After the trees were in, a hedge was grown to screen off
the cars; then a cascading fountain designed by artist Hugo
McCloud went into the front yard, followed by a collection of large showy agaves. A terrace outside the pool house
became home to palms and other exotic tropical species.
“Everything thrives there,” O’Shea says with amazement.
The final hurdle was on the southwest corner off the master
suite that had wonderful views of Mount Tamalpais, “but the
landscape was just rubble and weeds,” O’Shea says.
In went a retaining wall to shore up the hillside and also
form an outdoor living space surrounded by lush succulents
and Japanese Henon timber bamboo so that “the ridges of
Mount Tam seem to float above the foliage. It is a sunset
terrace they never had,” O’Shea says.
Together, O’Shea and MacDonald designed the first coffee
table made of concrete and bronze by Concreteworks that
doubles as a fire pit. Comfortable armchairs surround it,
“so we can dine there on warm evenings,” MacDonald says.
Even though parts of it could succumb to frost without
vigilant care, this finely balanced “tropical desert garden” that
reflects Hawaii and Southern California is what MacDonald
wanted. With Ascolano olive trees; Agave americana, celsii and
angustifolia; other succulents, and barrel cacti, “we have painted
in a desert,” she says. “But amid five varieties of bamboo,
several palms and Agave attenuata, we fully feel the tropics.” n
“THE RIDGES OF
MOUNT TAM SEEM
TO FLOAT ABOVE
Hugo McCloud’s cascading fountain sculpture.
Inset: In the foreground, one of MacDonald’s prized
olive trees from Crown; In the background, towering
Japanese timber, Oldham’s, textilis and evergreen
golden bamboos on the downslope; in the beds,
filifera, striata, ferox aloes; blue glow and Senecio
“Schwartzkopf” agaves; and a variety of succulents
including Senecio mandriliscae, Aeonium canariense, Euphorbia wulfenii and Euphorbia x martinii.