Just a note to say thank you for all your help in the last few years, helping to make our garden a special place for us. You are very talented and knowledgeable; working with you has been a wonderful experience.

Stepphanie – Lafayette

About Carolyn Atherton

Bay Area Garden & Landscape Designer


Growing up in Southern California, Carolyn Atherton was surrounded by and fascinated with the patterns of nature, music, dance, and art. As a teenager, she went horseback riding daily in the wilderness of the San Bernardino Mountains and that is when her love affair with the land and its history began. Carolyn later studied and traveled for five years, receiving her B.A. and M.A. in Asian Indian Studies. She attended Smith College and the University of Wisconsin.


Carolyn practiced Zen Buddhism with S.F. Zen Center for 13 years. While at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Carolyn discovered her passion for gardening and landscaping when she became the head ornamental gardener. She learned that landscaping was not only an art form, but beyond that, could also be a healing force in people’s lives, helping them reconnect with nature and their own environmental history. During her time at the center, Carolyn’s connection to the wild California landscape grew greater and continues to influence her landscape designs, painting, and photography.


In 1981, Carolyn started as small Bay Area landscaping business in San Francisco. Simultaneously, she took landscape and horticulture courses at Merritt College and apprenticed with landscape designer Christian Kilka for three years. She received her Landscape Contractors License in 1992. Carolyn Atherton Gardens has now been creating unique landscapes all over the Bay Area for 32 years.