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Hardscaping: This Bankers Hill Backyard Is Built for Outdoor Entertaining

The Singletons share how they overhauled their yard into a walkable entertaining zone
Hardscaping: This Bankers Hill Backyard Is Built for Outdoor Entertaining


Mike and Sharon Singleton play a game of bocce in their Bankers Hill backyard.

As both licensed landscape architects and partners at KTUA, the Singletons had high expectations for the masterminds behind their own landscape design—themselves. “We wanted to buck the old wives’ tale that says the cobbler’s kids have no shoes,” Mike jokes. “A landscape architect’s house should look like a landscape architect worked on it.”

When they bought their Bankers Hill abode five years ago, the backyard was, as Sharon puts it, “an eclectic mix.” Mike adds, “One of every fruit tree in the world. . . and a goat.” And miniature horses, too, Sharon says.

It can be concrete. It can be brick. It can be pavers. It’s just a firm surface. —Mike Singleton, partner at KTUA Planning and Landscape Architecture

With outdoor entertaining their main objective, the couple overhauled the backyard entirely, scooping out 20 truckloads of soil and bringing in 16 truckloads of concrete to create a deck that shoots off of the kitchen, with a recreation room and adjacent pergola below (where those horses used to be).

A set of original stairs that formerly led to those fruit trees now ends at a bocce ball court, situated below a hill of terraces, each carefully curated with vegetation representing a San Diego ecoregion—as if we needed any more indication that landscape architects reside here, indeed.

Key to the Garden

1. Pergola

Built atop fresh soil (translation: uncompacted), the pergola is fixed with adjustable columns in the unlikely event the ground sinks and the concrete attempts to resettle. “If for some reason it did, there’s bolts in these columns we can tighten to raise one or the other,” Mike says.

2. Quarry stone finish

“We always say concrete is the most misused hard surface around,” Mike says. “You can do a lot of creative things in terms of pattern, scoring, and textures.” They applied a quarry stone finish—basically, an acid gel that fast-tracks its patina—to a few of their slabs.

3. Bocce court

This recreational accent was a bit of an afterthought. “We created the bocce court, because we had so much soil,” Sharon says. Now it’s also the start of those ecoregions Mike created, courtesy of the sand representing a shoreline.

4. Dark and light

A mix of light and dark surfaces (even in these cobble walls) somewhat levels out the sun’s effects—white concrete reflects the sun and can be hard on the eyes, whereas dark surfaces, like asphalt, soak up the heat.

5. Terraces

“Each terrace represents one of San Diego County’s ecoregions,” Mike explains. There are 14 total, from monkey flower and buckwheat representing the coastal mesa to manzanita reflecting mountain slopes.

6. Rock mulch

Even some of their mulch is hard!” It’s also more permeable than a bark mulch. And if you don’t take care of them enough, they usually still look natural and maintained,” Mike adds.

Learn more about arranging your backyard.

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