Tranquil and Sustainable Landscapes that Add Value to Your Home

Tranquil water feature and sauna

Tranquil water feature and sauna
Tranquil backyard water feature and sauna at Paul’s former place

A landscape that is tranquil, sustainable, and adds value to your home is something that most homeowners would love to possess. Just imagine how your spirits would be uplifted if you arrived home from a stressful day at work and were met by a beautiful landscaped retreat instead of that overgrown or barren yard of yours. Calgone, take me away!

Installing and creating a Zen garden that brings peace and is sustainable, may seem daunting at first. However, with the proper planning and installation, there are a few directions you can explore. The goal is a sustainable gardening style, that can also become your outdoor oasis. Remember, not only are you investing in environmental sustainability and peace of mind, but you are also adding value to your home.

Here are some ideas to incorporate into your landscaping design to make your outdoor living space both serene and sustainable:

What Makes a Landscape Tranquil?

First off, what elements contribute to a tranquil landscape? 

According to tranquil means calm or free from agitation of mind or spirit.  Therefore, applying this definition to a landscape, first off, those horrible weeds, unsightly bushes, or things which cause you “agitation” need to be removed.  Get ready to demo!  Yes, and this includes finally getting rid of that pink flamingo.

Now, that you have a clean slate to work with, we can start to add elements which normally lead to calming the mind and spirit. 

Flow and Balance of the Landscape

Tranquil and sustainable Asian garden
Tranquil and sustainable Asian garden on Elizabeth Street

Japanese or Asian-inspired landscapes will generally always integrate fluidity and balance in the landscape design. A free-flowing landscape design is an important element of a tranquil landscape. For example, meandering pathways, as opposed to straight geometric designs, leads to a better flow of the landscape elements. While straight walkways result in a clean and simple appearance, adding a few bends can transform your path area into a much more peaceful and interesting one.

Plant selection, colors, and placement are also extremely important to creating a tranquil setting by providing the proper balance. Plants which complement each other in color and shape should be used and properly placed to provide a sense of calming movement in the landscape. Plants with softer features, such as the Mexican Feather Grass, bring an enhanced calming feel with its feathery light green blades gently blowing in the wind. Contrast this to a thorny rose bush or prickly succulent bordering your pathway which you may walk onto or get accidentally poked by. Ouch!

Also, keep in mind the color palette of your landscape. Certain colors, like green, are more prone to a calming effect compared to bright reds and yellows. Think spa-like colors instead of Las Vegas lights.

Incorporating natural stones and boulders into your landscape which complement the selected plants will bring in another layer of balance. Careful selection and placement of river rocks and boulders to simulate nature can soften the edges, provide interest, and improve the flow of landscape elements selected.

Water Features

Modern Asian Water Feature
Modern Asian water feature in Glen Park

Water—it can be transformative when properly incorporated into your landscape.

Adding a water feature, even a small one, will instantly allow your mind and body to relax. The sound of a soft burble or free flowing water feature will help filter the city noise in the background. The sight of the flowing water will only enhance the relaxation effect you experience.

From a basalt fountain, reflective pool, or full-blown waterfall, these additions will elevate your yard to another level. If you desire a tranquil landscape, seriously consider adding a water feature.


Keep your landscape design simple. Complicated lines, too many varying plants, and differing colors bring a sense of chaos to your area. It is best to carefully space your plants, in order of their height and growth patterns, so that your landscape does not eventually end up becoming a jungle. Jungles are normally not considered tranquil (however, Tarzan may think otherwise!).


Investing in a tranquil outdoor living space is close to meaningless if it is not sustainable. A sustainable landscape is one that is well-suited to its surrounding environment and weather. It conforms to, rather than fights with the local natural elements, resulting in a landscape that is generally easy to maintain in the long term.

One of the most critical aspects of sustainability is the selection and placement of your plants. If properly selected and placed, your landscape will thrive without a lot of work instead of slowly dying over time. See our plants page for a list of plants known to do well in San Francisco’s unique Mediterranean climate.

It is important to know your environment. Know the areas which have a lot of sun, some sun, or no to little sun before you select your plants. Know your soil and whether it’s rocky, clay-like or porous, dry or wet.  Otherwise, you will be fighting with the forces of nature and guess who wins in this battle? Yup, it’s definitely Mother Nature as climate change has shown.

For the San Francisco Bay Area where we’ve been stricken with a long term drought, consider a rock garden design. With the right plant selection, rock gardens are drought-tolerant, low maintenance, and is very calming. Below is one of our projects in Diamond Heights that fits the bill:

Sustainable Rock Garden
Tranquil and sustainable rock garden in Diamond Heights

Contact us for ideas on creating your own tranquil and sustainable living space. At Tamate Landscaping we have over 25 years of experience transforming overgrown, underutilized yards into unique, beautiful retreats.


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