Close quarters almost seems like an understatement when talking about this tiny (roughly 20-x-30-foot) San Francisco backyard. Space was so tight, the renovation required removing tons of soil and rock via 5-gallon bucket through a small gap cut in a neighbor's fence. That part of the job took two weeks.
"That was an ordeal," landscape architect Richard McPherson admits, but not all that unusual in a city famous for tiny backyards. But the benefit of removing all that material was clear: by cutting into the steep hillside, McPherson was able to create a garden on several levels, and effectively increase the area available for planting.
Once the excavation was complete, crews poured concrete retaining walls to stabilize the hill. The gray concrete was stained to blend into the surroundings and to minimize its bulk. McPherson then went to work on the deck, keeping the original plank flooring and extending the area outward with black slate tiles.
Continued on page 2: A Garden of Levels