Small Spot Gardens is a San Francisco based outdoor design firm that imagines, creates and cares for intimate gardens in city-sized spaces. We love working with clients that are excited about the natural world and want a richer outdoor space at their home or workplace, whether they’re relaxing, playing, entertaining or simply enjoying the view from inside. We believe living alongside nature, even a tiny bit of it, can help our clients and their loved ones relax, re-prioritize, refocus and generally be healthier and happier*. These small spots of nature are also part of a bigger picture so we design and care for gardens with an understanding that our actions affect, and can contribute to, our local environment. (CA License #998647)
Our first priority is to design a garden that will make you happy and draw you outside. We work with you to figure out your personal taste and design a layout that will work for your lifestyle. Then we add in artistic elements and interesting details to make your space special and inviting, and develop a plant palette that ties everything together. We call our style Urban Natural and it’s characterized by clean lines, some rustic textures (like reclaimed wood), abundant plants and artistic (often colorful or recycled) accents. There’s variation in the look – some gardens have a more natural feel and some have a more modern feel – but a personal design thread runs through each so it’s good to check out our previous gardens to see if we seem like a good fit for your project. We take pride in the gardens we create and enjoy working with clients who trust our design instincts. Check out examples on our Portfolio Page. (If you have a set design and just need help with installation please feel free to contact us for referrals)
Because of Elisa’s background in botany, our outdoor designs are strongly influenced by plant biology and ecosystem science. We’re focused on the way gardens look but we understand that they’re living systems – not mere decoration – so we approach the design with both science and aesthetics in mind. We try to continuously learn about our local flora and fauna and are constantly amazed at how everything works together. In the process of creating your garden, we’re hoping to awaken a little curiosity about the very cool plants and animals that have been thriving right next to us for ages.
We also try our best to create spaces that will mitigate some of the harmful side effects of our urban density. Your garden is part of a fascinating and complicated metropolitan ecosystem with a sizable environmental footprint. It’s ambitious, but by working with natural processes your garden can actually help clean the air, filter polluted runoff, and help our local birds, bees and butterflies. Click the link to learn more about our standard garden design practices for healthy gardens – they aren’t hard and fast rules but it’s what we aim for: Small Spot Gardens’ Design Practices.
The Small Spot Gardens team is a dedicated group of professionals with experience in horticulture, edible gardens, environmental science and construction.
Elisa has a degree in botany from Cornell University and over 14 years of experience in horticulture and agriculture. She’s worked on organic farms, orchards, in greenhouses, retail nurseries and also spent some time working for the NY State Conservation Corps. In 2009, after several years of office work helping farmers with business development and marketing, she decided to get back outside and started Small Spot Gardens. She’s fascinated by how plants and animals continue to get by in the densest of cities and excited by the role each small green space can play to restore individuals and families. She’s also intrigued by the potential networked small gardens have to help mitigate some of the harmful environmental impacts of big cities.
Trina’s primary educational and career background is in media arts and academia. She was lured from her UC Berkeley office to the outdoors through her beekeeping experiences in San Francisco, where she’s had a backyard hive for over three years. She completed a two-year beekeeping apprenticeship with San Francisco Bee-Cause, and mentors new beekeepers in the program.
She completed her beginning permaculture training at the Regenerative Design Institute in 2014 completed the San Francisco / San Mateo UC Master Gardener program training in 2016.
In 2014, Trina was a student in Garden for the Environment’s Gardening and Composting Educator Program (GetUp!) in 2014; she is now is the coordinator for the 2016 GetUp! group. This opportunity merges her love for gardening with her teaching experience; she has been a part-time film production and studies instructor at City College of San Francisco for over ten years.
Trina is on the board of directors of Sojourn, the nonprofit that administers the San Francisco General Hospital chaplaincy program. Sojourn began as a response to the need for spiritual and emotional care for patients at the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s.
Ethan is an artist and landscape designer living in Oakland, California. His art work involves using gardens to educate, shape places, and build community. He’s written about school gardens for Pacific Horticulture magazine, taken horticulture classes at Merritt College, co-facilitated a garden mural project with 5th graders through Education Outside, and helped present a portfolio website workshop with the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.
Ethan has worked on freelance projects with East Bay Wilds nursery, Plants in a Box, and Garden Tribe. He’s currently starting Plant Outfits, which interviews ceramic artists that make pots for plants, and Leaflet, a monthly newsletter–based plant adoption agency.
In the future, Ethan is interested in exploring designing playgrounds immersed in nature, eco-therapy, and permaculture farming. Previously, Ethan was a curriculum producer in New York City, studied graphic design at the Hartford Art School, and grew up gardening with his family in Connecticut.
Olina is a San Francisco native but studied organic farming and food sustainability while in college in upstate New York. Olina has had a diverse work experience, doing food service, child care, tutoring, and environmental and social justice volunteering. She brings to Small Spot Gardens a passion for fostering nature in the city.
Whitney first got seriously interested in gardening and farming while working in an agricultural research laboratory at UC Santa Cruz. After college her backyard gardening prowess grew, so to start bringing that gardening knowledge to others she completed the Garden for the Environment’s Gardening and Composting Educator Training Program. At GFE she taught backyard composting to home gardeners, and also worked with SF Recreation and Parks to help quantify the amount of produce being grown in gardens around San Francisco. She helped growers at community gardens, school gardens, and urban farms develop a system for accurately recording harvest quantities, and compiled harvest data for use by SF Rec and Parks.
While working as a pharmacy technician and buyer at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, Whitney helped lead the hospital’s efforts to become more environmentally sustainable. She developed and implemented a hospital-wide recycling optimization program and organized the hospital’s annual Earth Day Fairs.
Richard studied art at UC Santa Barbara. He is a freelance illustrator and worked in membership services for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor. His gardening skills were developed while he was a long-time volunteer at Little City Gardens, one of San Francisco’s last commercial food and flower farms. Sadly, Little City Gardens closed in 2016 due to development pressure on the land it occupied. Richard brings a strong interest in permaculture and landscape architecture to Small Spot Gardens.
Lauren studied ecology and sustainable agriculture at UC Davis. Merging her knowledge of public policy, biology and sustainable agriculture, she helped run and became Board President of San Diego Sustainable Roots Project, an nonprofit that taught gardening and farming through farm field trips, an urban farm school, and hands-on gardening classes. She also did extensive fundraising for the program. She led the development of Wild Willow Farm and Education Center, a 5-acre organic teaching farm, and was also Program Director for Victory Gardens San Diego.
Lauren has crafted gardening curricula concerning building home, community, and school gardens, and has taught sustainable agriculture at the college level. She trained instructors to offer gardening-related courses at five sites around San Diego County.
She is currently a coordinator of the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance and an avid home gardener.
Angel employs his extensive knowledge or nature and garden design to contribute to Small Spot Gardens and other San Francisco entities. His interest in the natural world was piqued by his grandmother, who shared with him her knowledge of plants for food and medicinal uses, and fostered in him a great respect for the natural world.
In conjunction with the 25th Street Neighborhood Association and San Francisco Parks Alliance, Angel was a major force in designing and constructing the recently opened Tunnel Top Park, which rests on top of a CalTrain tunnel that runs beneath the Dogpatch / Potrero Hill area. The park turned a vacant lot into a urban oasis. Angel’s extensive knowledge of drought-tolerant plants have helped make the space a success.
Angel also runs his own design company, Bramble and Vine. His work was recently featured in the San Francisco Chronicle.
His vast knowledge of plants and animals is constantly growing through his involvement with various organizations such as the Bromeliad Society and volunteer work with the U.S. Geological Survey monitoring local amphibian wildlife.