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Hillside patio, waterfall create perfect summer retreat

By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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How do you make the most of a steep slope in the backyard? Christian Valley residents Fraulene and Ed Davis came up with the perfect solution. They made it the backdrop for the centerpiece of their patio garden ? a 15-foot high water feature. ?Before, it was just a high hill of dirt,? Fraulene Davis said. Created by landscape designer Nathan Beeck, formerly of ClearWater Designs in Auburn, the waterfall flows over rocks and plants into a small pond. ?(We wanted something that ?looks like water is cascading down the mountain,? Davis said. Placing it at just the right spot on the hillside was key to creating the maximum effect ? from both an indoor and outdoor perspective. And it does just that. ?We open our front door and (as you enter), you have a perfect view of the fountain and pond,? she said. Wrapping around the fountain and pond, the stamped concrete patio is lined with flowers and fruit trees. Ed Davis constructed a block wall that extends across the back, against the hillside. It creates the feeling of a patio ?room? as well as providing an excellent ledge for pots of flowers. In fact, there are flowers everywhere. Fraulene Davis chose the plants with an eye to having plenty of bloom and color. ?My mom was quite a flower lover,? she said. ?I?ve always had plants. I love plants.? There are roses, hydrangeas, hibiscus, fuchsias, lavender, rosemary, two dogwood trees and three birch trees. Many of the 13 fruit trees were planted on the hillside to provide patio shade. Next to the waterfall, an apple tree creates a shady spot for one of the five tables that provide ample seating for family and friends. And the apples, which will be ripe in early fall, are in easy reach. ?It?s very peaceful,? Davis said. ?We get up in the morning and it?s the first place we come to. We read the paper and have coffee. We spend a lot of time out there because it is so peaceful.? There?s no formalized vegetable garden, but Davis has planted several squash and tomato plants along the patio. Based on past experience that will be enough to supply the family and some left over, she said. Paved pathways lead to a wooden bridge and an arbor on one end, and, on the other side, a gated exit to the parking area. Behind the block wall, sun-tolerant shrubs and other greenery enhance the steep embankment. Garden art includes three small, unique water fountains. The garden was designed for minimal maintenance. A sprinkler system handles the watering. The spacing and simplicity of the plantings make weeding, trimming and pruning easy. Because the home backs up to woods, deer were eating everything in sight for the first few years. The Davises solved that problem with deer fencing that encircles the back yard but doesn?t interfere with the views. The couple relocated to Auburn in the late 1990s from San Bernardino, choosing the property for its view and then building the home. ?We started looking around and saw this acre for sale ? it is an upslope acre,? Davis said. ?Where we lived before, we had an upslope house and on a clear day you could see Catalina Island.? The front of the house has a full-length veranda with seating to take in the view of the foothills. It?s a great hillside oasis for the Davis family. But there?s still plenty of room for more flowers and trees. ?I continue to put those, in,? Davis said. For homeowners looking to find hardy perennials that can withstand direct sunlight on a similar hillside or unshaded area, Kim Wright, owner of Downtown Auburn?s Avantgarden, suggests creeping rosemary and creeping manzanita. ?(There?s also) Ceanothus, a California native that offers many varieties,? she said. ?Lantana is another and ornamental gasses. But you have to cut them back.?