A place apart from the frantic world, out of doors but sheltering. Secluded, though not barricaded. Comforting and comfortable. A tract of peace, away from it all.
An oasis. The word and the idea come down to us from the caravan trade routes through the vast deserts of Arabia and the Sahara, but homeowners in our urbanized semi-desert region are recycling the basic concept by combining structure and function to create backyard oases of their own.
A measure of privacy is essential to many homeowners planning a backyard oasis, a layout that creates a sense of separation from the humdrum of everyday life. Fences and garden walls are traditional options, but those who prefer a more airy feeling are opting for plant walls, lattices, trellises and pergolas integrated with landscaping. These make good design sense when the oasis is a yard feature rather than the entire yard.
The desert oases of old were where the camel drivers chilled, sheltered from the fierce sun in the shade of date palms. A modern SoCal design should keep it cool, too. Shade is a must for daytime relaxation. Gazebos are one way to go. Fabric options are gaining in popularity, requiring less permanent construction and offering more flexibility when the sun’s rays are welcome.
If cool shade is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of an oasis, the second is undoubtedly water. A water feature is the highlight of many a yard design. Waterfalls and fountains provide soothing sound and cool mists, ornamental pools contribute texture and color. Hot tubs and spas are immensely popular and are serving as the centerpieces of total spa designs. A swimming pool is the mother of all backyard water features, and when wrapped in a complete oasis design the result is spectacular.
Excellent lighting plans add enchantment, utility, and safety after the sun goes down. Midnight at the oasis is magical with dimmable lighting for dining and chatting areas, task lighting for grills, fire pits, and food prep zones, and in-ground path lighting for the way to and from the house.
There’s no limit to the creativity homeowners can mobilize for a backyard oasis project. An oasis is not so much a thing as a suite of things working together harmoniously to transport residents and guests to a better place. The freeway traffic is not a Saharan camel train, but a Californian’s delight in settling into his or her own private oasis is no less than the old-time camel drivers’ was in theirs.