons, we've never used it much and are now very interested in making it a place to BBQ/let our toddler play, but can't even imagine where to begin - we know we want to have some kind of deck/patio and low-maintenance plants (we also have a dog), but are at a loss. I think I need a landscape architect, but don't even know... Any referrals or advice would be appreciated! sybil

Hi, We have been working with Tomi Kobara, a landscape architect, since late 2006 on our backyard update/renovation. Tomi has been amazing to work with. We were in the late stages of our first pregnancy when we began our backyard renovation with Tomi. Tomi was very considerate of our situation and she and our landscape contractor were great at working around our delivery date. Tomi was great communicating how the designs were going and keeping us abreast on the project. Tomi also was great at staying on the time schedule she had originally allotted for the project, as well as staying within our budget. Overall, it was a wonderful working with her. Tomi is also incredibly knowledgeable in regards to plants and was able to create a backyard oasis that was friendly to both pets and children. Tomi very conscientiously researched all the plants to make sure that none were poisonous. We would work with Tomi again in a heartbeat! Tomi Kobara's phone number is: 510-420-1197

April 2007

We're looking for an affordable landscape designer for our house in Lamorinda. Preferably someone who would be willing to start with a few hours, maybe even a site visit, and help give us a roadmap. Talk through various ideas. We have extremely mature landscaping and tons of juniper on one side of the house, and a brand new boring concrete patio and gravity block retaining wall on the back. There's no flow or theme to it and we need some help figuring out short term and long term plans. We have access to people to do the labor, so we don't need (and can't afford) to hire a huge landscaping firm. Most of it we'll end up doing sweat equity over the years. But we need an idea of what will go where and what should be our top priorities. Thanks, Kristi

Susan Morrison of Creative Landscape Design is a designer we hired last year for our property. We are do-it-yourselfers and wanted a design only so that we can work on our backyard as time goes on. I highly recommend her because she listened to what we wanted and provided additional ideas that we did not think about (eg visual interests, water features, shade, scents, etc.) She was patient with our many questions, provided hardscape resources and informed us on what type of work that she recommends contracting out (concrete work and a landscaper who usually gets plants at wholesale prices). I believe we paid under $2000 for a site visit, a draft in which we could make changes, and a completed plan with a legend indicating which plants, how many and where to plant them, the type of tiles she recommends, etc. If interested, you can view her website at She works out of Concord but drove to El Sobrante to where we live to assist us. Arlene

April 2007

I want to highly recommend Andy Lenz for your garden consultation. Our garden was a juniper infested nightmare. Andy was just incredible to work with --and we now have a beautiful multi-purpose yard complete with flower boxes, a swingset he built himself and lots of secret corners for the kids. We spoke with MANY people -- and Andy was a one-stop shop -- he designed the garden, completely gutted what was there, built new supporting walls and two staircases, chose all the plants, installed the sprinkler system, etc. Andy is creative, responsive, very reasonably priced and fun to work with. He had great references and many repeat customers including us. He has been back to check on his work many times and works with us around maintenance and evolution. Please be in touch with me if you want more details on his work or if you want to see before/after photos. To reach Andy -- email enzand at

April 2007

Looking for a person who could transform our overgrown sloping front yard into a colorful garden with irrigation system and a stone path. Creative gardener needed. No building involved. Ideas and planting skills only. All previous listed are too big for our small project. Thank you.

You need Estelle Solomon Landscaping, 510-334-9697. Email: estsol at She's a genius in the garden, and has years of experience. . Jane

April 2007

I am thinking of hiring Mr.Andreas Flache,Landscape Architect to design a garden and maybe even install it with a contractor he works with. I would love to hear from anyone who has worked with him. When I met him I loved his enthusiasm and energy, but as we have never worked with an architect before I don't know quite what to expect.ANY INPUT would be appreciated. Thank you. I would also love to hear about any other landscape Architects you have worked with for a hillside home.

Andreas Flache consulted for us briefly - he was too busy at the time - but in our short meetings he sketched on napkins really GREAT IDEAS that became the bones of our hardscape. He is really a delightful person to work with, who has both grand visions and practical solutions. Kristin in Berkeley

We've worked with Andreas & his contractor on our hillside home. His designs were great, we can show them to you if you'd like to see them. We also loved his energy, he has a passion for what he does and is an artist, which we appreciated. You can call me to talk more, but to make a long story short, we're happy with the designs, but only had money to install the hardscapes & trees so far, so we haven't seen the design in reality. The contractor he works with (Abraham Magana) is awesome. Very professional, hard working, knows his business, I could go on and on. Gina

April 2007

I would like to recommend a landscaper with whom we just had a terrific experience. We got his name from BPN and couldn't be happier. His name is Kevin Jackson and his number is 306-4713. He removed a large portion of our concrete patio, replaced a retaining wall, and installed sod and a sprinkler system. He was a pleasure to work with. He is very knowledgeable and good at explaining things, an extremely hard worker, kind, honest, and fair. The guys who work with him are great too. He also does gardening and monthly maintenance. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Sarah

Feb 2007

If you are looking for a landscape designer, I would strongly recommend contacting Claudia Viera. She specializes in sustainable garden design but is also very willing and able to listen to her client's ideas. I particularly enjoyed our trips to local botanical gardens and plant nurseries to pick out plants. I found her to be responsive to my questions and concerns, an overall pleasure to work with and am very pleased with how our garden has changed and grown since it was first planted. She can be reached at: CVGardenDesign at or, (510) 653-6535 Feel free to contact me with any questions. Samantha

Feb 2007

During the past 14 months, Claudia Vieira has been helping with our front and back yard landscaping project. She started with creating a landscaping plan which included our original ideas and improved it with many of her very creative ideas. She was involved with selection of majority of the plants most of which are California natives and also made recommendation for contractors to install irrigation system (with the intention to waste minimum water). All of the plants are in place since November of last year and they look great. Overall we are very happy with her professional approach to our project, her creative and dedication in selecting plants that will thrive in Berkeley and also her follow up to make sure the pants are getting established well. Overall I recommend her services to others. Claudia Vieira (510)653-6535 cvgardendesign at

Jan 2007

I am pleased to recommend Abbey Kletz of Landscapes for her amazing garden design talents. She transformed my unsightly yard into a paradise. She has worked in the Bay Area for many years and has left a beautiful mark on the landscape. She also works with a very talented installation crew who was unbelievably hardworking, timely and meticulous. The entire project was a joy and I look forward to seeing the garden grow. See Abbey's website at or email her at dookiea at Shoey

Jan 2007

I just felt compelled to recommend Strada Design group to anyone looking for landscaping help. In searching out the right person to design our backyard I interviewed a number of companies ( I had had a spate of bad luck - or bad choices in hiring a house painting contractor and was determined not to make that mistake again)My experience working with Sarah Ray was such a welcome change. The result is breathtakingly beautiful and was clearly the result of a well thought vision backed by a lot of experience and knowledge. This was not a small project and I was impressed by her forethought in terms of irrigation, lighting and keeping it something that was not a nightmare to maintain. The cost was reasonable, on budget and relatively glich free. I am so grateful for a successful and stressfree job well done I felt I should at least share my good fortune. My yard is incredible. Strada Design Group 510 812 7498...ask for Sarah! Jessica

Jan 2007

Another happy customer! I would like to add a recommend for Matt Hornby Landscape Design and Construction. We decided to use him after reading another recommendation on BPN and had a very pleasant experience. Matt did our garden on Rose Street in Berkeley and he did a wonderful job. We had a good idea of what we wanted for the site: flagstone and gravel pathways, stone walls, irrigation, some drainage and of course planting. Matt was very quick to make our vision his own, explained what was possible and what wasn't and also helped us achieve what we wanted within our budget. He is very knowledgeable and helped with the right plant selection We were particularly happy that he broke down all costs for us which gave us a good overview on where the money went. We are now enjoying a beautiful garden thanks to Matt. Contact: 510 717 1342 and email: matthornby72 at R.K.

2005 - 2006 Recommendations

Nov 2006

Can anyone recommend a reasonable landscape designer for a back yard of approximately 35 x 40 feet? We don't have the wherewithal to do everything at once, so we need someone who's good at phasing a project and keeping costs down. lc

Call Leigh Gronet at Leigh Designs. She is in Berkeley and can even show you a digital rendition of what your landcaping would look like. leigh at 510-559-6969. Good luck! Kimberly

Nov 2006

I would highly recommend Theresa ''TC'' Donovan. She has done two large projects for us over the past several years, and a smaller one. She does large and small projects. Here's what I said for her website: TC designed and installed three gardens for my husband and me. The first comprised the entire front yard of our first house. We sold this house at a nice profit, thanks in no small part to the beautiful, imaginatively-styled garden. She also designed and built the front and back gardens of our current house. She possesses great talent as a designer, and a great font of gardening knowledge. TC considered all of our needs in creating our gardens. She designed them in a way that paralleled the historic style of the house. Thanks to TC, our gardens also provide a safe and structured play area for our children, while at the same time incorporating our interest in growing flowers and vegetables. TC also quickly and efficiently installed the gardens once we had decided on a plan. I feel very connected to these gardens because TC listened carefully to my ideas and preferences and worked with me on the design and plant selection. Our front yard is old fashioned and structured, has small box shrubs, and two varities of hydrangeas, and it fits perfectly with our Victorian house. The back yard is a European style country garden with a grape arbor that actually produces grapes, an olive tree, lemon and lime trees, raised vegetable beds, roses, and many other beautiful plants from a color palette of white, purple and pink (and our house is in the middle of a city!). Recently a friend visited for lunch and said she felt as though she were in Tuscany. TC's partner Keni possesses great talent as a stone worker. We have a beautiful wall made of recycled cement, as well as a stone patio. Finally, TC's easygoing manner makes it a pleasure to work alongside her. She listens well, and responds quickly to problems. My family and I have been delighted with her work, and recommend her highly Andrea

Nov 2006

We have excellent plans (construction detail) for a large landscape renovation job on a 1.5 acre property. The job will include concrete work; building new retaining walls; constructing a floating deck; and installing irrigation, plantings and lights. Can anyone provide a recommendation for a professional firm that can follow plans, do top-notch work, and can stay within budget? Thank you!

I know a wonderful landscaper. Steve Capper at Wild Rose Gardens and Ponds. 510.326.5619. wildrose at Kimberly

We currently have a big weed problem, gaps where dead plants exist amidst our plantings, and portions of our lawn are dead. We hired Rare Earth Landscape for a job and though we purchased maintenance-free landscaping (as they described), we've spent countless hours spraying and pulling weeds (we still have a big weed problem months later). In addition, several of our key plants that were put on irrigation are dead. During the job,the company's employees left sharp tools/nails on our property (including our front steps, driveway) repeatedly which left us constantly concerned about safety for our children. When we asked for improvements/changes based on miscommunications, they readily made the changes without mention of any fee, but we were billed a hefty bill afterwards beyond the estimate. Giving Landscape Advice

Someone recently (anonymously) complained about work by Rare Earth Landscapes. I'm wondering -- is this person talking about the San Francisco firm (which I think has since had to change its name) or the ''real'' one in El Cerrito? Some clarity would be appreciated! When I passed this negative review along to the El Cerrito firm, they were shocked and very worried (and wondered if the writer might've been referring to the SF company). I would be very surprised if the listed complaints were about the east bay firm anne

I just have to comment on an earlier reply to this topic. The respondent said they understood that they had purchased ''maintenance-free landscaping''. Just as a warning to unsuspecting homeowners who are interested in installing a landscape but who don't have any gardening knowledge, unless you are paving your garden in concrete, there is no such thing as a landscape that doesn't require maintenance. If someone you're interested in hiring tells you that there is, then promptly show them the door. I'm speaking as someone who had a booming garden design and maintenance business in Berkeley and environs for 20+ years. There are definitely different levels of maintenance starting with ''low'', but never ''no'' maintenance. Joan

Oct 2006

I would like to add a recommend for Matt Hornby Landscape Design and Construction. We decided to use him after reading another recommendation on BPN and had a very pleasant experience.

Matt did our garden on Rose Street in Berkeley and he did a wonderful job. We had a good idea of what we wanted for the site: flagstone and gravel pathways, stone walls, irrigation, some drainage and of course planting. Matt was very quick to make our vision his own, explained what was possible and what wasn't and also helped us achieve what we wanted within our budget. He is very knowledgeable and helped with the right plant selection We were particularly happy that he broke down all costs for us which gave us a good overview on where the money went. We are now enjoying a beautiful garden thanks to Matt
R. K.

Sept 2006

We had a pretty major amount of work to do to our front yard but kept getting really expensive bids. We knew what we wanted but didn't know who could do the hardscape work we needed. ISIDRO GONZALEZ came to our rescue. He and his crew not only did all of the earthmoving and retaining wall work that we needed, he ended up putting down a beautiful walkway (we used pavers) that we were going to have someone else do. We couldn't be happier with the work. He also has a garden maintenance business which our friends use and they are very happy with his service. I cannot recommend him enough for landscaping/hardscaping work. ISIDRO 510-776-4634

I also can't say enough about Mike Mulholland at THORNHILL NURSERY. Mike spent a great amount of time with us, helping us work through our project and then plan and plant the plants and groundcover we needed. He also led us to a really great and reasonably-priced fellow who did our irragation work. Mike Mulholland/Thornill Nursery 510-339-1331 Feel free to e-mail me with any questions Jennifer

Sept 2006

We are looking for recommendations for a landscape designer, to draw plans and possibly manage a project to rebuild a patio area with various steps and walls. We have called and emailed a number of designers recommended by BPN in the past, but none have returned calls. So we would prefer someone who may be genuinely interested in the opportunity vs a very experienced and busy landscape architect or designer hayden

Hi there, I am not sure if she really focuses on patios or hardscapes, but you might want to contact Leigh Gronet of Leigh Designs. She has a wonderful tool where she can show you digital renditions of her designs. Her contact information: leigh[at] / / 510-559-6969. Good luck! Kimberly

We just completed landscaping and patio work in our backyard. The work was done by Gordon & Whyte (510) 507-7373. Initially, we were just looking at having a small patio replaced but, Julie who has incredible vision, had some great ideas of ways to modify areas of our yard that we had never considered. I found Julie to have a genuine intuitive understanding of the client's design needs and what would work in the yard. Brian is exceptional in his stone/patio/pathway work. They were also very open to reusing materials we already had in the yard and modified our existing sprinkler system to reduce the amount of water we were using. Brian and Julie were both wonderful to work with. If they haven't called you back I would try them again. Recently, it took Julie a few days to get back to me on another job we're thinking of using them for - but once I heard from them they came right out to look over the project and get an estimate to me. We're thrilled with the work they did for us. Good luck. maureen

June 2006

I would like to recommend Julie Dawson for Landscaping and gardening. She has done work for me now for over 7 years, and is hard working, efficient, reasonably priced, and has an incredible creative vision for what to do with the yard space. Her work is whimsical yet practical, and she is great at making things beautiful!! She LOVES what she does, and I can't say enough good things about her!!! She is now taking new clients and can be reached at (510)409-7001. lila

Hi ~ I just wanted to let people know about a good garden designer in the East Bay named Michael Sasso. As a landscape designer myself, I have known Michael for many years, initially through his reknown plant nursery business in San Francisco (Potrero Gardens), and now as a fellow Oakland resident and fellow designer. I highly recommend his services, which range from hourly consultations to fullscale design plans. His number is 510-891-0353, michaelwsasso[at] maxi

May 2006

I used the services of Matt Horn Landscaping in San Anselmo -- excellent work -- know-how for French drainage fix, beautiful tree trim in front of picture window with artful openings for views, plant knowledge and recommendations. They were reliable, fast, and left the place looking great. Carolyn

April 2006

I'd like to recommend a landscape designer we consulted whose name is Sequoia, at 510-306-0087. We are beginners at gardening and needed help making a plan to transform our nasty dead front yard area. For a very reasonable price Sequoia sat down with us and explained the basics of gardening and drew up a timeline of what we should do and when. Since then she has been very conscientious about answering our crazy questions whenever we call her. Now we have the beginnings of a lovely garden! Sam

March 2006

Matt Horn has done extensive landscaping & construction on my football-field size lot in Alameda. He removed & replaced a badly damaged lawn, installed drip & sprinkler irrigation, built from scratch a custom fence & arbor. He did extensive design and planning with us. He & his crew were professional, reliable & honest. At the end of the day he left no mess. We could not be happier with his work and will use him in the future for the construction of a garage & renovation of our dock on the Alameda lagoon. You can reach him at Matt Horn Landscaping 510 658 6088. Mark

I am very pleased to recommend Claudia Vieira for creative landscape design projects. She listened to my ideas and came up with beautiful designs for our front and back gardens, including many California native plants. She is expert in native plants that do well in East Bay gardens. Her plant lists include internet links that enabled us to see plants that were not available yet in local nurseries. Call her at 510-653-6535. Jane

I would like to heartily recommend Matt Horn Landscaping and Tree Care (510-658-6088). Matt Horn and his team build patios and decks, do cement work, all tree care needs, and incredible landscaping design. Matt Horn works with true integrity and communication, and is 100% reliable. He is clean, efficient, and performs the highest quality of work. He completely renovated my backyard, and I have had the highest respect for him since the first day he started the project. He shows up when he claims he will, is very efficient and communicates each part of the project with truth and clarity. His final product is artistic, sustainable, and beautiful in appearance and structural design. Please call him first when planning any outdoor work. Scott

I highly recommend Matt Horn Landscaping (415) 460-5225 for any landscaping, irrigation, or deck work that you might be considering. We found him here on the BPN last summer and hired him to build a deck, create terraces in our very steep yard, and provide an irrigation system for the terraces and lawn. He was the only landscaper who returned our calls immediately and was happy to take on a job that other landscapers had deemed too small (less than $70,000). His initial estimate of the cost never changed - it was exactly what we paid in the end. He kept us regularly updated on progress and always asked for our input before proceeding if he encountered unexpected issues. And he takes pride in the quality of the work and will go the extra mile to make sure the end result meets his high standards. cclocke

Wanted to give a recommendation of jimdouglas landscapers. They did an outstanding job transforming what formerly was a bunch of festering bermuda grass, tired and dying bushes and woody old rosemary into a way more interesting, diverse and drought tolerant front yard with rocks, and added a path too. They planted it a few months ago so now with all the rain we've been having recently it looks really incredible. It's nice to have a front yard I can feel proud of, and a whole lot easier to maintain than a lawn (which is nice because as a parent of two small kids I don't get as much time to work in the garden as I would like...) Jim and Douglas were friendly, knowledgeable, easy to work with, and reasonable too. You can reach them at 510-841-7818. Mike

Just wanted to let you all know that I've seen a few really great gardens lately done by Matt Horn.He has a good eye and is committed to delivering a great product on time.Clients appreciate his attention to detail and hard work ethic.His phone number is 510 589 2979

I hired Matt Horn to do some tree trimming based on the multiple positive reviews from the BPN network. Sadly my experience was not great. When you hire someone to do any type of work, make sure you follow the these rules:

1. Get multiple bids no matter how much you are constrained for time or how nice the contractor might seem.
2. Be very clear and write down the agreed upon project scope (i.e. what is to be done).
3. Be there when the work is being done to make sure what you agreed to in writing is actually done how you want it. Now you can read what you want into the above common sense items (and I knew better), but that's not why I am submitting this review.

When Matt gave me a bid, he said it would take 3 hours to do the work. The work he did was at a property where I am having a remodel being done. The contractor's foreman doing the remodel was gone for about an hour. In that time Matt came, did his work, and left. The contractor's crew said Matt was there maybe 30 minutes. When I asked Matt about this he claimed he was there for over 2 hours. Matt's bid was not cheap. However, I went along with it because, while expensive for 3 hours of work, I was kind of in a bind and needed the work done. I felt that he misled me in a (successful) effort to sucker me into giving him the job at a higher rate. An ethical contractor will give you a fair price regardless of your situation. Matt did not do that, rather he took advantage of the situation. Part of the reason he finished so quickly is he did only half the work I expected.

As the owner of Matt Horn Landscaping and Tree Care, I'd like to respond to a negative review of the tree care portion of my business which was posted in the March 30 newsletter. I'm a landscape designer and contractor and a certified arborist with a B.S. in forestry and 15 years experience working in Berkeley and the East Bay. I've been gratified by the number of positive reviews I've had on this site over the years.

If you read the review, you'll recall the client objected to the amount of time I spent on a small tree job. For the record, I don't work by the hour. I made that clear to this client, as I do with every client. I bid jobs and if a bid is accepted, I do the job professionally and completely. The only reason I mention the time a job might take is to give the client and other workers onsite information for their planning and safety. My bids are reasonable and competitive with those of other local arborists.

Tree work is somewhat a matter of interpretation, and miscommunications about the scope of work can sometimes occur. Ultimately, what matters is the quality of the job and whether the client is happy with the result. In this case, when the client called with a concern, I immediately went back and worked with him until he was satisfied. I was paid for the job, and left apparently on good terms. Imagine my surprise when his review was forwarded by a friend. I can only assume he wrote it the first night, before giving me a chance to respond and address his concern.

I sincerely hope this review has not damaged my credibility with this network, as I've been happy to serve this community for many years and look forward to many more. Matt Horn, 510-658-6088

Feb 2006

I have just had such a great experience with re-doing my garden that I wanted to share this information. I had an uninspiring small backyard, partly covered in cement with which I thought I couldn't do much. Andrea of Mariposa Gardening & Design designed and installed a complete garden overhaul for me which has made the space vastly more inspiring, useful, and beautiful. She did a wonderful job of figuring out how to use the space to look fantastic and be useful. I have 3 garden roomsn in a really tiny California Courtyard. I have the morning coffee break area, a dining area, and a lounge. I also have a 6 year old daughter, and Andrea has a way of incorporating play spaces into the overall design that are seamless, and don't interfere with the way I want things to look. She has a great sense of the plants, and is extremely knowledgeable. She has a terrific design sense, and reasonable rates. She will craft a drawing, as well as do a majority of the installation herself.! She hires helpers on an as needed basis. You can check out her website, Andrea's many years of experience designing gardens really shows in her craftsmanship and attention to detail. I recommend her to anyone ready for a change in your garden. Ann

Jan 2006

We recently hired Matt Horn to do some landscaping and deck work for us and were very pleased with the results. We originally got his name from BPN, so I wanted to update the archives to say that Matt Horn continues to provide high quality work and great service. Matt is a licensed landscape contractor and certified arborist. We hired Matt in Summer 2005 to build terraces in our steep lawn, provide an irrigation system, and build a new deck behind our house. Our job was turned down by a couple other landscapers who considered it too small (ie. less than $70,000). Matt was the only landscaper who returned our calls promptly. He visited us right away to give us an estimate, which was VERY accurate and was EXACTLY what we ended up paying. When he decided to add some work to improve the overall quality of the job, he did not charge us for it. Specifically, he was going to simply resurface our old deck because we were adding a ramp. But when he saw that the new surface wouldn't match the railings, he replaced all the railings as well, giving us a whole new deck at no extra charge. The quality of his work is excellent and he is a pleasure to work with. My only criticism is that he can be a bit absent-minded. For example, he forgot that we had requested a gate on the back deck - luckily we noticed and were able to remind him (by showing him the contract). He apologized and immediately had the gate built. I would highly recommend Matt for any outdoor work you are considering. Matt can be reached at (415) 460-5225. cclocke

Jan 2006

We live in Berkeley near the Claremont Resort, and have been looking for someone to demo and level our small front yard (currently ivy), and to build a rock retaining wall. I have contacted everyone recommended on the site, and no one will respond to my emails or calls. Does anyone have a reliable company/contractor who has reasonable rates that they can recommend for a rock retaining wall and landscaping? Heather

I can recommend a great guy for your retaining wall: Ysidro Gonzalez. Ysidro does a great deal of work with us, as my husband, Rick Alatorre, is a garden designer and installer. Ysidro comes highly recommended. We have been really happy with how he has worked with us and with our clients. His number is (510) 776-4634.

We highly recommend Action Jackson Landscaping. Kevin Jackson is kind, generous, warm, charming, hardworking, trustworthy and just a plain old good guy. He can help you with weekly garden maintenance to major landscaping jobs. His number is (510) 306 4713, tell him Jocelyne referred you. jocelyn

I would like to recommend the landscaper who is working in our yard right now and is doing a fantastic job. He took over when the first landscaper was incompetent and we were feeling disilllusioned. He redid crooked and unsafe wooden steps by taking them out and reinstalling them. Two other landscapers had said the steps could not be repaired and we needed to start over. From there we had him put in rock walls and pathways so we could have access to our steep backyard. He put in a terrace at the top of the yard so we now have a view of the bay. Also, he built 3 raised beds for vegetables and flowers. He changed our back deck and put in steps down to the backyard. He repaired an old fence to match our other fence. He has installed a beautiful pathway of Connecticut Full Range stone. In the front of our house he put in stone steps up the hill to the gate, a pathway so we have access to our planting bed and he changed the shape of our lawn so it has a beautiful rounded shape and put in 2 raised planting beds along the side of the lawn. Our front decks had several areas where the wood had rotted and he repaired this too. Finally, he installed a drainage system that I will discuss in another email. He is currently covering a cinder block wall with stone. Please contact me if you have questions. He does not have a license (although he is familiar with the building codes) and charges by the day. He and his crew work hard. He is doing the work for much less than the 2 other licensed landscaping bids we got. He can do practically anything in the backyard. He has worked for a prominent doctor for 20 years and his reference was good. I saw 3 yards he built and can recommend his work highly. He is very experienced and an excellent problem solver. Our yard has been a challenge to work in and we are excited and ecstatic about the results. His name is Jose Curiel, 510-821-4270. Judy

I would like to strongly recommend our wonderful landscaper, Tony Lau (510-604-3410). Tony is a young, super bright and friendly U.C. grad who recently helped us plan and install an entirely new front yard, and we couldnmt be happier. Tony took the entire yard down to nothing and then put in several large boulders, redwood planter boxes, flagstone paths, new sod and many, many plantings of trees, shrubs and ground covers. Tony worked with us to conceive a beautiful plan for the yard, he knew which of our ideas were feasible, and he made lots of great suggestions. He is knowledgeable about plants and can work with wood, stone and metal. He has a special interest in doing high end wood work and is studying metal work. He is versatile in many types of home improvement, and we found him to be very flexible to incorporating new ideas as our vision evolved. He also worked very well with and around other folks working in the same space. He gave us a very reasonable bid and best of all, he was incredibly sweet and charming to have around. Kim

Dec 2005

I would like to heartily recommend Nancy Sale Landscape Design to the BPN. Nancy and her staff are very pleasant to work with and surprisingly affordable. They came in and reworked our rock retaining wall, built a gorgeous set of steps, and embedded a flagstone walkway. They also put in a large sitting area paved with decomposed granite. They were speedy, always on time, and (again, surprisingly) under budget. We were able to communicate our vision to Nancy and her team took it from there with very little input required from us. We didn't use them for irrigation work, but I know they do this too. Call Nancy at (510) 655-4625 or email her at nancysale at Becky

Sept 2005

Patrick Cearley is a great landscaper. He recently did a major renovation of our garden that included beautiful stone walls, a flagstone patio and path, new irrigation, new plants and trees, and more. Patrick is a great communicator and a very nice person with whom to work. Patrick is very skilled at hard-scape and has a great knowledge of plants and gardens. He completed our project on time and within budget. I highly recommend Patrick Cearley. He can be reached at (510) 569-7959. Bonnie

Sept 2005

Is there a class, maybe through Home Depot or through a comm. rec center or some place else, that would help me learn the basics of landscaping? I'd like to fix up my front yard and I'd like to have a plan before I start tearing things up. I need some pointers and thought attending a class might be a good idea, since I don't really have any experiencing gardening above weeding, mowing the lawn, and watering now and again. Any help is appreciated. Jen

The Building Education Center in w. berkeley teaches such a class. I've never taken it but I've learned a lot from other classes there. 510-525-7610.

Sept 2005

I looking for someone to help with plant placement and selection. My husband and I have been slowly renovating our front yard, but we could use some advise with what to plant where. We also need ideas to help create privacy without that hedge look. Ideally I would love someone to go shoppping with me for the plants and then arrange on site. Any recommendations would be appreciated, alot of firms I contacted only wanted huge jobs. Would love a beautiful yard. shannred

Somebody was asking for a Landscape Consultant who also accepts smaller jobs: coincidently, I am right now in the process of renovating my front yard with the help of Rebecca Bogart whom I can highly recommend. Rebecca researched my space, soil, sun light/shadow, etc. and then recommended a new layout and plants which would go with my specific situation and taste. We then went shopping together and are now almost finished planting everything. I am in love with my new front yard! Rebecca has a huge knowledge about plants, layouts and what goes well where in addition to tree trimming, how to get more sun light and overall 'feng shui'. She is an extremely hard worker and totally in love with her work which is her passion. I helped a lot to keep costs down and it was a pleasure to work with Rebecca - I never thought I would like gardening so much! Rebecca's email address is rbogart[at] Her phone number is (510) 233 6359 Have fun! Susanne

Sept 2005

We redid our entire yard, transforming it from a dank swamp to an awesome family yard. A summary may benefit others.

People constantly ask for cheap referrals. Going cheap or Craig's List is a huge gamble. We did save a ton of money by having my husband serve as project manager and do some of the work. It is a huge time commitment and you must have the skills. If you have neither, and want it done well, you have to pay--no way around it.

We used a designer and a ballpark budget but I did not ask if the designer was capable of designing within that budget. She came up with a design that exceeded our budget by tens of thousands so I wasted the money and had to scrap it because it was too expensive to install. A veteran would have come up with something within my budget. I regret not using Lawrence Fleury.

Tree service: The Forestree Company is competent, has good prices and customer service. Drew was a pleasure to work with.

I cannot say enough good things about Andrew Packer with Acorn Landscaping (915 3720). This guy is honest and competent. His subcontractors are top notch. He is not cheap but will do your yard done right.

Shirley Jowell (525-7012) has been a godsend for plant selection and gardening assistance including weeding and other maintenance and planting. She is not a landscape professional but someone who is great at helping busy people keep their yards in shape. For lawn installation, we were very happy with Mello's Nursery (223-1093). Eddie is an honest guy and he knows lawns.

Peter Mack built our outdoor kitchen and we were very happy. We bought the components from BBQs Galore in Walnut Creek which was great. Hope this is helpful! Elizabeth

July 2005

I would recommend Mark Roberts, Roots & Shoots Landscaping 510-482-3236, who just installed an irrigation system in our front yard in Upper Rockridge and put in a new lawn. He and his team also replaced the main water line (from galvanized to copper) while they were trenching. They were flexible as the job changed, expanded, and got more complicated (water line presented problems), were diligent and friendly and priced the job fairly. Natasha

May 2005

Landscape architect/stone mason recommended
I am writing in response to several posts in the April 22 Digest about landscape architects and garden construction teams. We have recently landscaped the side area to our house in Alameda, and Matt Hornby, based in Berkeley, was an incredibly good landscape architect to work with. He is timely, reasonably priced, and a very good communicator. Matt also has extensive experience as a stone mason and has worked on projects big and small througout the East Bay. He is willing to take on small projects as well. He can be contacted at matthornby72 AT If you would like more references or to take a look at the brick path and cement driveway he did for us, give me a call. Thanks! Anna

April 2005

I'm writing to recommend Lisa Ray of Lisa Ray Landscapes Garden Design. Lisa is an absolute artist, and can do all aspects of the jobs - design, advice, building, planting, maintenance. I've been lucky enough to be a neighbor of hers in the Berkeley flatlands, so I have watched her transform her garden into a palette of colors, textures, scents, and flavors (vegetables and fruits), and I have also appreciated her generosity in sharing her knowledge with those in the neighborhood as we did community projects and individual home projects. tia

I want to give a recommendation to Gordon and Whyte Gardens, they were GREAT! I used Julie and Brian for a redesign, and an installation of a patio in my old house. They did a great job helping me decide what i wanted (which is hard)......and once i knew they also did a great job putting in irrigation, a rock patio and a kid/animal friendly garden. They worked in a timely fashion and were very trustworthy. I highly recommend their work to friends, and will use them on our new backyard. Gordon and Whyte Gardens can be reached at 510-681 3552. Tell them Cris sent you! cris

I can recommend a wonderful landscaper - Rick Alatorre. I am currently coordinating the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour (a free tour of 55 Alameda and Contra Costa County gardens that are pesticide-free, water-conserving, provide habitat for wildlife, and contain 30% or more native plants). Rick's Richmond garden is on the tour, and it sounds exactly like what you are looking for. You can see pictures of Rick's garden at Look under the Preview the Gardens section under Richmond. If you are interested in seeing Rick's garden you will need to visit the website and register for the tour by April 20. Rick can be reached directly at (510) 234-8175. Good luck! Kathy

Talented landscape designer - creates extraordinary gardens!
I'm writing to recommend Lisa Ray of Lisa Ray Landscapes Garden Design. Lisa is an absolute artist, and can do all aspects of the jobs - design, advice, building, planting, maintenance. I've been lucky enough to be a neighbor of hers in the Berkeley flatlands, so I have watched her transform her garden into a palette of colors, textures, scents, and flavors (vegetables and fruits), and I have also appreciated her generosity in sharing her knowledge with those in the neighborhood as we did community projects and individual home projects.

March 2005

I would like to highly recommend Tomi Kobara for landscape design. Tomi worked with us last year on a complete redo of our back garden and deck. Her design transformed our backyard into a unique, lush and beautiful garden spot. Tomi is an experienced landscape architect with many years of experience and a great knowledge of plants. She was great at listening to our ideasabout the feeling we wanted for our outdoor spaces and then knowing how to make it work. She was super flexible with our process and always attentive. Tomi is very personable and respectful. Her estimates were right on and she did a great job of helping us create just what we wantedand stayed within our budget. Our garden has grown in beautifully and QUICKLY. You can reach Tomi at 510-420-1197. Mary

I highly recommend Ubaldo Gonzalez for anyone who wants to create a beautiful garden/yard. Ubaldo is professional and courteous and gets the job done in as promised. Feel free to contact him directly at (707) 863-9244. Lisa

Feb 2005

I recently saw a recommendation for Lori Palmquist, a landscape contractor who does garden design, installation, and care, in the Berkeley Parents Network. I ended up using Lori for my backyard garden project, and I couldn't have been happier with the process or the product! Lori listened well, was easy to work with, has a great crew, and showed up everyday! on time! until the project was complete. She's an irrigation expert--and just basically did an amazing job with the whole project. She also is very eco-conscious, for instance re-using the large pieces of concrete from my torn out driveway to form paths and raised beds, as well as using the left-over rubble in the underground drainage~ Nothing was wasted that could be used, and nothing was bought when recycled items were available. Lori Palmquist can be reached at 528-3638. Ivy

Feb 2005

We live in the piedmont pines area and are planning to add a ground level deck to the back and both sides. One side will be both a deck and dog run. I hope to build this myself in stages. We are looking for some one to design the deck,and deliver working plans. Should I look for an architect or a designer. We are at the information gathering stage, any recomendations and advice will be very much appreciated. Thanks Gordon

Definitely go with a licensed landscape architect as they can usually take you several levels beyond what most designers can do. I've found that there is a huge difference between what a landscape designer can offer vs. a landscape architect, after having spent a lot of money over the years with both types of professionals. A designer doesn't have to have any schooling in architecture, space planning, construction, etc. I've found that landscape designers often come about as folks who've learned on the job or have worked in nurseries or may have taken a few courses (which of course there is nothing wrong with this!).Landscape architect takes into account your specific architecture and how to plan the space for use, to match your home, how to keep things in context with a style, etc...this aspect I have often found lacking in designers. Do a lot of interviews to find out what works best for you. Often landscape designers are both designers and builders, as they can make more money doing the installation(also there may be more of a vested interest to do a particular style as well because they can execute it). Also, landscape architects often only do design only and can provide comprehensive and detailed engineering type, computerized plans that go a long way when the installation is occurring and questions are sure to arise, especially if it's a large or more complicated project.

Goodluck with your search.
Local landscape architect

Jan 2005

I wanted to post an unsolicited positive review for my friend Tomi Kobara who is a talented landscape architect. I recently saw her garden, which she designed and installed herself, and it is just beautiful. She does design and/or installation and I've heard that she's reasonably priced. She's a nice person who would be easy to work with. Her phone number is 420-1197. andrea

Edible / Organic Garden Landscaper Recommendation I have a backyard which used to be primarily weeds and didn't want to spend a ton of money, I wanted to start a vegetable garden - and do it without pesticides - but knew little about gardening. I received a recommendation from this list for Christopher Shein and WildHeart Gardens.

In addition to landscaping work, Chris gives permaculture courses at Merritt College and Ecology Center so he had a lot of helpful advice as far as beneficial plants, which veggies would be easy and difficult to grow, methods to keep weeds in check without using pesticides, composting, saving your own seeds for planting the following year, among other things... I am very happy with my vegetable garden and he also planted some native plants in the front yard which are a big improvement over the boring junipers that were there before. I wholeheartedly want to pass on the recommendation to others - you can reach him at 510-594-4000 x138 and his website is

2004 & Earlier

Dec 2004

I'd like to recommend my friend Victoria Yager, who owns and operates Avant Gardeners Landscape Design, based in El Cerrito. She did a consultation for me yesterday and I was really impressed by her care and attention to detail. She really listened to what I had to say about my personal needs and preferences regarding how we use our outdoor space, and she gave me some wonderful ideas on how to improve the space. She knows about Feng Shue and also decks and patio materials, etc. as well. Being a mom, she understands about making a garden kid-friendly too! She is available at 510/528-2219. Colene

I highly recommend Stylosus, owned by Martie Steele, for landscape design, installation and garden maintenance. We used her to fully design and install our new backyard, and she currently maintains her/our creation. She was the most reasonable, both in times of money and attitude, of all the people we interviewed. Martie is a great person to work with: she knows her stuff, has high energy, is creative, enthusiastic, extremely friendly and both flexible and accommodating. Specifically, she guided us in the design of our yard, the removal of the old matter and unwanted trees and plants, the construction of a redwood deck and patio and a stone walkway, the choosing and placement of plants and trees to meet our needs and wants and the installation of an irrigation system. During the long process there were many decisions to be made, so we spoke often. Martie was always charming, understanding and most of all helpful and productive. Her work - from the drafting table to the soil - was outstanding. She is great at balancing being the expert and allowing you to develop and express your own ideas of what you really want the end product to look and feel like. She is well worth her reasonable rates. 510- 665-5529. Joe

Sept. 2004

I cannot speak highly enough of Hugo Schmidt from Claremont Landscaping. He finished a job for me this spring. He was referred to me by a Berkeley parent when I posted a message requesting landscape contractors. Last November, I began the process of deciding whether I wanted a landscape contractor, designer or architect. After interviewing several people, I decided to go with a contractor. I selected Hugo because he was always punctual for our appointments and had lots of experience. I checked out a couple of his references, and they were glowing. It also turned out that he had the lowest bid. His crew is very hard working. He was very responsive to my requests. They worked on my job 6 days a week, including rainy days. I have hired a lot of household contractors, and Hugo is by far the best.

Here's an example of his willingness to assist: A few days before he began work on my house, a small fountain of water suddenly appeared in the middle of my backyard law. I suspected it was from a leak in a pipe. I was distraught because I had to have the water to the entire house turned off and it was the Saturday of a three day weekend. Not sure what to do, I called Hugo and he happened to be in his office. I asked him if he could send someone out on Monday to try to fix the problem. I expected to live without water for two days. He said that it was unacceptable to live without water for two days. (I have two small boys.) He said he would send someone over right away. Literally 10 minutes later, I got another call and it was Hugo asking where the water valve shut off was. His crew was already in my backyard and trying to fix the problem. I have never had such service from a contractor.

His number is 510/524-0500. I would be happy to talk in greater detail, if you are interested. Esther

July 2004

I saw in the archives one recommendation for Andreas Flache (landscape design). Has anyone else used him? Any comments helpful. Thank you! Ellen

Andreas is the landscape architect we are using for our home, and I think he is truly remarkable. I want to thank the person who originally posted a recommendation for him on this list, because we feel so lucky to have him! He is extremely talented, creative, and thorough, as well as very professional and conscientious. We were totally blown away by the drawings and plans that he came up with for our yard. They were amazing and very original. He is also a nice, easygoing person. I can't say enough good things about him!
member of the fan club

July 2004

We are a N. Berkeley family that needs a good landscape design that can be implemented in stages (for cost reasons) and that needs to take two factors into major consideration: we are a gardening illiterate couple w/o time or interest to really learn how; and we have two young children so play space, and the realities of family life and wear and tear need to be considered. We can mow and trim -- but spending more than 1-2 hours/weekend is too much; and we could invest our time in 2-3 big weekend clean-ups through-out the year, but we also need help learning what to trim when, and how, etc. I have talked to some designers -- and although I think they could create beautiful designs -- I don't think they really ''got'' these limitations. I'm sure the right person is out there.... bryson

Hi Bryson - I used a consultant who I was very impressed with. His name is Sean O'Hara, and his e-mail is sean[at] I know he has raised kids of his own and currently has an ongoing project doing a landscape around the grade school his children previously attended in Berkeley (a bilingual French-American school).

When he worked with me I was pleased that he felt that creating a landscpe in phases was actually a very good way to do it (I'm doing my own in this way for financial reasons and he gave me good inscruction abou how to do this!).

His training is originally in the arts, so he has a great eye for form, color, space, texture, etc. He is also VERY knowledgeable regarding plants that are suited to our local climate. He strongly beleives in creating gardens that are really new ecosystems that help sustain themselves rather than depend upon lots of artifical maintenance effort. He told me that coosing the right plants for the right places is far more effective at reducing resource consumption and maintenance costs than any other approach.

He also serves as chair of the local branch of the Mediterranean Plant Society, and speaks around the Bay Area. You can also look at the web site he does for the above society I hired him after hearing him speak at the garden show in San Francisco - now I am converted to gardening according to our wonderful mediterranean climate (the reason we moved to the bay area in the first place!). Sean A. O'Hara sean[at]

Good Luck! Louisa

Give Deborah Kuchar a call. You can find her contact information at I really enjoyed working with her on our backyard, mostly because she is a good listener. Someone recently posted about a recent experience with a landscape company --- work they thought they were paying for was not part of the bid and communication with the owner did not get filtered down to the actual workers. You will not find this to be the case with Deborah and for this reason we will be asking her back when it's time to landscape our front yard. Her bids were clearly detailed and whenever we added or deleted an item she'd revise the bid and it would be in my email box the very next day. She has a great relationship with her installers and they are in close contact when she is off-site. Lisa

For those looking for a local landscaper/gardener, look into Amber Menzies (219-9863). She does planning & design, plant selection, and a great job at installation. She did our entire property last year (you can check out at 2821 College Ave), and we saw some others before she did ours. We are extremely happy with the results. And she was very reasonably priced. Dara

Feb. 2004

We used Lawrence Fleury to design our front and back yards, and they are both beautiful and functional for everything we wanted to do (kids play area, vegetable garden, wider paved driveway, etc.) I often stop to admire how good the design of my yard is. His number is (510)452-9161. Feel free to contact me for a reference. Karen

Feb. 2004

I'd like to recommend Andreas Flache (Berkeley, tel 845- 4129) for landscape architecture and design. I'd searched for almost a year, interviewing various people, looking at different gardens, until I found someone as excellent as Andreas. Andreas has a masters degree in landscape architecture, is very professional and knowledgeable, is very reasonably priced (we got a lot for our money), and was very easy to work with. He designed a gorgeous courtyard garden for us in a challenging/difficult space that was otherwise unusable. Though he works on huge estates in napa and elsewhere now (his work is in magazines also), he didn't mind working on our smaller project. His high quality work included a set of detailed plans, including a to-be sketch from different angles, detailed plant, drainage, and lighting design, etc. It turned out absolutely amazing, and we couldn't have found anyone with a better eye for blending garden with our home's architecture and making our space usable and beautiful. Sandra

Nov. 2003

Hugo Schmitt from Claremont Landscaping will help you envision your backyard plan. He also will separate costs out, so that you can decide what you do or don't want to do, based on price. Also, if you decide you can do some of it on your own, he will help you with that. He can be reached at 510-524-0500.

September 2003

I highly recommend Lilley Faurot Landscape Design. They did a wonderful job on a big project on my backyard. I get effusive compliments on it whenever I have guests over. Their website is or email maxi at JenniferJune 2003

Im refering my landscaper, Nirko. He is licenced. Contact him at 510-506-0508 He does anything from maintenence to building decks. He did our flagstones and garden. Highly recomended! Jessica

June 2003

Andy Packer of Acorn Landscaping is currently doing for us pretty much exactly the type and scope of work you've described. A few years ago, he installed the irrigation system in our front garden. Once kids arrived in our lives, we realized we needed to tackle our back jungle, too. So Andy has stripped the existing weeds and dangerous plants (century plants and thorny shrubs do not a play space make); leveled large portions of the yard; built steps at each level of the newly terraced yard; built me a big redwood planter box; rototilled; brought in fresh soil; is now installing irrigation; will soon be laying sod and planting flower beds. Here's what Andy doesn't do: Create extensive landscape designs in CAD programs (for that you need a landscape designer or architect); cut down trees (for that you need a licensed tree person); electric work (for that you need a licensed electrician). For all the rest he is wonderful. Andy Packer: 510.531.8441 Darcy

Feb. 2003

I used David McGinnis (he's in the Berkeley area) and found his work to be excellent. Additionally, I felt that his bid was very reasonable given the quality of work and attention to detail. Unfortunately, like all contractors, everything took longer than expected. However, I highly recommend him and would definitely use him again. By the way, my project was quite extensive - we tore out all the old landscaping, put in new retaining walls, drainage systems, and had a fence built. Good luck! Elizabeth

Feb. 2003

For Christine, who seeks ''a contractor that is experienced and professional, but not super high-end'': Call Andy Packer, of Acorn Landscaping, at 510/915-3720. Andy installed the irrigation system in our terraced front garden several years ago, and he recently embarked on our large-scale backyard remodel (which involves tearing out retaining walls, building stairs, leveling the land, amending the soil, setting boulders, laying turf, laying sub-surface drainage, creating an irrigation system, following a complex planting plan by a landscape architect, building planter boxes, and more). Andy is sweet, smart, professional, talented, scrupulously honest, and great to work with (obviously!) There are certain things he will not do, because they are outside his area of expertise (these include deck rebuilding, tree removal, and electrical work) but he is often able to recommend other contractors/specialists to handle those portions of the work. Have fun! Darcy

Feb. 2003

I highly recommend David Ward, at Sticks and Stones. He is talented, professional, very competent and willing to work with you. He's also very personable which makes him easy to work with. He's a terrific landscaper. His number is (510) 658-5863. Susan

Feb. 2003

Many designers are poor at giving realistic cost estimates. Reasons include reluctance to alienate clients, excitement about unusual/complex plans, & lack of direct experience calculating expenses. Get a top contractor; don't compromise quality. It's more expensive to redo things than to do them right in the first place!

Consider scaling back your plans- simplify complicated elements, eliminate hard to find plants that add cost, size down large plants, use less plants etc.. Could your project be successfully kphasedm? Ask the first contractor who bid for feedback on the design relative to costs.

If you give the message to (good) contractors that you want a low-ball price, you may kill their interest. Or, you may get someone who gives you a low price & then comes up with ''add- ons'' after starting. Good luck!

Feb. 2003

I'm a designer/landscape contractor & although I think that hiring a landscape architect is overkill for many projects, I'd suggest it for yours. Any leveling and containing of a steep slope needs to be properly engineered to last and to be safe. I recommend Chris Grampp, 428-1989- he is very experienced & skilled, personable, & happy to design smaller projects (unlike many loandscape architects). For the installation of a project like this, you won't get any better than Barry Friesen, 253-2551- not the cheapest but the best in all ways. cfl

Feb. 2003

I'm the one that posted the question about how best to show thanks/tip the great landscaper. For those of you that want his info, here it is: Gary Walters, of Walters Landscaping. His number is 925-689- 8119. His wife does great landscape design, if you're needing that too. Feel free to email directly if you have questions: bjlevi at --Josie

Feb. 2003

I would like to recommend a fabulous gardener and garden designer. She has an MA in Landscape Architecture from Cal, strong horticultural skills and a lot of hands-on experience. She is currently building her own small gardening & designing business. She has been working on our garden for some time and it is just thriving! She is so easy to work with and very knowledgeable. She has many other grteat references. Her name is Cate Westbrook and she can be reached at: 849-4807 Rachel

Aug 2002

We used Prosperous Plants Landscaping to put in a small patch of sod and install a sprinkler system in our backyard about a year ago. The grass is thriving and has survived lots of raccoon and kid abuse. We were really impressed with the owner and the job and highly recommend them:(510) 569-2030. Nicole

June 2002

I am writing to recommend a gardener...myself! I hope that is appropriate. I can supply references if you would like. I recently moved to the area and am in the process of rebuilding my garden maintenance service down here. I've been gardening in Sonoma County for the last 10 years. My garden care includes maintenance, installation, irrigation and edible gardens. Please give me a call if you are interested. P.S. I don't do lawns. Julie Baron 510.222.9441 jujobaron AT earthlink DOT net

May 2002

I would like to recommend Ruben Camacho for all kinds of landscaping and yard-work, including terracing, rototilling, planting, irrigation, arbors, decks, general lot clean-up, etc. Ruben's home no. is 510-237-6153. He came recommended to me from some attorneys I work for and they were both happy with his work - and as they told me, they are both ''picky and cheap.'' One note of caution: make your wants and needs very clear to Ruben, as he often has he own ideas, which may or may not match yours (i.e., he put in some white gravel before checking with me, which I happen to dislike, but he was very agreeable about switching it to gray pea gravel when I asked him to). He is very reliable, responsive, hard-working, amiable and reasonable. Lisa

I would like to highly recommend Mary True for planting design, installation, maintenance and reasonably priced consultations. She just put a stone patio and plantings in front of our house, with irrigation, and we could not behappier. Extremely knowledgeable, kid friendly, great to work with. She came to us after working with a relative to great success. Her number is 486-8139 tricia

I highly recommend Tamar Carson Landscaping. 654-8242. Tamar has an amazing sense of design, very knowledgeable about plants, irrigation, etc., and very customer oriented. Loads of references available. Note that this kind of project, depending on size, materals, etc., can be quite expensive, definitely in the thousands, possibly in the tens of thousands. -- Susan

I can highly recommend Eric Burkhart at 510-841-4958 as a landscaper. He does beautiful planning/design, installation, and maintenance of gardens. He has great design skills, with a nice sense of flow, and in-depth knowledge of plants. He is friendly, reliable and easy to work with. Lucia


Tamar Carson is a landscape contractor and is available now. Her husband works with her and they have a great and very responsible crew. Tamar just had a baby and the very huge job she had lined up was called off at the last minute so she's quite concerned and eager to take upcoming jobs. Her number is 654-8242. She has a beautiful design sense and has been doing this work for many many years. -June

I have a friend, Sara Ray, a landscape architect, who does small jobs. Her e-mail is rsoluna at and phone # is 918-6080 or 233-5524. Good luck, Susan

In response to the request for a recommendation for a landscape gardener, I would like to recommend Estelle Solomon Landscaping. Although she is my mother (!), I believe I am unbiased in saying that she provides excellent-quality garden installation and garden care services. She has been in business for more than 20 years, and specializes in high quality (not mow and blow) garden care. She is a licensed and insured contractor and I am sure you will be very happy with her services. One caveat though is that she doesn't take maintenance contracts for small gardens - but if your garden is too small for her, she might be able to refer you on to someone else - and she quite possibly could do your planting. Her number is 235-7451. Good luck! Lyla

RE: want design only, not installation
I believe Shihli Lu is a landscape designer who will design plans without requiring you to use her company to implement them. Her address is: Shihlilu at, and she is a pleasure to deal with! -sreilly

I can recommend Vicky Yager, who is a landscape designer and can just the designing for you, or she can do the designing and the work, it's up to the client. Her number is 510-528-2219, email avgardens at Laele

We used Nata Post twice now and loved her designs. She does not do installations. She also has kids and keeps them in mind while she designs. Her number in Oakland is (510) 482-3015 Linda

We are using a wonderful landscape designer. He charges a set amount to do the designs (and he does beautiful and easy to understand drawings). Then you can choose to either use him (and his contacts) to develop the project or you can do it on your own. His name is Lawrence Fleury and his number is 510-452-9161. Good Luck, Nancy


It's time to get serious about my yard! I'm looking for a reasonably priced Landscape Architect to do plans taht I can implement over time. A student would be ideal. Any and all suggestions appreciated. Thanks! Carol

This is in response also to the person looking for a gardener and garden designer. As far as I know, the following people are active and accepting new work. Martha Becker-652-0398, Hannah Sours-Davis 654-7991, Jane Sylvester 237-9957, Susan Ford 261-4639. Also call Merritt College Horticulture Dept. 436-2418. They are a great referral source. Try Berkeley Horticultural nursery, 526-4704, and Sandy Morrill at Smith Hawkins Nursery 527-1076. All of the above people are skilled landscape designers and gardeners with years of experience in maintenance (not mow/blow) and design and installation. June (former landscaper)

We used Natalie Post twice, once when we built our house and once when we bought the lot next door. She tied the two lots together beautifully. She is creative and will design things that you can do over time. It's been 3 or 4 years now, so I don't know how her rates are compared to others, but her designs were wonderful. Her phone number is (510) 482-3015.

My husband has a tile installation business and has worked together with Deborah Kuchar of Big Time Gardening on several high-end projects. Her telephone number is (510)727-4260. She is a licensed landscape contracter and offers garden design services, consulting, research and garden coaching. She is extremely thorough and communicative. No detail is left to chance with Deborah. If there is something she doesn't know then she will do the research herself, on her own time, to find the answers Daphne

My husband is a landscape architect, and he's designed many residential gardens. His name is Darren Reynolds, and you can reach him at our home phone number 707-644-2962. karyn.reynolds

Hanna Sours-Davis lives in Rockridge and does beautiful landscape design/installation. Her number is 654-7991 Also Martha Becker, 652-0398 Both of these women are highly skilled, responsible and honest and do beautiful work. June

I can recommend Martina Ladova for landscape design. Martina was the hardscape designer for Magic Gardens for some years and has recently started her own business called 'Genius Loci'. Magic Gardens specializes in English Garden design but I know that Martina also has a strong interest in native and drought-tolerant designs. She has a degree in environmental design from UC Berkeley and has a strong artistic design sensibility. She's been a friend for many years. Martina Ladova, Genius Loci tel: 569-2679 pager: 389-1025 Ginger


A landscape designer who follows up, is prompt, and seems to know what he's talking about (based on my limited gardening knowledge!) is:
Donald McGuire

Has a great sense of native plant landscaping, too, if that's what you want. Heather

Landscape Architect vs. Landscape Designer

In California, a 'Landscape Designer' has no licensing or educational requirements, but the term 'Landscape Architect' can only be used by those who are licensed by the state after passing an examination. Landscape architects are required to have six years of combined training and educational credit, pass the national licensing examination, and pass the California Supplemental Examination. Landscape designers are not licensed or regulated by the State of California. Licensed landscape architects are listed on this page: