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Walnut Creek Magazine

Urban Retreat

Aug 01, 2017 02:06PM ● By Fran Miller

Urban Retreat

Claire and Dan Dudan are enjoying the East Bay’s splendor from their backyard.

Photography by Jessica Freels

Dan and Claire Dudan

High on a hillside with sweeping views, the evolution of the Dudan’s property into a private paradise, unfolded over a period of thirty years. Their south Walnut Creek abode had a simple green lawn, bordered by ordinary shrubs, but it didn’t give them the indoor-outdoor connection with nature that the couple was looking for. They found horticultural inspiration for a new landscape design on regional garden tours with Bringing Back the Natives, trips to Richmond’s Annie’s Annuals for rare and unusual plants, and visits to the internationally renowned Ruth Bancroft Garden.

After a few initial upgrades, the couple enlisted the help of BuenoLuna Landscape Design and Floradora Garden Design for a project that would transform the sprawling property into a natural nirvana. Native plants and subsurface, low-volume irrigation systems presented an opportunity to update the space in sustainable manner. Native grass varieties were planted to add distinctive texture to the outdoor environment and enhance the succulents, salvia, and kangaroo paws. The result is a landscape that looks as natural as the hillside that surrounds it. 

“We’re avid cooks, and we wanted to create a place where people can comfortably gather,” says Dan. A central lily pond adds a cooling element, a petanque (French bocce ball) court welcomes activity, and multiple seating areas offer places to read or reflect. “The landscape design is meant to appeal to people of all ages,” says Claire.

A natural pathway that meanders throughout the entire property makes it easy to reach the lemon orchard and vegetable planters below. Rocks for the garden’s hardscaping were carefully selected and transported from the foothills of California’s Gold Country. A wide deck off the living room provides a meditative place to take in the surrounding open space and eye-popping views. Remarkably, this hidden gem is less than a mile from Walnut Creek’s bustling downtown. –PK


Salivia Africana-Lutea: Shrubby evergreen with grey-green foliage and copper flowers.

Blue Mist Spirea: Low mounded, deciduous shrub with aromatic foliage and blue-violet flowers.

Geum Magellanicum: Low maintenance perennial with one inch scarlet-orange long stem flowers.

Pieris Japonica: Showy evergreen shrub with pendulous panicles of white blooms.

Aristea Inaequalis: Stunning South African iris with blue flowers on branching two inch spikes.



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