All posts tagged water features

How to Turn Your San Francisco Backyard into a Japanese Garden Paradise

Napa Valley fieldstones surround this idyllic water feature.
By On February 13, 2019 In Japanese Gardens With No Comments Permanent Link to How to Turn Your San Francisco Backyard into a Japanese Garden ParadisePermalink

Japanese gardens have been a major part of culture in America for nearly a century and a half. However, they still remain a mystery for most people. Japanese gardens are among the most beautiful in the world. This is because these gardens start with the intent to induce a particular feeling. Today, landscape professionals design these amazing gardens around principles and guidelines that date back more than a thousand years. 

Some of those guidelines include natural patterns of rock formations, natural growing plants, and asymmetrical designs. Some gardens arouse feelings of being near a forest stream or wetland. There are also designs patterned after rolling hills. When designing your own beautiful Japanese garden paradise, consider the following facts and tips. 

1. Keep in mind that basics consist of plants, water, and rocks. You can find rocks most anywhere. Stones and pebbles can arrange to create the appearance of flowing water. Additional elements for consideration can include stone lanterns, bridges, arbors, and water basins. Plants, set carefully, can help create an illusion of depth where the designer places large plants in front, and smaller ones in back. 

2. Your garden’s purpose is to reflect nature’s perfect balance. Rocks and stones represent islands. Waterfalls represent a state of purity and serenity. Stone or wooden bridges imply immortality and a pathway to paradise. Stairs and intriguing pathways provide a journey for the soul. Lanterns represent the inner light that a person can discover within. 

3. Lay the stones first to design your path or walkway. This is the path you can take to enjoy your garden’s beauty. Larger stones imply stillness and rest. 

4. Surround the stones with trees, plants that flower, or shrubs. Without much space, formatting your yard is critical. You will also have to decide how formal, or not, you want the garden to be. Select your plants or trees for seasons and colors. 

5. A water feature adds the perfect touch. A simple water pond can use bamboo, or some other material, and operate using very simple and inexpensive mechanics. 

6. Decorations can include lanterns or authentic Japanese furniture. Just keep things to a minimum. Your goal is to achieve a natural look and not make your garden look like a museum filled with artifacts. On the other hand, some empty spaces are okay since empty portions are key Zen garden elements. 

Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, is famous for its beautiful gardens. In fact, every year, millions of people travel to Japan to visit the country’s gardens, but you can have a Japanese garden in your own back yard, even in the midst of bustling San Francisco.

We specialize in creating Japanese gardens. Contact Tamate Landscaping to help you build the beautiful oasis of your dreams.

Contemporary Landscape Design: Building Around a Focal Point in Laurel Heights

156 Parker Avenue, Laurel Heights, San Francisco, Front View

156 Parker Avenue, Laurel Heights, San Francisco, Front View

Laurel Heights is a neighborhood in sunny San Francisco that shows a bit of the wide variety the whole city holds. It’s sometimes called the “model suburb”. This beautiful area is full of two-story Edwardian and Victorian style homes, as well as modern counterparts; blending contemporary landscape design into it isn’t necessarily easy.

It offers trendy restaurants and chic shops; it intersects entertaining city life with calm residential places. And if all that isn’t enough, Laurel Heights was chosen as one of the most popular neighborhoods for renters in San Francisco in February.

As we reached our client’s home at 156 Parker Avenue, we could see why. The house itself is beautiful, with well-tended plants at the front. The back wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what the client was looking for, either.

Before the landscaping project begins

The client wanted a peaceful, contemporary retreat where they could escape the challenges of city life. They had purchased a natural rock sculpture that weighed over one ton, and wanted us to design a garden to showcase it. The rock sculpture and an accompanying water feature were to be the focal point.

We came up with a design in which the sculpture would be installed in a custom-made concrete water basin. Two troughs would empty water into the basin from the left and right, pointing toward the sculpture. Once the design was finished, we got to work.

Our first step was to replace the old fence with custom fences. These fences were built all the way around, using finished redwood that was fastened in horizontally. Supervisor Dukey the Dog surveyed the site and kept a watch to make sure we did the job right.

In addition to the redwood fencing a new, wrap-around redwood deck was laid to help transition from the house to the landscape. The railing is stainless cable safety railing, which allows for a contemporary look without losing its functionality or helpfulness. Once the fence was up, we could get to the really exciting part of our one-month project.

installing-fencing decking-reinforced-railing

We built the forms for the focal point and poured in the concrete. While we waited for the concrete to set, we laid the black basalt patio.

pouring-concrete-into-forms building-concrete-forms

Once the concrete had set, the basin was filled and the one-ton sculpture brought in, then craned into the finished basin. Have you ever tried to haul a one-ton sculpture through a house without breaking anything? It was a big challenge. In fact, because of the lay of the land, all of the materials had to be brought through the house and out the back door. I’m happy to say that nothing was harmed in the fulfilling of this contemporary landscape design.

Hidden from view behind the water feature is a biological filtration system with an 18 watt UV light to kill algae. We also upgraded the filtration and added an additional 40 watt UV light because that corner gets a lot of sun and can be a breeding ground for algae.


When creating the design, we had envisioned a ripple effect at night, caused by the two cascades from the troughs. With the proper landscape lighting, the ripples would reflect onto the sculpture and the background behind the sculpture.

Approximately twenty light fixtures were installed on three different circuits, controlled by a remote device. We installed under lights to cause the rippling effect. The outcome was stunning.


As well as the water feature, the client wanted a custom-made fire pit with built-in seating so they could escape the chills of the San Francisco evening. We built the gas fire pit with the focal point as the background. The built-in seating is made out of the same warm redwood as the deck and fencing.


We also brought in turquoise boulders set around the patio to double as seating.


The Bar-B-Q area has a gas line stub out in the corner for easy hook up. It also has articulation light fixtures for illumination while cooking in the evening.


Before & After
Overall, we’re very pleased with the results. It exceeded our expectations, and we’re proud to add this one to our landscaping project portfolio as another job well done!

Need help on your landscaping project? Are you looking for ideas for your contemporary landscape design? Call us at 415-265-2697 or contact us for a free consultation. Let us help you realize your landscaping dreams!

Realized contemporary landscape design, from above.

Completed Project: Noe Valley Makeover 2013

Below is a photo of a rear yard in Noe Valley.  We installed the lower deck and fences about 6 months ago and soon we’ll be going back to finish the landscaping.  Included in the project will be a patio, stone planters, water feature, spiral stairs, curved bench/pergola, lighting, plants etc.

Here you see the completed quartzite patio and masonry work.  We used a bitterroot wall rock for the short retaining wall and a natural stone veneer on the existing concrete wall to cover the unsightliness.

View from the deck.  Note the curved redwood pergola which follows the contour of the patio.


We also installed a spiral staircase to provide access from the upper deck to the yard.  Spiral staircases are wonderful for small spaces as is typical in San Francisco.  They take up such a small footprint.  Tamate landscape acquires their made to order custom units from Salterspiralstairs and constructs them onsite.  This unit is aluminum and powdercoated.

We installed this simple water feature .  The cascade was made by cutting a channel into basalt.  The system re-circulates via a highly efficient pump which uses very little electricity.

Project shot at night with landscape lighting.

Completed Project: Water Feature in S. San Francisco

By On July 27, 2012 In Completed Projects With No Comments Permanent Link to Completed Project: Water Feature in S. San FranciscoPermalink

Tamate landscape was hired to give this yard a makeover in the hills of South San Francisco. The focal point of this project will be a water feature with a series of 1-1/2″ copper pipes spilling water into a basin. All components of the water feature are custom. Here you see day 1 on July 31st, 2012.

Project Update: Concrete Forms

The end of the 3rd day and we have the yard cleared out. Below you see 2 sets of forms being constructed. One for the copper pipe element and the other for the basin. Kind of a slow start for us due to the ground being rock hard. Any kind of excavation is by jack hammer.

In this photo, you can start to visualize the copper pipe element taking shape. The key to achieving equal flow from all pipes is to oversize the manifold (the white pipe that the copper pipes are connected to) and have a big enough pump to power it-in this case a 4000 gallon per hour high efficiency external mount unit. Note the re-inforcement bar within the forms.

Project Update:  Pouring Concrete 

A few hours after the concrete pour, we removed the forms so we can apply the smooth finish with a trowel.  This technique must be perfectly timed-a little too early and the entire mass could crumble and too late would make the surface unworkable.

Concrete form for the basin.

Access is always difficult with jobs in San Francisco with heavy machinery usually not being an option.  Here we are lowering a boulder down a steep stairway using a rock climbing technique called belaying.

Project Update:  August 30, 2012-Project Complete