There is a garden somewhere inside this blog, though I haven’t posted about it much this year. It’s been a transition year for the garden. I’ve been changing around some of the plantings and I’ve upgraded some of the materials with leftover stone from the garden show and some of my installation projects. As a result, the garden has been more of a construction zone than I would like; little piles of leftover stone are probably its distinguishing characteristic. I only work on it a few hours here and there, so every project takes longer than I’d like, but I’m starting to make progress on it all.
The front path is one project that is almost completed. When we moved to this house, the front walkway was paved only with broken concrete set in dirt, so the stone is a big upgrade. Besides looking better, it’s easier to see at night and makes a much smoother and tidier walking surface, even when it needs to be swept. There are five kinds of stone in it — a large piece of bluestone at the top of the stairs, a large piece of sandstone, a slate-y wall stone, three slices of limestone from a paver that broke during the garden show, and quite a bit of basalt from the scrap pile at the stoneyard. The three hexagonal pieces are the best spot, slices from a basalt column that weren’t good enough to be sold as pricey stepping stones. I like the scuff marks from the saw.
A few of the small pieces of wallstone are place holders and will probably be swapped out at some point when larger pieces of stone come home with me. One thing I’ve learned is that, when it comes to my garden, stone happens; if I’m patient about a stone that I don’t like, an alternative will eventually come home with me to take its place.
I haven’t quite brought the path all the way to the garden gate. I’m undecided what to do in that last section. Part of me wants to do a mosaic, part of me wants to lay something less ambitious and be done. We’ll see, I’ll probably lay something temporary and if I want to change it at a future date I can.
I added a bit of edging to one of the inner garden beds. Again I’m undecided whether to continue the line along the entire bed. The flagstone path was leftover from a job I did for another designer seven years ago. It has served well enough, but I can look at it and see that it was stone I rejected from a professional installation. Upgrading the outer path made me want to redo this inner path, the kind of thinking that causes the garden to always resemble a construction site.
Another recent project is the replacement of the raised bed for the graywater from our washing machine. I built it with scrap wood and filled it with Canna and Fuchsia. It looked fine as long as you couldn’t see my terrible carpentry, but the wood eventually started to rot out, the fuchsia got crowded out by a nearby spicebush, and we got tired of the Canna. I redid the bed with basalt pieces that I used in the garden show. I love that the capstone is a single nine-foot-long piece. The new plants are all natives — Juncus patens, Yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica), Scarlet Monkey Flower (Mimulus cardinalis), and an Adiantium that I’m hoping will do well in the face of the raised bed.
Water comes from the washer and drains out from holes drilled in the pipe at intervals. The back wall of bed, out of sight tucked under the porch, is rubble that is dry-stacked with a water-proof liner on the inside of the bed to keep the water from seeping out before the roots and the soil bacteria have a chance at it.
Above is what it looked like six years ago. We’ll see how the new planting does. The plants are divisions or transplants from other parts of the garden, but things should fill in quickly, hiding the pipe and probably some of the stone; I think the scarlet monkeys will like the graywater, but they are an experiment. At the moment I like that the stone isn’t covered by plants, and I like the contrast between the polished piece of basalt and all of the saw-finished pieces. I might end up polishing them all to match; there’s something compelling about a graywater bed made with shiny, polished stone. We’ll see. Like any new project or planting, it has me looking forward to what it will look like in spring.
Beautiful footage of marble quarrying in Italy, a trailer for the film, Il Capo, by Yuri Ancarani. The filmaker spent a year visiting the quarries of Carrara Italy and decided to focus on the delicate choreography between the foreman, the machinery, and the monolithic blocks of stone. I would love to see the full length movie in person on a big screen.
Video about a great project, Wildflowering L.A., by Fritz Haeg. 50 sites throughout the Los Angeles area were seeded with native wildflowers. The sites were also given signage inspired by forest service and park service aesthetics to announce the project and communicate to people that the ‘wild’ look of the wildflowers was deliberate. It would be nice to see something similar done in the Bay Area.
There’s a timelapse of one of the sites here.
… and back to posting about Andy Goldsworthy projects. He has a new wall at the Presidio in the Officer’s Club. He built a rammed earth wall with a half sphere of eucalyptus branches buried inside, then chipped away the wall to reveal the sphere. From a distance it has a nice graphic look, like a bas relief, and up close you can appreciate the method of construction. I haven’t seen this done before, but it’s simple and effective and seems replicable. It sometimes seems like a cliche to be a stoneworker and love Andy Goldsworthy’s work, but I need to just embrace the fact that he’s really good and does things exactly to my taste.
There a short video and photos of him posing by the wall here.
Two posts ago, I said Andy Goldsworthy (to his credit) might be over-represented in the stonework videos I find on the web and sometimes re-post here on this blog. So here’s a video of another artist who works with stone, Chris Booth from New Zealand. A lot of his work involves stone supported by a steel armature. I sometimes struggle to fully appreciate stone that is used that way — I’m more inclined towards things like his dry-stacked homage to New Zealand’s sea stacks — but I always find it intriguing. I’d need to see this sculpture, Wurrungwuri, in person to really judge it, but a great deal of intent and technical skill obviously went into its creation. There’s info about the design and the construction at the website for the project.
A little while back I took some photos of the cast shadows from a pair of pergolas we designed last year. The pergolas are made with rectangular aluminum tube, a little different from most of what I show on this blog, but it still follows the underlying aesthetic of my drystone work. The way the two pergolas overlap echoes the overlapping roof lines of the house, the house’s best feature, but it also overlaps the way stone in a drystone wall is supposed to overlap. Similarly, the rectangular concrete paving has the broken joints of a drystone construction. Even when I’m not designing with stone, I like to see things follow the drystone rules.
There is some stonework in this garden, but it’s not drystone and it’s built by another contractor, not by me. You can’t see it so well in the high-contrast mid-day lighting that was creating the shadows, but the courtyard has a limestone veneer, large thin slabs that are machine-cut and honed and installed with an adhesive instead of mortar and with a rubber crack-isolation layer (nicely explained in a patent application) between the stone and the underlying concrete slab. The stone has an interesting patterning and nice color variation; I’ll probably photograph it in softer light at some point after the planting has grown in.
For now, though, I’m happy with the way the cast shadows highlighted the young viburnum. The shadows on the door and on the courtyard steps were expected, but this raking line across the wall was a bonus.
A couple of before photos are below.