Home & Garden

SLO couple turned their hillside lot into a landscape where ‘everything flows together’

Take a look at this versatile hillside garden in San Luis Obispo

On a hillside near next to a golf course in San Luis Obispo, the yard needed to have a place for dogs to run, kids to play and adults to entertain.
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On a hillside near next to a golf course in San Luis Obispo, the yard needed to have a place for dogs to run, kids to play and adults to entertain.

When they purchased their San Luis Obispo home two years ago, Brian and Shelle Ball knew from the start they would completely revamp the sparse landscape surrounding the white two-story house.

The home, with its prime location overlooking the seventh green of the San Luis Obispo Country Club, was perfect for the Balls and their young family. Best of all, the prior owners had recently completed a full remodel of the older, traditional-style home’s spacious interior.

But things literally went downhill from there.

The home sat partway down a steep slope ending almost at the front doorstep. A long driveway leading to a carport on the opposite side of the house split the front yard in two, creating an awkward walkway to the home’s entry.

Brian and Shelle Ball’s San Luis Obispo home is located on a large hillside lot in the Country Club neighborhood. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

More worrisome, there was no obvious way for the Balls to fence off the property from the street to protect their children and pets.

“There was no transition,” Shelle Ball said. “It’s like the house was just plopped down.”

A visit to Lotusland, the exotic 37-acre estate gardens in Montecito, provided the inspiration the couple needed to launch their landscape makeover 18 months ago.

“We like succulents,” Ball said. “We just fell in love with how beautiful and practical they are.”

A succulent blooms in the San Luis Obispo garden of Brian and Shelle Ball. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Ball initially reached out to her mother-in-law, Stacy Ball, who she credits with helping get things started. Stacy Ball designed the new planters flanking the front doors and assisted with solving the issue of the complicated driveway, entrance and fencing layout.

The two women worked as a team with Devin Van Luchene, owner of DVL Landscaping in San Luis Obispo, and Dave King, owner of King Concrete & Construction in Oceano, to design and complete the project.

The vision came from Shelle Ball, according to Van Luchene.

“It was always a succulent, modern look,” he said, adding that Stacy Ball preferred a more traditional look with lawns and roses.

Custom walkways have been added to Brian and Shelle Ball’s San Luis Obispo home. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Even with such divergent tastes, Van Luchene said the entire process went smoother than he’d anticipated. Everyone worked well together, he said, adding that King’s attention to detail made his job easier.

“Communication was everything,” he said. “Shelle’s good at communicating what she liked without being aggressive about it. It was a good relationship.”

The variety of planting areas within the large property also helped, Van Luchene said. If something was out of place in one area, it often fit perfectly elsewhere, allowing everyone to share in the final outcome.

The resulting landscape corrects the defects noted on the Balls’ to-do list with creativity and style.

The renovated backyard of Brian and Shelle Ball’s San Luis Obispo home features play areas for children and dogs and entertaining spaces for grownups. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A new walkway leading to the front entrance is separated from the realigned driveway by wide planting beds. Colorful waves of succulents, sago palms and drought-tolerant perennials cover the previously barren slope, changing it from an eyesore into an asset.

A slated wooden fence surrounds the entire property, shielding it from the street, while a former carport on the far side of the house has been repurposed as Brian Ball’s “man cave.”

Other phases of the landscape makeover included adding patios, an outdoor kitchen, hot tub and play area to the backyard.

Now that the transformation is complete, Shelle Ball said she wouldn’t change a thing.

“I like all of it — the combinations of succulents, how well the hill turned out and how everything flows together,” she said. “Everything!”

Brian and Shelle Ball’s backyard has views of the Morros and the San Luis Obispo Country Club. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com


Surround yourself with things you love. Along with satisfying her passion for succulents, Shelle Ball included the outdoor kitchen her husband wanted and a playground for their children.

Put plants in locations where they are most likely to succeed. Consider light, temperature, soil and water needs.

Hire good contractors. Look for professionals who listen well and can translate your vision into reality.

Have a realistic budget. Save up and do it right the first time, or manage costs by creating a plan and then building out in phases.