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Tournesol Containers?


One of my recent projects includes some containers for a roof garden. I don’t generally do a lot of containers, and it can be a struggle to find the right ones. These are from Tournesol. They make a number of products and I see their advertising in various magazines, but I wonder if this was a small project for them that didn’t have their full attention because they were a frustrating company to work with. There were long waits for estimates and other information, the turnaround time was a couple of months, and then the containers showed up without the specified drainage holes on the bottom, which was irritating because they had made us specify and draft out the holes for each container. For the price we paid, we shouldn’t have needed to drill our own holes. I’m curious if other people have had similar experiences. I like the containers and how they fit into the space without distracting from the views, but it was a lot of effort to get ten pots and I doubt I’d use Tournesol again.



I grew up in the suburbs, so it’s always kind of amazing to me to be up on a rooftop like this. A different type of Bay Area garden space than I usually get to work in.




‘For the first time since 1850, San Francisco will log .00 of rain for the month… The previous record low rainfall was 0.06 inches set just last year. In January 2013, 0.49 inches of rain fell on San Francisco… The past three Januaries in San Francisco are among the five driest on record. This has brought the average for the past ten years down to 3.03 inches, dramatically lower than the 30-year normal of 4.55 inches.’

‘All I know is that I don’t know.’ Operation Ivy

How will a January without rain affect my gardens? How would I know? As a rule of thumb, the evapotranspiration rate doubles in February and then doubles again in March, so January isn’t a real critical month in terms of rainfall for the garden. Factors like day length, dew, winter dormancy, and low plant metabolism keep the plant water needs low, even when the weather forgets that it’s the rainy season.

But I don’t really know the effect of six weeks without water in the heart of our rainy season. Some of our clients turned their irrigation on, some left it off. A couple of gardens are weather-satellite controlled, another has a low-budget rain sensor; who knows how often those systems ran. My parents turned their irrigation back on to full summertime levels (I guess they didn’t believe me about the evapotranspiration), and the elderly tenant of a friend never turned the irrigation off at all, not even during the heavy rains in December. And I’ve realized, looking at some of these gardens, I can’t really tell the difference. I don’t see signs of drought stress in the unwatered gardens and I don’t see signs of over-watering in the over-irrigated ones. If I can’t see a difference, it’s probably best to save the water, but who knows, maybe the effects will start to show later in the year. I’m just glad it’s raining.

Garden Update


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.


Cycling the Coast

Somewhere off Highway 101 in Oregon

I just spent the last twelve days cycling down the coast from Portland to San Francisco, my first bicycle tour since Baja four years ago. I’m not much of a recreational cyclist and had only done about 50 miles of biking all year before setting out from Portland, but I do love touring. It’s such a great way to see the landscape. There’s been about a four year gap each time before my next tour, but I already have a few tours in mind that I want to do and I had a great time on this one, so hopefully it won’t be so long before my next one.

On 101 North of Gold Beach

The Oregon coast was great; I’d never been there before, so it was all new to me. The section of coast between Port Orford and Brookings was my favorite section of riding. Hiking in the evening in the sand dunes of the Oregon Dunes Rec Area was a highlight off the bike. California was more familiar to me. The route was entirely on roads that I had driven before, but it was great to do them on a bicycle. The ten miles through the redwood trees of the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway in the Prairie Creek Redwoods and the thirty miles of the Avenue of the Giants further south in the Humboldt Redwoods were probably the overall highlight of the trip. I’ve wanted to ride a bike through the redwoods for years.

North of Westport off Highway 1 in California

I took very few photos on the road. I did some drawings, but they were quick thumbnails for myself and probably not worth posting. For proper posts and photos about bicycle touring the coast, you can check out the blog of one of the tourers I met on the road. My rear wheel makes a cameo appearance in a photo of a temporary spoke repair he performed for me.

On the Golden Gate Bridge back home

For my own sake, to help me remember the trip in the future, the campsites are listed below the jump. (more…)

5 Years Old

Happy birthday to DryStoneGarden. This blog is now five years old. I use the word ‘old’ because at this point keeping a blog does feel like an old-fashioned thing. This year especially, I’ve seen a lot of other garden blogs stop posting. Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Pinterest, and all those other platforms seem to have siphoned off a lot activity. Which is a shame. Those platforms all have their merits, and I’ve dabbled in some of them, but I’m actually really glad that I haven’t shifted to any of them, that I still host my own content on my own website. A blog is still a great way to collect thoughts, photos, drawings, info, links, and any other content that seems worth posting. Maintaining this site has directly increased my knowledge about those core subjects that interest me — stone, plants, native plants, gardens, and landscapes — and I regularly find myself using the links in my sidebar or going back into the archive for images or links to help with my design work. I’ve also learned a lot from other bloggers and just wish more of my favorite ones were still posting. I appreciate everyone who has commented or linked or just been a reader throughout the years. Keep reading, I’ll keep posting.

— Addendum 12/14/13 —

Perhaps because of the five year birthday, this map of the online world (full size here) at xkcd.com had me geeking out enough to spend time trying to decide where this blog and where the garden blog world in general would belong on the map. Probably a peninsula on the island of Photoblogs, though possibly in the Diary Blog or Miscellaneous Blog territories or even an unnamed island near (but not quite in) the Sea of Zero (0) Comments.

Four Years Young

This blog reached its fourth birthday a couple of days ago. Posting has been slower this year, but still pretty steady, averaging a little less than a post per week. There have been about the usual number of posts about stone, but fewer posts about gardens this year; a lot of our time was spent designing rather than installing or maintaining, and I just generally seemed to be a bit less plant and garden focused this year. Also, I made a concerted effort to upgrade my drawing skills this year, so I often went out with a sketchbook instead of a camera, drawing landscapes instead of the photographing the plants in them. Next year I’m hoping to focus a bit more back on gardens, including making an effort to get photos of some of the ones we’ve designed. We’ll see what happens. My attention wanders a bit, but more or less stays on track with plants, natives, stone, gardens, and Bay Area/California landscapes. This week’s rains have germinated a ton of native wildflowers in our own garden, already has me thinking about what the coming spring is going to be like.

The Bay Trail

Lately, I’ve been walking our dog Carla on the Bay Trail near the Richmond Marina. There’s a section converted from an old rail line that I really like. The views are great, and the changing tides and light conditions make it a little different each time I go. I tend to stay moving and focus on exercising Carla, but I’ve done one sketch and taken a few photos. It’s one of the nicer places in Richmond and I’m likely to post about it again sometime.

Meeker Slough Creek

Meeker Slough and Albany Hill

Meeker Slough


I’m pretty happy to reach four years of blogging. Thanks to everyone who reads or comments.

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