Story of a Landscape: Complementary Home and Landscape Redo


Jim Dibble, owner of Dibble Landscaping, admits if it were up to him, doing everything outside the four walls would have been ideal but he’s still very proud to be a large contributor to the renovations to the landscape at the Blake residence, which was done as part of an overall redo of the home and its environs.

If his Petaluma, California-based firm hadn’t dropped that phase of the work during the recession, he might have been able to design the project, and install the outdoor kitchen as well.

However, Dibble is still doing the property’s landscape maintenance. Plus, there’s the not-so-little matter of the Sweepstakes Award for Installation that the job received from the North Coast chapter and a more recent State Sweepstakes (Residential Installation) Award from the California Landscape Contractors Association for 2015.

Photo: Dibble Landscaping
Photo: Dibble Landscaping

Maintenance is what got Dibble involved initially with the Blake residence. After the Blakes bought the five-acre property, which is planted mostly in grapes but also features a one-acre pond, they were renting it out on weekends over the two-year-period it took for their younger daughter to finish high school so they could relocate to the property.

“It’s a pretty site with lots of potential, that had a fairly large lawn area that was in need of attention as it had been subjected to years of gopher activity before we took over the maintenance,” Dibble says.

When the time finally arrived for the Blakes to relocate, they decided to take what had been a colonial-style home down to the studs and start over. As part of that, they wanted to redo the landscape around the home, as well. Because they knew Dibble, they wanted him to do the work, and told him to bring in a landscape architect.

Photo: Dibble Landscaping
Photo: Dibble Landscaping

“They said, ‘We want you to do the project,’” Dibble says. “They’d seen our work both in maintenance and in installations.”

Dibble turned to Mark Bowers, owner of the Santa Rosa, California-based Resource Design, for what he describes as a straightforward project with drought-resistance planting.

“They wanted a fire pit and they wanted a pool,” he says. “The pool needed to be just big enough to splash around in; they weren’t interested in diving or swimming laps. It’s really more of a cooling-off pool.”

Photo: Dibble Landscaping
Photo: Dibble Landscaping

He adds that the property had an existing pool off the back of the house. However, just as they were doing an extreme renovation of the home, the Blakes decided to take the pool in a different direction — literally.

“The pool was oriented in the opposite direction of where it is now,” Dibble says, explaining that it sat perpendicular to the house. “Between Mark and myself, we gave them a design using the same orientation, but we also designed it with a change in orientation. By setting it parallel to the back terrace, they liked the fact that it wouldn’t extend out so far.”

A main advantage to that, he adds, is that it cut down on the amount of grading and earthwork to prepare the site, despite the fact that Dibble describes the area around the home as “mostly flat, level ground.”

“There is a downslope going away from the pool edge,” he says.

Photo: Dibble Landscaping
Photo: Dibble Landscaping

Although Dibble Landscaping did the excavation on the pool and all the terrace work around it, Dibble also subbed out construction of the pool itself. And, the pool is far from an average one.

“It’s shallow at both ends, and then deeper in the center,” he explains. “It has a beach entrance on one end with a receiver in the center for a beach umbrella. On the other end, there’s a beautiful built-in spa.”

In an effort to make the outdoor features blend with the house and its patio/terrace, the same Montana chopped thin-stone veneer was used on all the vertical surfaces. The stone, Porcini tumbled travertine, used for the pool surround and the wall caps, was imported from Turkey.

Photo: Dibble Landscaping
Photo: Dibble Landscaping

Dibble says that stone really makes the project stand out for him.

“It’s just an incredible stone,” he says. “It’s one of the prettiest stones I’ve ever used.”

A slightly lower terrace is home to a fire pit accompanied with seat walls.

“It’s slightly below the pool,” says Dibble. “It’s about three steps down. We also included Oklahoma multi blend slab steps, decomposed granite pathways, drainage, and lighting.”

Photo: Dibble Landscaping
Photo: Dibble Landscaping

He explains the drainage is behind the walls and utilizes channel drainage with NDS three-inch drains and a custom grate cover from Iron Age Designs. The lighting is all LED fixtures from FX Luminaire and includes wall, path, and up lighting.

All of the old turf was removed, and Dibble Landscaping did a mix of plantings including native grasses and plants, some roses, and a few new trees including oaks, olives, and citrus. All are served by a drip irrigation system using Hunter Industries parts and controllers.

“There were quite a few existing trees onsite,” says Dibble. “And, we didn’t have to remove any for the new pool.”

As for not having the opportunity to do the patio, outdoor kitchen and two pizza ovens, Dibble is philosophical.

“My only challenge with this job was with the general contractor and trying to keep him from snagging everything he could,” he says. “Otherwise, he was nice contractor, but he was watching his bottom line and I was watching mine. However, I would have loved that scope of work to be mine, looking back.”

In general, though, he says there really weren’t any negatives on the job, particularly since the site offered plenty of room for everyone, including Dibble’s four-or-five-man crew, to set up their own staging areas and get the work done.

However, it did reinforce one important lesson.

Photo: Dibble Landscaping
Photo: Dibble Landscaping

“One thing you need to remember when you have a job like this is to order materials early,” he stresses. “Find out what the lead time is, and make sure you get it ordered in plenty of time. If not, you’ll experience delays.”

Ultimately, Dibble says the unity of the project is what he’s most proud of with the $580,000 job.

“It’s just the way the house and the landscaping came together,” Dibble says. “The house turned out beautifully, and they also have a beautiful garden. The two accentuate each other in such a complementary way that enhances both, and make each other look better than if they had only done one or the other.”

”It’s an incredible project that we are very proud of,” he concludes.