Zaria’s Realm

Zaria’s Realm

a stunning garden sanctuary created on top of a rock outcropping

The Dream

Our client wanted a mountain garden linking the house to a swimming pool and hot tub: a private sanctuary with dramatic long views.

The Challenge

Zaria’s Realm posed some challenging conditions. The garden was to be built on top of a steep rock outcropping. It needed to accommodate a hot tub and swimming pool, the strong architectural feature of thirty feet of ceiling-to-floor sliding doors at two corners of the house, and a big elevation change. And lastly, but not least, the site was in the direct path of mountain lions, and so needed to be protected.

The Garden

These powerful conditions defined how we needed to approach the design for Zaria’s Realm.

Because the client’s first words to me were “I just hired a pool builder”, we had an engineering task from day one. The property elevation dropped over 12 feet only 75 feet from the back of the house. We designed and built a 12-foot steel wall utilizing some structural steel from the house construction that had been incorrectly fabricated. An engineering firm that designs ski lift towers did the necessary structural calculations for permitting. The steel form was covered with patina-stained concrete tiles to harmonize with the exposed concrete of the house. We backfilled 4 feet of the wall, and further mitigated its presence with rock work and plantings at the base.

For the mountain lions, we created an elegantly unobtrusive fence to keep them out—while not visually separating the garden from the beautiful natural surroundings. In the twelve years since it was built, there have been no lions in the garden. I am grateful and amazed by this inventive fence. The incredible physical abilities of mountain lions can’t be overcome, so we took a psychological approach. My observations of Kip, my house cat, were indispensable in its invention.

Viriditas used unconventional construction techniques to create a harmonious and integrated landscape: we added multiple play areas (an outdoor dining patio on one side and an outdoor living patio off of the great room), we installed waterfalls, a kiddie pool, an attractive fire feature where one should not have been, and flower beds everywhere possible.

The garden plantings are distinctive, but mention should be made of an essential garden element that is often overlooked, or undervalued—the soil. This project has a strongly redemptive aspect. An ancient rock formation, and the the natural trees emerging from it were blasted out to make way for the house. We create the soil for most projects, and we’re proud of how it improves the health of the gardens. Here, where almost one hundred truck loads of rock were hauled away, we used the fines of the native rock and heavily amendment it with compost, and bark mulch to make a ‘mountain soil’ on site.


Zaria’s Realm offers a beautiful and surprisingly versatile garden for its size. An environment that extends the open interior living space out into the garden on one level in an effortless transition from interior to exterior. The different areas of use are separate yet integrated with each other maximizing views and utility.

The view used to be there, but now it’s right here, even inside the house.

Owner, Le Jardin De Mon Coeur

Create a garden for your home that connects you to the land in an extraordinary way.