DryStoneGarden

Plants and Stone for California Gardens

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Jorge Yazpik Miscellany

This is a selection of Jorge Yazpik’s work that was on display inside the museum, an interesting mix with a progression from sculptures to architectural models. I won’t say much about them, which is apparently what he prefers. He doesn’t give titles or explanations or even call out his materials, and in videos talking about his work (in Spanish), he talks about letting people interpret the works however they want, letting them see without predisposition. He says when you listen to music, no one tells you how to listen. So, I guess, just have a listen, take a look. Read the rest of this entry »

Jorge Yázpik Basalt Sculptures

While I was in Oaxaca, I got a chance to see an exhibition of sculptures by Jorge Yázpik at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. I’m not sure how well known he is, but he’s at the top of my list. He does abstract sculpture in several mediums — stone, wood, metal, some kind of polycarbonate — and I’ll show some of the work that was on exhibit inside the museum, but in this post I want to focus on his large basalts that were outside in the plaza. Really interesting, a little hit or miss, but the ones that hit are terrific.

With this one, from a couple of angles it doesn’t look like he has done much to the stone. But then from another angle you can see he carved out the entire heart of the stone, enough that you can climb inside it. I’ve possibly seen something like this in other media, but I can’t think of another sculpture that lets you climb inside a single monolithic stone. People loved posing for photos inside it.

But the one that got me is this one here. It’s not terribly striking at first glance, a dark, vaguely heart-shaped chunk of basalt, roughly the same form that came out of the quarry. But that’s not the sculpture per se, it’s more like the mould for the sculpture.

The sculpture is the void he has carved out, the negative space he made within the stone. In the photo it has a graphic quality, but in person the void is really strong, really three dimensional. He could cast a bronze of it, but he doesn’t need to, it casts the form in your mind.

It does the same thing from the other side. The form is a little more compelling from this angle, rising to a prow, but it’s the negative space that’s the subject, this time with sort of a jack o lantern smile. I also like how the stone is wedged with a chunk of rock from the floor of the workshop, seemingly chosen without much care but important enough to be packed with the sculpture and shipped from Mexico City.

I don’t know of anyone else who is this effective at creating negative space within a stone.

This vertical one is also great. It’s more about the overall form, sort of an abstract version of a moai.

The close up has a beautiful geometry, both the polished interior and the natural skin of the stone.

One more is below. Read the rest of this entry »

Recycled Countertop Patio

This patio was an interesting one-off. I built it with a friend of mine as an addendum to his project. He wanted a sitting place up here on the hill above his house. There’s a good view, but more importantly there’s a feeling of separation from life down below, from the demands of work, kids, bills, etc… A place for respite. We called it the chill spot though I don’t think he meant that literally and we’re getting a little old to be using that phrase.

We made the patio from recycled countertops that someone was giving away. I don’t know how replicable that is, it was just dumb luck that I stumbled on them, but I loved working with them. They’d be a little slippery for a more conventional patio with regular traffic, but they work great up here. I cut a few of the pieces in order to align the joints and edges but they came with mostly regular dimensions and went together lickety split, the quickest, cheapest patio I’ve ever built. Carrying up the dog statue, made of solid concrete, was the hardest part of the whole project.

A couple of photos with the grass cut back are below.
Read the rest of this entry »

Another Lawn to Garden Conversion

This lawn conversion is around the corner from the last one I showed. The lawns were similar, full sun and gently sloping, and we used a lot of the same plants, emphasizing purples, yellows, and green. It’s a bigger space, though, so things are on a somewhat bigger scale. Instead of one Chinese Pistache, we planted 3 Raywood Ash, and instead of one Plum we planted three Nyssa sylvatica. Instead of Sesleria autumnalis we used a larger grass, Lomandra ‘Breeze’, instead of fifteen Salvia nemerosa, there are twenty four. Overall though, it’s fairly similar, a plant palette we use regularly for front yards on that side of the hills — low-water, lowish-maintenance, deer-resistant, a mix of natives and other mediterranean species emphasizing purples, yellows, and green.

We covered this lawn with mulch from cutting trees in the yard and left it for six months while there was work done on the house. The mulch layer was partly to smother the lawn, but also to protect the soil from the construction workers, who always seem to park on the lawn despite efforts to dissuade them.

The original landscape didn’t have a pathway to the front door. There was one from the driveway to the door, but visitors parked at the curb and walked across the lawn. I’m not sure how that was tolerated for so many years. Visitors should have a proper way to get to the front door.

The path uses three different types of stone. The stone sleepers are flamed basalt, the fill pavers are handcut setts of black limestone, and the soldiers are tumbled granite.

As I was said at the top, this is one of our standard Contra Costa lawn conversion plant palettes. Purple and yellow/gold with mostly green foliage. Nepeta, Salvia nemerosa, Penstemon heterophyllus, and Geranium ‘Rozanne’ are the purples blooming now. Lavender and Salvia ‘Mystic Spires’ will add more purple soon. Moonshine Yarrow, Coleonema ‘Sunset Gold’, and Geum are compatible yellows. Lomandra ‘Breeze’ is a nice green backdrop, gives it a meadow-y feel. There are young shrubs in the background and of course the trees which are still getting established, but for now, while everyone is first looking and judging the lawn conversion, these are the plants they see.

The geranium and geum can be eaten by deer depending on the garden and where they are located in it. Salvia nemerosa ocassionally gets nibbled as well. I’ve never seen any of the others eaten.

That concludes lawn conversion week (month) here at DryStoneGarden. There are a lot of resources out there for people considering doing it. Davis has a thorough pdf that I was looking at recently, the latest one to catch my attention. Anyone considering it should go for it. A garden is so much better than a tired old lawn.

Lawn to Garden Conversion with a Weed Cloth Phase

This is how we usually do lawn conversions these days, a modified version of sheet mulching. Unlike the last lawn I showed, which was mostly just regular turf grass, this lawn had bermuda grass in it, a tougher beast to slay, really tenacious at fighting its way up through newspaper or cardboard. Instead of immediately sheet mulching and planting, I find it better to first cover the lawn with weed cloth and mulch for a few months — letting the Bermuda grass expend energy trying to fight up through the cloth — and then attack it wherever it makes it to the surface. It takes a little more patience, but it doesn’t add much labor or cost. It’s easy enough, once I’m ready to plant, to sweep the mulch off, pull the cloth, and finish off the Bermuda grass while I do the grading and prep for the new planting. Then, I do the new planting and put the mulch back on top of it, take the weed cloth off to use on my next project. Lawns are easy to kill, it’s the weeds in the lawn that sometimes take a little extra care.

Above is a before view from google earth, below is the lawn covered by mulch during the summer. The Bermuda grass came back especially strong at the edges, where it had roots going underneath the concrete of the front walkway and the curb. We got it pretty well by the time we finished the installation, but it still requires vigilance along the walkway.

A lot of lawn conversions involve adding a path through the new planting. This one needed steps as well.

Before and after views from a couple more angles are below. As I said in my last post, a front garden’s a lot better than a tired old lawn. Read the rest of this entry »

Lawn to Garden Conversion with Newspaper Mulch

This is another way of removing a lawn, smothering it with newspaper or cardboard and a thick layer of mulch. I’ve posted about this in the past, but my proselytizing is an ongoing thing; I think it’s the most efficient way to convert a lawn. Now that the drought has ended (temporarily?), I suppose people might lose interest in taking out their lawns, but so far the momentum seems to be continuing. It helps that EBMUD still has its rebate program.

We started by turning off the irrigation and letting the lawn dry out in the sun for a couple of months.

We left most of the lawn in place, but we did dig out the edge of the lawn so the mulch wouldn’t spill onto the sidewalk. I then used the dug out pieces of sod and some compost to make a berm towards the back of the planting; I put the new tree in the berm. The berm always settles a fair bit after the compost and sod decompose, but it gives a subtle bit of topography to the new planting, helping it look a little less like a former lawn. After digging out the edges, we spread about an inch of compost over the rest of the lawn and then planted directly into it. That generated another little pile of old sod, which I added to the berm.

We then covered the ground with a layer of wet newspaper, 8-12 sheets thick and overlapping by about 4 inches. I presoak the newspaper in a bucket as I go, so that it sticks together like paper maché. We then run our drip irrigation on top of the newspaper and then cover everything with mulch before the paper can dry.

A bit of the lawn manages to fight it’s way up through the layers of newspaper over the next few months, but a couple of quick maintenance visits can deal with that, plus the new plants will also suppress the old lawn as they grow in. It all takes a lot less labor than digging out the entire lawn, and the lawn and newspaper layer enrich the soil as they decompose.

The newspaper also takes advantage of the fact that roots go through it but the tops of plants do not. The poppies scattered on top of the newspaper layer can send roots down into the soil, but any existing weed seeds cannot push their way up from beneath it. Simple and efficient and so much better than mowing and watering a lawn.