Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

A Garden Grows in Quarantine: ‘Cultivated Wildness’ in a Landscape Architect Couple’s Napa Home

Search

A Garden Grows in Quarantine: ‘Cultivated Wildness’ in a Landscape Architect Couple’s Napa Home

July 21, 2020

Like many city dwellers with second homes, Roderick Wyllie and James Lord decamped for theirs, in Napa Valley, when the first “shelter in place” orders hit the Bay Area. The two are partners in life and at Surfacedesign, an award-winning multidisciplinary landscape architecture firm in San Francisco, and they figured it would be easier to social-distance away from the city. They assumed it would be a short stay—and then back to their regularly scheduled comfy urban life.

Four months later, they’re still in Napa, in their “funny little house that used to be a hunting shack,” says Roderick. They’ve found that they’re enjoying their new routines in the country more than they had anticipated and, like so many stories involving a breath of fresh air, their perspective has changed. “I do want to go back to the studio in San Francisco, but maybe not five days a week. We’re in our early fifties. We’ve never lived outside of cities consistently like this. It’s interesting to have a little break.”

Not to mention, rural living has its perks. For one, “we have friends who come up now, because we can be outside mostly, and it feels safe,” says Roderick. For another, he and James, self-described landscape architects who actually like plants, have been able to reconnect with the land. The two spent spring planting all sorts of annuals, transforming their patio and pool area into an artfully wild and colorful landscape. (The couple has a small garden in their city home, but it’s a “study in silver foliage and succulents” and very different from their Napa garden.)

While most gardens can take years to mature, theirs, which relies heavily on tall, stalky annuals like hollyhocks and poppies, took just a few months to fill in and casually spread and spill. “It’s a moment that’s going to pass,” acknowledges Roderick. ‘It’s a gift, really. You have to pay attention and appreciate it.”

It is our good fortune that photographer Marion Brenner recently visited their garden to appreciate and capture the moment for posterity.

Have a look.

Photography by Marion Brenner, courtesy of Surfacedesign Inc.

The couple has been slowly sprucing up the property since they bought it five years ago. &#8
Above: The couple has been slowly sprucing up the property since they bought it five years ago. “It’s been a real labor of love to turn this into what it is now. Dry Creek [a tributary of the Russian River] runs along the lowest part of the property, and the house is benched into the sloped landscape; we built a wall and backfilled the soil to create the garden,” explains James. The house is painted Benjamin Moore Dark Pewter.
The pool was always on the property, but it was surrounded by concrete. The couple had the concrete replaced instead with slabs of reclaimed sidewalk that a stone supplier sold to them at a very discounted price.
Above: The pool was always on the property, but it was surrounded by concrete. The couple had the concrete replaced instead with slabs of reclaimed sidewalk that a stone supplier sold to them at a very discounted price.
The structural work and the garden fundamentals—including a Carpinus (hornbeam) hedge and three &#8
Above: The structural work and the garden fundamentals—including a Carpinus (hornbeam) hedge and three ‘Galaxy’ magnolia trees—were all in place before James and Roderick decamped for Napa, but much of the color (thanks to the planting of hundreds of annuals) was added just a few months ago.
The long bricks that form the base for the fire pit are by Petersen Tegl, a centuries-old brick company in Denmark. &#8
Above: The long bricks that form the base for the fire pit are by Petersen Tegl, a centuries-old brick company in Denmark. “We ordered them for a sample for a project. They accidentally sent us two sets, so we used them for a base. Lava rock surrounds them,” says Roderick. The Uma Sound Lantern is by Pablo Designs.
&#8
Above: “We planted a ton of poppies, and we weeded a ton,” says Roderick. “The wildness is something we cultivated. It’s ongoing—the poppies exploded, then the hollyhocks. There’s a cycle.”
The side tables are by Atelier Vierkant, a family-owned ceramics company in Belgium. Roderick and James often use their sculptural planters on their projects.
Above: The side tables are by Atelier Vierkant, a family-owned ceramics company in Belgium. Roderick and James often use their sculptural planters on their projects.
&#8
Above: “We spread California poppy seeds to see if they would take, and they did—even in these extreme conditions,” says James. “We deadheaded, dried them out, shook the heads, and all the poppy seeds fell out. Now we have a giant mound of seeds ready to be planted the next season.” Several E15 Backenzahn Stools are scattered around the patio.
The couple credits annuals from Annie&#8
Above: The couple credits annuals from Annie’s Annuals in Richmond, CA, for transforming their garden. Over the past few months, they’ve planted ten different types of poppies, seven types of foxgloves, and five types of hollyhocks and verbascums, all sourced from Annie’s.

N.B.: We learned of Roderick and James’ Napa garden from their good friend, George McCalman. You can read my story about George’s knack for hosting parties here.

For more Napa gardens we admire, see:

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0