The Secret Garden Cottage of Rancho Santa Fe

Landscape Design and Construction The Secret Garden Cottage of Rancho Santa Fe

There are many reasons to buy a property – some are bought thanks to their convenient locations, some for the beauty of the interior, while others buy them in the pursuit of a dream. For one homeowner in Rancho Santa Fe, this dream was the creation of a secret garden on his estate.

The plan of the garden was twofold- long, winding walkways surrounded by towering flora that obscured the views until you eventually reached one of two destinations. The first, a Spanish-style cottage, the second, a flourishing grotto filled with the sounds of running water.

To realize this dream, the homeowner got in contact with Torrey Pines Landscape Company, which they knew had performed some dramatic transformations for larger landscapes in the past. Working together with the homeowner to get the vision just right, Torrey Pines set to work bringing their dream garden to life.

The Grotto

The grotto was split into two main parts – a pool and a smaller pond with a running water feature. To build out the pool on the gently sloping property, the team first leveled out the foundation and created a large, curved retaining wall for both structural support and to act as a visual focal point, using a facade of stacked river rocks to give the impression that it was carved through natural forces.

The pool was constructed in the shape of a kidney using blue-tinged smoothed flagstones, giving a natural cerulean color that you’d find in a tropical coastal tide pool or jungle spring. The flagstones rise gradually from the water in a gentle slope before transitioning into a leveled patio constructed with sand-colored flagstone interspersed with sections of multicolored brick.

Planters filled with tropical and subtropical flora fill the area above the retaining wall, lining the stone with greens, reds, yellows, purples, and oranges. The sheer volume of plants creates a sensation of seclusion as if you have discovered a virgin spring amidst the dense wilds.

The sound of running water fills the grotto from the second, smaller water feature. Built into the hillside with stacked, mottled gray stone, a small pool is constantly refreshed by a trickling waterfall fed by the built-in feature.

The Walkways

Snaking out from either side of the grotto towards the house, the twin walkways are shaded by a variety of palms, towering grasses, and flowering shrubbery that brings to mind a hike through a tropical forest. To navigate up past the retaining wall of the pool, a stairway made of flagstone tiles interspersed with a small yet luscious carpet of thick natural turf leads to a natural landing with yet more splitting paths.

Large, sandy flagstones lead you to one tiered clearing after another, obscured as you walk by the walls of flora that border each side of the walkway. The clearings provide a view of the grotto and benches to relax and sit while you enjoy the sounds of running water.

Planters filled with native and imported water-conserving succulents, shrubs, bushes, and palms create outdoor halls that shade you during the hot summer months and provide plenty of privacy. Each hallway winds upwards until you’re finally let out into a final clearing that reveals the Spanish-style cottage, complete with a red, terracotta roof and white adobe-style walls.

The Street Face

To complete the renovation, the homeowner needed a front yard that would hint at the flourishing beauty hidden behind his property. The front entrance of the Spanish-style cottage was a centrally located door – perfect for splitting the yard into two complementary halves.

Like the backyard, the pathway to get to the door was split in two before coming together as one as it met the front of the home. Starting with red brick, the paths transition to using the same sand-colored flagstone that the paths in the backyard utilize. In the middle, a small oval planter containing a mix of smaller and larger succulent plants obscure carefully placed boulders to create a sense of depth and wildness.

On either side of the diverging paths are well-manicured sections of lawn, terminating at the base of the home in planters absolutely bursting with a plethora of plant life. At least a dozen arid-adapted plant species manage to coexist in a surprisingly orderly fashion, with a tiered system of low-level scrubs transitioning to crimson kangaroo paw plants and culminating finally in a towering golden Echium.

With the completion of the grotto, the dream of a secret garden had been realized for the homeowner. They could take the paths leading down the back of the property and emerge in their little paradise with no neighbor ever the wiser.

If you have a dream for your property, let Torrey Pines Landscape Company turn that dream into reality. We’ve turned patchy lawns into palatial French gardens and barren hillsides into jungle oases, so no dream is too big for our talented team of landscapers!