Welcome to your own personal Design Page! This page will track the entire design process for your project from start to finish. It includes:

  • BASE MAPS show the lay of your land as it already exists.
  • CONCEPTUAL SKETCHES illustrate the general layout and look of the proposed design.
  • 3D VIEWS offer a dynamic understanding of the space as though you are moving through it.
  • PHASE PROPOSALS express the most cost effective strategy for the initial installation.
  • COST ESTIMATES demonstrate an anticipated cost of implementation of designs in itemized lists.


You will find maps as well as supporting images explaining the look, feel and dynamic functions of the your design. Remember that you can click on almost any image to get a larger view. If you have any questions, please email us at info@communitysoil.com.



PROJECT TITLE: Wildlife Habitat & Family Nature Retreat (A Legacy Landscape)

LEGACY VISION: A private and peaceful holiday retreat for weekends and summer break, where family and friends can directly explore and experience natural ecosystems especially wildlife.

Project Brief

START DATE:  January 2016
PROPERTY SIZE: approximately 95 acres in 2 abutted parcels
LIFESTYLE: whimsical & fun while being thoughtful & engaging
NUMBER OF PEOPLE LIVING ON SITE:  primarily on holidays and weekends, a family of 5 with 1 dog as well as a potential residential caretaker
SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS:  must not need daily attention as no one lives onsite full-time as of yet
HOBBIES:  music, hiking, wildlife viewing, exploring nature
LONG-TERM VISION:  own the land into future generations as a place to come together with friends and family to explore and enjoy nature



Property Parcels



To create a highly functioning system, we first define "Nodes of Use." These nodes are where human activity is concentrated, such as a house, workshop or business. From these nodes radiate 1-5 Zones of Use which designate areas from highest to lowest intensity of use. By identifying these nodes and the corresponding zoning, we can design for optimal flow and eliminate redundancy which ultimately reduces the overall maintenance workload.
The property is made up of 2 land parcels that will be zoned 1-5 according to the anticipated intensity of use. Since Parcel #1 has 3 existing nodes of use it will be where the highest concentration of use will occur while Parcel #2 is ideal as a wilderness area (otherwise known as Zone 5). This means that management in Parcel #2 will be minimal once established. The Nodes of Use for Parcel #1 are defined as:

  1. Main House on the hill
  2. Guest Cottage by the pool and fruit orchard
  3. Barn by the pond

Conceptual Sketches or "Studies" are the foundation of the design process and inform all other steps. With each study the overall design will evolve and become more refined and detailed. This Master Sketch will capture the functional elements of the overall landscape which will then inform the design of each Node of Activity to ensure that they are fully integrated. Ultimately,this will concentrate maintenance and management efforts to the Nodes of Activity (in this case:Main House, Cottage and Barn) which reduces inputs and energy needs over the long run.

TR_base map


NODE 1: Main House on the hill

The focus for the Main House is creating a private peaceful retreat by reforesting the area. This will block unwanted views as well as soften sound and wind while creating habitat for wildlife. There is also potential for a small herb garden next to the house for easy access for cooking. Future beyond the Main House, the vegetated swales along the slope not only help to reforest and mitigate erosion but also act as firebreaks. TR_base map main house

  • Reforestation of slope below Main House and along access road – privacy screening from other buildings, powerlines & road, create viewing area with bench, SOD on property
  • Roofwater catchment - space for 20,000 gallons
  • Erosion mitigation - especially of lower gully
  • Fire management/windbreak - vegetated swales along the east slope will act as firebreaks to protect the property.  See image below. Small keypoint ponds could also be added as extra fire security and infiltration points (not shown).
TR_base map firebreak

NODE 2: Caretaker/Guest Cottage

TR_base map cottage The Cottage is the area of highest intensity of use. It is meant to be the center of recreation as well as food production with gardens, perennial hedgerows, turf yard, fruit orchard and direct access to pasture for potential animal systems.

  • Beneficial Hedgerows - Diverse plantings along borders and edges are implemented throughout the property.  These hedgerows protect production crops from weather (especially from the north) as well as create habitat for beneficial insects, birds and other wildlife. They also reduce dust when planted along roadways.
  • Vegetable production - Moving the veggie gardens in towards the recreation area around the pool will increase interaction with it and simplify maintenance. A mix of in-ground keyhole gardens and raised veggie boxes will create visual interest as well as opportunities for more diversity in a small space. This affords numerous ways for the family to experiment & learn about growing food. All conveniently located for cooking fresh!
  • Turf Yard - This open area will be planted with durable turf grasses so that it provides a space for recreation and sports.  The drainage issue along the terrace will be remedied with a small vegetated swale running the length of the terrace.  The plants will uptake much of the water but any excess will outlet via the french drain to the orchard. The swale mound can be planted with edibles like berries that can be snacked on while playing in the yard.
  • Vineyard Terraces - Improve drainage below retaining wall, add a beneficial hedgerow, and separate roses from vineyard irrigation
  • Rain Garden - This area will passively collect any excess water from the swale below the terraces and allow it to infiltrate along a creek bed planted with natives and other beneficial plantings, including a few larger trees, to create a shady magical zone to compliment the sunny turf yard for play time!
  • Fruit Orchard - trees planted on mounds to improve long-term health & productivity, chip pathways, seating area with pergola and fire pit, implement integrated pest management (IPM) including guilding, owl boxes & raptor perches, beneficial hedgerow along driveway
  • Christmas Tree Production - Intermingle small groups of Christmas Tree plantings throughout the property where infrastructure already exists, ideally harvesting 5-6 trees for seasonally
  • Animals – future hopes for chickens & goats will be supported by ample pastures and seasonal orchard rotations.
  • Housing - for onsite caretaker
  • Parking - for 10-12 cars with turnaround

NODE 3: Barn

TR_base map barn The Barn area is designed to be more of a market production zone with the potential for a cider orchard supported by the roofwater catchment (as much as 20,000 gallons) and a beneficial hedgerow. Although it will be more commercial in nature, it will be a stunningly beautiful space to pass through on the way to the pond. The pond edges will be re-vegetated with native riparian plants which will be habitat for all kinds of wildlife for the family to explore. The inlet to the pond will be re-built and have a natural form to create longevity of the system and keep the pond water clear.

  • Re-build pond inlet – create several stone terraces at inlet point as well as earth-shaping & dense planting to mitigate any future erosion & filter silt
  • Riparian Plantings around Pond - Improve plantings around pond to reduce evaporation & increase wildlife habitat
  • Barn Roof Catchment – a potential 100,000 gallons of rain-water can be captured & stored to keep the pond at max height though out the year
  • Secondary Structures - Hobbit playhouse for children and Tiny Houses for guest accommodations can be tucked away in little nooks throughout property.
  • Cider Apple Orchard - This orchard will have a beneficial hedgerow wrapped along its edges but open to the south.  This helps to keep the temperature more even in the orchard which reduces stress and increases the health of the trees.
  • Install secondary pond - low down the hillside adjacent to future cider orchard as a supplemental water source as well as fire protection.

MAIN HOUSE: Functional Elements

Drought-tolerant Landscaping
Design Goals
  • - fire resistant/retardant
  • -drought-tolerant
  • -low-maintenance
  • -full season color
  • -habitat


Trees/Large Shrubs
Prunus ilici. Hollyleaf Cherry. They are dark green when mature and generally shiny on top, and have a smell resembling almonds when crushed. The flowers are small (1-5 millimeters), white, produced on racemes in the spring. The fruit is a cherry 12-25 millimeter diameter, edible and sweet, but contains little flesh surrounding the smooth seed. Great for birds.
Heteromeles arbutifolia. Toyon. This small tree is very drought tolerant and provides red berry for months that are a favorite amongst many birds found in the area.
Morella californica. Pacific Wax Myrtle. This evergreen has yellow flowers that bloom in the early summer. Leaves are lanceolate, dark green, and remain on the plant throughout the year.
Arbutus menziesii. Madrone. This is a particularly beautiful tree with red bark and red berries. The exposed wood sometimes feels cool to the touch. In spring, it bears sprays of small bell-like flowers, and in autumn, its berries. The berries dry up and have hooked barbs that latch onto larger animals for migration.
Cercocarpus betuloides. Mountain Mahogany. This shrub has a typical size of three to five meters in height. The leaves are distinctive in that they have smooth edges from the base to about half way up, then are wavy or toothed to the rounded tip. The shrub's white flowers are small, clustered, and mildly scented. The fruit is tubular, with a distinctive curly light thin feather-like extension going out 2 to 3 inches. The wood of the shrub is extremely hard and reddish.
Cercis occidentalis. Western Redbud. The thin, shiny brown branches bear shiny heart-shaped leaves are light green early in the season and darken as they age. Leaves on plants at higher elevation may turn gold or red as the weather cools. The showy flowers develop in the spring and are bright pink or magenta, and grow in clusters all over the shrub, making the plant very colorful and noticeable in the landscape. The shrub bears 3 inch long brown legume pods which are very thin and dry. It is also a nitrogen-fixer.
Ceanothus gloriosus. California Lilac ‘Anchor Bay’. This shrub grows flat and spreading to erect, approaching two meters in maximum size. It is also a nitrogen-fixer.
Rhamnus californica. Coffeeberry. It is a dense evergreen shrub growing to 6-15 feet tall, with dark red branches. The leaves are an attractive dark green with reddish tint, 1-3 inches long, with a curl under at the edges. The flowers are inconspicuous, small and greenish-white with five petals. The plant is prized more for its fruit, a berry 10-15 millimeters in diameter, which turn red, then purple and finally black over the summer. It is valued by birds. This plant is beautiful and easy to grow.
Arctostaphylos manzanita. Manzanita. It is a tall, beautiful species of manzanita with an often dramatic and winding branch structure. The small white flowers, only a quarter inch long, are cup-shaped and hang upside down. The fruits are berries which are white when new and turn red-brown as the summer wears on. The bark on the long, crooked branches is reddish. It grows into a twisted tree about 15 feet tall.
Feijoa sellow. Pineapple Guava. A versatile, easy to grow plant yielding edible flowers and tropical fruit! Fleshy, white flower petals have showy red accents, contrasting nicely with the gray-green foliage. Tasty guava-like fruit ripens in late fall. Multiple, upright branching form is easily trained as espalier, hedge or small specimen tree for landscape or container. Evergreen.
Punica granatum. Pomegranate. A deciduous tree growing to 5 m (16ft) by 8 m (26ft) at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone 9 and is frost tender. Only possible if an appropriate micro-climate is created.


Mahonia nevinii (aka Berberis nevinii). Nevin’s Barberry. A federally endangered species, once common in the Verdugo Mountains, grows berries that are favored by many songbirds. The spiny leaves also add a protective cover. The shrub can grow up to 4’ in height and 6’ in width and is evergreen. (LA County Fire approved)
Mahonia, Aquifolium and all subspecies. Mahonia/ Barberry. It's purple berries and yellow flowers are favored by many songbirds. The spiny leaves also add a protective cover. (LA County Fire approved)
Carpenteria californica. Bush Anemone. This is an evergreen shrub that will produce attractive white anemone shaped flowers In June or July.
Vaccinium ovatum. Huckleberry. It grows in an upright form to a height of 8 feet. The urn-shaped flowers are white and bloom all through spring. Fruits are blue or black and edible for people as well as wildlife.
Rhus integrifolia. Lemonade Berry. A very drought-resistant shrub that provides cover and food to wildlife. California Thrasher uses it's fruit and leaf material for nesting. It also is an excellent erosion control plant.
Ribes aureum.  Golden Currant. This currant grows upright to 6’ and is lacy in structure. In summers, it can go semi-drought deciduous, though with some water in will remain evergreen. It’s berries offer a high wildlife value. (LA County Fire approved)
Symphoricarpos albus. Common Snowberry. While not the favorite berry choice of most wildlife, it still gets eaten. Its root system is vigorous and deep enough to hold most banks. Snowberry has been seen on North-facing slopes in the full sun, though shaded areas such as under oaks is best.
Lupinus albifrons. Silver Lupine. This evergreen lupine is a nitrogen-fixer which feeds other nearby plants. It is a perennial shrub, taking up about 2 feet of space and reaching 5 feet. It has a light blue to violet flower on 3-12 inch (7.6-30 centimeter) stalks.
Mimulus aurantiacus
Bush Monkey Flower.
This variety does well in the summer heat and provides orange/yellow flowers. It grows 5’ x 5’. The flowers and seeds provide wildlife value


Perennial Herbs
Monardella villosa. Coyote Mint. This is a perennial herb that forms a small bush or matted tangle of hairy mint-scented foliage. The fragrance is one of the best features of this plant.
Armeria maritima. Thrift Seapink. It does well in gardens designed as xeriscapes or rock gardens. If planted in its native coastal strand, this plant needs no supplementary irrigation after established.
Erigeron glaucus. Seaside Daisy. This perennial daisy reaching heights between 5 and 30 centimeters with branching, nodding stems which may be hairy and hairy to hairless. It grows from a stout rhizome and produces thick, firm, rounded to spoon-shaped leaves.
Achillea millefolium. Common Yarrow. The plant commonly flowers from May through June, and is a frequent component in butterfly gardens.
Eriophyllum confertiforum. Golden Yarrow. It has greenish to gray-green stems and foliage, the leaves sharply lobed and divided. The top of each stem is occupied by a flower cluster of up to 30 flower heads, each bright golden yellow head with a large center of disc florets and usually a fringe of rounded to oval ray florets. Its long blooming season makes it welcome in the garden.
Galvezia speciosa. Island Bush Snapdragon. This CNPS “rare” plant is from the Channel Islands and stays evergreen year round producing trumpet shape red flowers favored by hummingbirds. It grows in 18” to 24” in height and 3’ to 5’ in width. It also adds excellent cover for wildlife.
Penstemon spp. Beard Tongue. Showy Penstemons are beautiful, fast growing, and easy to grow. Plants start producing spectacular hummingbird-attracting purple flowers their first year.
Zauschneria californica. California Fuchsia. It is a perennial plant, notable for the profusion of bright scarlet flowers in summer and autumn - it's usually the only native California plant in an area flowering at the height of summer.
Eschscholzia californica. California Poppy. t can grow 5-60 centimeters tall, with alternately branching waxy pale blue-green foliage. The leaves are divided into round, lobed segments. The flowers range from yellow to orange, and flowering is from February to September.
Romneya coulteri. Matilija Poppy. The gray-green, waxy-textured leaves are each divided into a few lance-shaped lobes, the blades growing up to 20 centimeters long. The inflorescence is a large, solitary flower with six crinkly white petals each up to 10 centimeters long. At the center of the flower is a cluster of many yellow stamens. The fruit is a bristly capsule 3 or 4 centimeters long containing many tiny seeds.
Erysimum capitatum. Sanddune Wallflower. It is a mustard-like plant with thin, erect stems growing from a basal rosette and topped with dense bunches of variably colored flowers. Flowers are most typically bright golden, yellow, tangerine-colored, but plants in some populations may have red, white or purple flowers.
Polystichum munitum. Swordfern. The dark green fronds of this fern grow to 50-180 centimeter (i.e. nearly 6 feet) tall, in a tight clump spreading out radially from a round base. It is evergreen and drought-tolerant.
Symphyotrichum chilense. California Aster. It is perennial herb growing to heights between 40 centimeters and one meter. The hairy leaves are narrowly oval-shaped, pointed, and sometimes finely serrated along the edges. The flower cluster holds aster flower heads with centers of yellow disc florets and fringes of many narrow light purple ray florets. Great for a butterfly garden.
Eriogonum grande var. rubescens. Wild Buckwheat. (or other buckwheats) It is a mat-forming plant producing tall, stout flower clusters of white, pink or red flowers.The naked inflorescence rises as much as 12 inches above the leaves. The flowers are held in ball-like clusters at the top, and its long bloom time in summer makes it popular with pollinators, especially butterflies.


Seasonal Bulbs/Corms/Tubers
Iris douglasiana. Douglas Iris. The flowers can be highly variable in color, and there are many cultivars available.
Iris macrosiphon. Ground Iris. The typical iris leaves are very slender, arching, strap-like, 2.5-5 millimeter wide, and blue-green in color. The flower is highly variable, from golden yellow to cream or pale lavender to deep blue-purple, generally with darker veins.


Thymus praecox arcticus. Creeping Thyme. A long-lived, vigorous cultivar, Pink Creeping Thyme has tiny, glossy, dark green leaves covered with light pink flowers pushing from rose-pink buds in early summer. This Thyme is impressively xeric with tough, woody stems and leathery foliage that doesn't "melt" with summer heat and humidity. Can tolerate occasional foot traffic.
Clinopodium douglasii. Yerba Buena. A creeping perennial herb that is delicate, with tiny leaves on very slender stems. It does not have rhizomes but roots itself as it spreads. The leaves and flowers have a lovely fragrance and are both edible. The leaves make a great tea. Looks good in a rock garden climbing around boulders.
Sedum spp. Stonecrop. The leaves are somewhat thick and succulent. In spring the plant puts up an erect flower stalk with diminutive yellow flowers. This succulent works well in rock gardens in northern California.
Dudleya farinosa. Bluff Lettuce. This is a beautiful succulent plant with striking red foliage in the dry season. The leaves are generally very pale green but they often have edges or tips of bright colors.
Monardella linoides viminea. Willowy Coyote Mint. This federally protected coyote mint grows up to 18” tall and prefers North facing (somewhat shaded) or riparian areas. It has a long blooming cycle, flowering through the summer and fall and is an attractant to hummingbirds and butterflies. Songbirds also eat the seeds.
Atriplex canescens. Four-wing Saltbush. A low growing form of saltbush (1-2’ high, 3’ wide) that happily grows in the desert. It provides seeds, salt and cover for wildlife.
Symphoricarpos mollis. Creeping Snowberry.    The shrub does well in warm climates and can tolerate both intense sun and constant shade. It is a plant of chaparral ecosystems.
Lonicera hispidula. Pink Honeysuckle. The tubular pink flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds. It will climb up larger shrubs or a trellis if available; otherwise it will spread out along the ground.


Grasses/Grass-like Plants
Sisyrinchium bellum. Blue-eyed Grass. This perennial grass-like herb will grow well in shadier spots.
Festuca rubra. Creeping Red Fescue. It is used as a turfgrass and groundcover and can be left completely unmowed for a lush prairie-like look. An easy, low-maintenance ground cover. It is beneficial for erosion control and will attract wildlife to your lawn or meadow.  Mow when in extended drought.
Juncus patens. Common Rush. VERY FIRE RESISTANT It is a perennial herb forming narrow, erect bunches of stems arising from a central clump. The stems are thin, gray-green, often somewhat waxy, and grooved, and grow 30 to 90 centimeters in maximum height.


Christmas Tree Grove

Things to consider for successful Christmas tree production:

  • Good Drainage - All of the Christmas tree varieties dislike wet feet. Some can tolerate it but this greatly increases the probability of disease issues. So we will have to determine a different location for the grove since the chosen site is quite wet seasonally.
  • Stump Culture or Replanting - Replanting is most known technique for growing trees because it is geared entirely towards mechanization. But when harvesting by hand, restrictions are much more loose and offer much more efficient long-term strategies. There is a technique called "Stump Culture" that is very similar to coppicing, which is a practice where a single tree is topped every 4-7 years to yield a single Christmas tree and fresh greens for wreaths. This allows a single planting to be harvested from for 50+ years with almost no maintenance or amendments. It also allows for a quicker turn around for harvest because root systems are already established. We recommend Stump Culture in your case. Checkout Al Pieropan Xmas Tree Farm for more details on this technique. Here is an image of a second tree harvest. Notice the tree is actually a sprout off of a tree stump from a previous harvest.

Best Christmas Tree Varieties for California:

  1. Douglas Fir (4-5 years for stump harvest)
  2. Sierra Redwood (4-5 years for stump harvest)
  3. White Fir/Concolor Fir (5-6 years for stump harvest)
  4. Grand Fir (5-6 years for stump harvest)
  5. Scotch Pine
  6. Nobles (6-7 years for stump harvest) note that it may be too warm in Nicasio for this variety


Understory Plantings:

In the beginning there will be a lot of open space around the seedling trees. This space needs to be kept low to ensure success. Thus, the highest labor demand for growing Christmas trees is mowing between trees. So planting a low-growing understory greatly reduces the overall workload. Some understory plant suggestions are:

salalSalal (Gaultheria shallon) great for flower arrangements and deer-resistant
bear grassBear-grass (Xerophyllum tenax) durable leaves can be woven into baskets and mats and are deer-resistant
falseboxFalsebox (Pachistima myrsintes) the plant itself is deer-resistant but its berries are a tasty and nutritious food for wildlife
swordfernSwordfern (Polystichum munitum) a soft, deer-resistant evergreen understory
deer fernDeer Fern (Blechnum spicant) a soft, deer-resistant understory
huckleberryEvergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) a beautiful deer-resistant bush with edible berries
rampsRamps (Allium tricoccum) an edible wild leek that makes wonderful groundcover
comfreyComfrey (Symphytum × uplandicum) a nutrient rich living mulch



Unfortunately the original site is very wet for part of the season and greatly increases the chances of disease in your Christmas Tree stock. But you have many locations where they will thrive. The best locations are:

  • Along the access road by the main house on the up slope side
  • As a windbreak around the potential cider orchard area
  • Along other access roads where there is opportunity to also enhance privacy screening and dust reduction

PLANTING (at least these 3 varieties):

Christmas Tree Planting Plan


Note that the first year, would include 6 trees of 3 planting ages.  Block A will be the most mature and will be harvested in 2 years.  Block B will be of average maturity and will be harvested in 3 years.  And Block C will be the least mature (seedlings) and will be ready for harvest in 4 years.  After that, 6 seedling trees will be planted each year following so that at least 5 trees will be mature for harvest each year forward.  If you choose to use the Stump Culture approach, planting will cease in either year 2018 or 2019 depending on growth rate and from then on harvesting will be from stumps.


We recommend mimicking the planting pattern of natural forests by integrating trees of successive ages instead of clear cutting This planting pattern is called mosaic. It optimizes growth in multiple ways. The primary function is that older trees give shade and wind protection to younger more tender seedlings. When the older trees are harvested the seedlings are mature enough to thrive in the exposure. Age Blocks are labeled A-E. The pattern would look something like this:

Christmas Tree Mosaic Pattern

Roof Water Catchment

Ranch Road Repair

Ranch roads can be a constant maintenance task if not designed well. There are several spots the property that can be reshaped to minimize erosion and thus minimize maintenance. The primary design element that is use is called a "Rolling Dip." It is subtle solution to low maintenance road construction that blend in to the landscape.
Road Finished

The Rolling Dip:

the most basic and most reliable cross drain for ranch roads
Rolling Dip diagram

Designing Rolling Dips

Rolling Dip Plan View copy
Key aspects of the Rolling Dip:

  • - suitable to drain roads that having grades between 3% and 15%
  • - collects surface runoff and directs the flow across the roadway to reduce erosion
  • - a gentle velocity of flow must be sustained through the dip to prevent puddling and keep sediment moving through the drain
  • - must be sized according to the dimensions of vehicles to be used on the road

Rolling Dip Side View copy
Constructing a Rolling Dip

COTTAGE AREA: Design Details

First Study

Fourth Study

Seventh Study

Second Study

Fifth Study

Third Study

Sixth Study

3D Views

Experience the new space here!



  • Overview from the West
  • Entrance & Beneficial Hedgerow
  • Overview from the East
  • Kitchen Garden with raised boxes & in-ground keyhole beds
  • View from pool
  • Terraces with beneficial plantings
  • Rain Garden
  • Entrance to Orchard with Beneficial Hedgerow
  • Orchard Pergola with Fire Pit
  • Potential Garden Beds around Pergola

COTTAGE AREA: Functional Elements


The pergola style shade structure will be a centerpiece of the landscape. It's elegant yet sturdy form offers the option to grow climbing plants up and over it as well as substantial shade throughout the day. This custom design requires only 1 post to be mounted within the existing patio space. All other posts will be mounted into the earth outside the existing patio.




COMPARING SHADE: Pergola v. Shade Sail




Vineyards are monocultures and thus are very susceptible to disease and pests. Adding biodiverse plantings in and around vineyards will greatly reduce these risks as well as increase pollination while reducing erosion, water demand, and overall maintenance. These beneficial plantings also act as decoys to reduce predation of productive fruit by birds and other wildlife. In general, plants that we consider to be aromatic offer pest management effects.
LEARN MORE about beneficial plants for vineyards here.

ASBUILT Vineyard Terrace Plantings

Tree Lilac (Ceanothus) native, nitrogen-fixer

Flannelbush (Fremontodendron) native

California Lilac (Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’) native, nitrogen-fixer

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

Bush Mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatis) native

Manzanita (Arctostaphylos stanfordiana ‘Louis Edmunds’) native

Mexican Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii) IPM

Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) IPM, flower nectar is edible

Island Buckwheat (Eriogonum arborescens) native, amazing pest manager! IPM

Culinary Herbs
Weeping Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus') IPM

Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) edible flowers & IPM

Medicinal Herbs
French Lavender (Lavandula intermedia 'Provence') IPM

White Sage (Salvia apiana) native, IPM

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) native, IPM

Perennial Herbs - Integrated Pest Management (IPM) & Habitat
California fuchsia (Epilobium) native

Coyote Mint (Monardella villosa) native

Seaside Daisy (Erigeron) native

Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)

Grasses/Grass-like plants
Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) native

Giant Wild Rye (Leymus condensatus)


What is "Guilding"?
Guilding (or companion planting) is a specific polyculture technique used to improve fertility, confuse pests, attract beneficial insects, as well as provide increased yields. Guilds are typically set up around a central fruit tree and consist of several plant species that performs one or more functions that benefit others in the vicinity, as well as interacting with animal species and soil microorganisms to create a resilient ecosystem.
Guild Layout copy
Some KEY FUNCTIONS to be sure to include when designing a Fruit Tree Guild are:

  • - Suppress (reduce competition with grasses & weeds)
  • - Attract (lure in pollinators & predators of pests)
  • - Repel (drive away pests)
  • - Mulch (shade the soil & create leaf litter to build soil in situ)
  • - Accumulate (concentrate scarce nutrients to enrich the soil)
  • - Fix Nitrogen (convert nitrogen from the air into the soil)


GUILD NICHES: Mimicking Nature

Mimicking nature will achieve the best results when designing landscapes. So we look to the way forests naturally grow when designing and planting resilient orchard guilds by increasing cooperation and reducing competition.

The main layers of a forest are:

  1. 1. Overstory
  2. 2. Midstory
  3. 3. Woody Understory
  4. 4. Herbaceous Understory
  5. 5. Groundcover Layer
  6. 6. Root Layer
  7. 7. Climbing Layer
  8. Forest Layers

Adapting Layered Forest Pattern to Food Production by guilding in an orchard setting, looks something like this:
guild layers
Planting Layer Examples:

  1. 1. Overstory: Apple Tree (Primary Production)
  2. 2. Midstory: Goji Berry (Nitrogen-fixer, Edible fruit)
  3. 3. Woody Understory: Golden Currant (Edible Fruit, Attractor)
  4. 4. Herbaceous Layer: Comfrey (Accumulator, Mulcher, Attractor)
  5. 5. Groundcover: Nasturtiums (Mulcher, Repeler)
  6. 6. Root Layer: Society Garlic (Suppressor, Repeler)
  7. 7. Climbers: Red Runner Beans (Nitrogen-fixer, Mulcher)



Example Fruit Tree Guilds:

simple guild
apple guild

ASBUILT Plant List for Fruit Orchard Guilding

Culinary Herbs
Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) edible flowers & IPM

Mint (Mentha) edible leaves, IPM

Medicinal Herbs
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) native, IPM
Perennial Herbs - Integrated Pest Management (IPM), soil building & Habitat
Seaside Daisy (Erigeron) native

Catmint (Nepeta)

Comfrey (Symphytum ‘Bocking 14’) dynamic accumulator

Lupine (Lupinus) native, nitrogen-fixer

Coyote Mint (Monardella villosa) native


A shade sail offers a low profile and can be taken down in the off season. The lightweight sails can span large distances which minimizes the need for posts. The posts are steel and can be mounted into the earth outside the existing patio space.





COMPARING SHADE: Pergola v. Shade Sail




ASBUILT Plant List for swale

Edible Plants
Blueberries (Vaccinium var.)

Raspberries (Rubus var.)

Medicinal Herbs
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) native, IPM
Perennial Herbs - Integrated Pest Management (IPM) & Habitat
Creeping Manzanita (Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’) native

Creeping California Lilac (Ceanothus griseus horizontalis) native, nitrogen-fixer

California fuchsia (Epilobium) native

Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)


A biological tool for ecological success
LEARN MORE about beneficial hedgerows here.
Beneficial Hedgerow

ASBUILT Beneficial Hedgerows

Beneficial Hedgerow top

Poolside & Roadside Plantings

Weeping Mulberry (Morus alba) edible fruit

Kumquat (Fortunella japonica) edible fruit

Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia) native IPM

Mexican Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii) IPM

Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) IPM, flower nectar is edible

Giant Buckwheat (Eriogonum giganteum) native, amazing pest manager! IPM

Culinary Herbs
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora) IPM

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) IPM

Medicinal Herbs
French Lavender (Lavandula intermedia 'Provence') IPM

White Sage (Salvia apiana) native, IPM

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) native, IPM

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) IPM

Perennial Herbs - Integrated Pest Management (IPM) & Habitat
Hot Lips Sage (Salvia microphylla) native

Red Buckwheat (Eriogonum rubescens) native

Germander Sage (Salvia chamaedryoides)

Coyote Mint (Monardella villosa) native

Seaside Daisy (Erigeron) native

Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina)

Creeping California Lilac (Ceanothus griseus horizontalis) native, nitrogen-fixer

Stonecrop (Sedum)

Grasses/Grass-like plants
Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) native

Common Rush (Juncus patens) native

Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca) native


There are basically three different ways to build "Hobbit Homes."  Our organization can design and install whichever  style you prefer.  In the descriptions of these building styles, we have also included a link to other businesses that have extensive information on their websites about these structures.  Feel free to explore!


ASBUILT Plant List for rain garden

Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) native, nitrogen-fixer

Weeping Mulberry (Morus alba) edible fruit

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) edible & medicinal fruit

Bush Mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatis) native

Mexican Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii) IPM

Medicinal Herbs
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) native, IPM

French Lavender (Lavandula intermedia 'Provence') IPM

Perennial Herbs - Integrated Pest Management (IPM) & Habitat
Island Buckwheat (Eriogonum) native

Hot Lips Sage (Salvia microphylla) native

Milkweed (Asclepias) essential habitat and food for Monarch Butterflies, native

California Aster (Aster chilensis) native

Goldenrod (Solidago californica)

California fuchsia (Epilobium) native

Grasses/Grass-like plants
Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens)

Mendocino Reed Grass (Calamagrostis foliosa)

Common Rush (Juncus patens) native


BARN AREA: Functional Elements


A key issue in this restoration is the existing concrete chute, seen in the photo below. It doesn't allow infiltration and speeds the velocity of the incoming water which increases erosion and silt build up in the pond. To resolve this situation there are several possible levels of invention.
POND INLET existing



We have broken up the project into two sections:

  • The Upper Catchment (drainage area above the road)
  • the Lower Catchment (drainage area below the road)
  • All possible interventions will require reshaping of the Upper Catchment. The existing catch basin must be repaired/improved and 2 more catch basins need to be created to ensure that water is moving as gently as possible into the Lower Catchment system.

    THE UPPER CATCHMENT will look something like this:
    POND INLET top from road copy

    THE LOWER CATCHMENT can be restored in 3 ways:

    • Option A is a full restoration
    • Option B is a mid-level intervention
    • Option C is the lowest invention without jeopardizing the integrating of the project




    POND INLET copy
    Mechanically break up the existing concrete and use it to build 3 catch basins with small check dams above the pathway. Use the stone section of the pathway as the level spillway for the bottom catch basin. If desired, these concrete check dams can be beautified by top-dressing with a more natural looking stone so as to integrate better into the existing landscape. Then run a small swale just below the pathway, following its contour, stretching out in both directions. Each end of the swale will have a wide level spillway that allows the emergency overflow to sheet through grasses, be filtered there, then enter the pond which mitigates erosion and silt dump. But the primary overflow will spill just below and inline with the 3 catch basins above the pathway. This water will continue into yet another series of 3 catch basins. This added series will revitalize the water by thoroughly aerating it as well as beautifying this area and optimizing infiltration. With each opportunity for infiltration the pond will receive supplemental water for a longer period across the season.
    POND INLET below road copy


    Option B

    Mechanically break up the existing concrete and use it to build 3 catch basins with small check dams above the pathway and 1 catch basin below. Use the stone section of the pathway as the level spillway for the bottom catch basin. Then run a small swale just below the pathway, following its contour, stretching out in both directions just as in Option A but this will be the primary outlet which eliminates the need for the series of lower catch basins.
    POND INLET below road TOP


    Option C

    This option is very similar to Option B but instead it keeps the existing concrete chute. Instead of breaking it up, we can bore holes into it to allow for infiltration and then build up with stone the 3 catch basins above the pathway.


There are numerous versions of tiny house design so we have decided to break things down into four main styles:







Cargo Box




POND: Maintaining optimal water level

To monitor the height of the pond more accurately, we recommend resetting the existing measuring pole and remark it with more precise measurements.

  • Treatment for Possible Leaks
  • Treatment for Evaporation
Design Goals
  • - protect pond structural integrity
  • - reduce evaporation
  • - drought-tolerant
  • - low-maintenance
  • - full season color
  • - habitat


Windbreak Design Basics:

Windbreaks do exactly what they say they do: “break” wind currents up into harmless little breezes.  They do not block the wind. Blocking the wind actually makes the wind current worse by concentrating them into a destructive force of extra agitated air.


And planting scheme for a simple windbreak looks something like the image below. Rows of diverse plantings of differing height. The tallest in the center and the shortest at the edges.


Windbreaks can be simple green textured buffers or dynamic and colorful like this:



Either way, they will break up prevailing wind in doing so reduce evaporation of pond water.


Choosing Plants

In your case, there is the added challenge due to the proximity to the pond wall. We do not want to puncture the pond so we utilize shallow rooted plants on the pond wall itself.


Prunus ilici.

Hollyleaf Cherry.

dark green holly shaped leaves that smell like almonds when crushed with small flowers that lead to a cherry 12-25 millimeter diameter, edible and sweet Great for birds.
Adenostoma fasciculatum. Chamise. tough-as-nails, with striking white flower clusters in spring, white flowers
Aesculus californica. California Buckeye. one of the most ornamental native shrubs/trees, white flowers
Morella californica. Pacific Wax Myrtle. yellow flowers that bloom in the early summer with dark green leaves
Ceanothus spp.

California Lilac.

especially local species; hybrids best with a little afternoon shade, blue/violet/white flowers
Cephalanthus occidentalis. Button Willow. ornamental white ball-shaped flowers; deciduous
Heteromeles arbutifolia.


excellent for screen or bird habitat; adaptable to wet or dry, sun or shade, white flowers and red berries
Juglans californica.

Southern California Walnut.

excellent small- to medium-sized shade tree; edible nuts
Rhus spp.


drought-resistant, aromatic, attaining large size, pink/white flowers and orange/red berries
Sambucus mexicana. Elderberry. pretty white and yellow flower clusters and berries; takes moisture or drought
Rhamnus californica. Coffeeberry. great bird habitat


Artemisia californica.

Coastal Sagebrush.

aromatic, super-tough plant for dry spots
Lepechinia fragrans.

Pitcher Sage.

aromatic, pretty plant for along walkways
Encelia californica.

California Bush Sunflower.

fast-growing and easy; reseeds; seeds appeal to birds
Eriogonum spp.


especially E. fasciculatum, California Buckwheat
Romneya coulteri.

Matilija Poppy.

tough root system spreads by rhizomes
Salvia spp.


shrubs such as Black and White Sages, Cleveland Sage, San Miguel Mtn. Sage
Trichostema lanatum.

Wooly Blue Curls.

likes a dry sunny spot with excellent drainage


Achillea millefolium.


full sun or part shade; spreads
Baccharis pilularis.

‘Twin Peaks’ or ‘Pigeon Point’,

Dwarf Coyote Brush

white flowers and nitrogen-fixer
Ceanothus griseus horizontalis.

‘Yankee Point’.

early blue flowers and nitrogen-fixer
Muhlenbergia rigens.

Deer Grass.

perennial bunch grass
Salvia spp.

Groundcover Sage.

varieties such as ‘Gracias,’ ‘Pt. Sal,’ ‘Bees Bliss’
Epilobium canum

& E. canum latifolia.

California Fuchsia.

white form requires some shade


The Cider Orchard space at most can be a total area of 1.5 acres.  Block 1 shows the primary space, Block 2 the secondary space, and if the production goals are needing a bit more room, Block 3 as an extension space.


If all blocks are included in the final cider orchard layout the fencing would look something like the image below.  There are a potential of 3 to 5 gates depending on circulation goals and final fencing placement.


Tree Numbers - 300 to 500 trees depending on final row/path layout


LEARN MORE about small-scale commercial cider orchards here.


Phasing Plans

Phase 1 Proposal

In order to get the backyard usable, the least that needs to be done is the basic infrastructure of the design. This would include:

  • removing of existing tree/shrubs
  • installing patio & pathways
  • installing raised beds
  • installing bamboo privacy screen
  • irrigation
The in-ground beds as well as raised beds can wait to be planted if needed but if any beds are left un-planted, we recommend mulching/cover-cropping accordingly to keep soil in place, to passively build soil, and to develop beneficial soil biology in preparation for future plantings.  Also, the construction and installation of the pergola and other structures can be installed at a later date if desired.

Cost Estimates

Initial Design Fee Estimate for Overall Assessment and Cottage Area

The following is only an ESTIMATE for the design fee, especially with a multi-faceted property like yours. The ACTUAL design fee will be calculated directly from the actual hours worked.   If we foresee any problems or any evolve in meeting the allotted estimated fees, we will contact you to discuss options before exceeding any allotted hours. Ultimately, the final design fee will be contingent on which areas you decide to pursue and to what level of detail. However, the number below is a rough estimate of what can be expected.
Interview & Field Measurements ____     8__ ____
BASE MAP: Drawing to useable scale ____ _10_   ____
ANALYSIS & Research ____ _10 _ ____
Conceptual Sketch ____ _10   _ ___
Follow Up: Final Vision ______4__       __
Design Adjustments ______6   _____
Plant List & Concept ______7   _____
Phasing Plan ______6   _____
Final Design & Cost Estimate ______4     ____
Estimated Design Fee  65 HRS @ $55/HR = $ 3,575.00