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Lawn to Veggies, Flagstone, and Path Fines

AlamedaSideyard4:15

Unsurprisingly, we’re doing a lot of lawn-to-garden projects this year. We usually do a couple per year, but we’ve already done two so far, with several others scheduled. Most of them are primarily plant focused, but this one was more hardscape oriented. The clients actively used their lawn, unlike so many people who only walk on their lawn to mow it, so we had to replace it with something the kids could walk and play on.

AlamedaLawnBefore

It was a little strange how the grass made a lip over the edge of the front walk. Alameda’s soil is basically beach sand, so I have a feeling that the soil had drifted onto the walkway like a sand dune and then the crabgrass crept out to stabilize it. It was pretty tired-looking by the time we took it out.

AlamedaFrontBefore

The grass on this side of the entry was more of a path than a lawn, so we could use more plants. The wooden edging is unfortunately necessary to keep the dogs from kicking the mulch onto the pathway, but we should be able to take it out after the grass has been suppressed and the plants grow in. I like doing veggie beds; I leave behind an empty new bed and then come back later to find it filled with edibles and flowers.

AlamedaFront4:15

Natives, Mosaics, and a New Sitting Area

SeatingAreaAfter

I recently did a couple of small projects in an established native garden, a pleasant space with a laid-back, informal feel. Oaks, Bay Laurels, and annual grasses are visible outside the deer fencing. Gravel paths weave around berms overflowing with natives, some of the usual plants like Manzanita, Iris, and Buckwheat, but also some of the less common plants you only see at plant sales.

PathFinesPatioBefore1

My primary project was to create a little sitting area with blue path fines. We also cleaned the existing concrete patio next to the new sitting area and we redid the joints with blue path fines. I’ve done that a few times for this kind of old patio; a few bags of path fines and some scrubbing and the concrete looks pretty much as good as new.

PathFinesPatioAfter1

When I finished, I was thinking that with some furniture, a little mulch, and maybe some Snowberry in the narrow space against the fence, this would be a nice little sitting area. This past week I saw the finished result, cheerful and inviting.

SeatingAreaAfter2

EdgingAfter1

I edged the path fines with scrap pieces of basalt from the fabrication projects at the stoneyard. It’s inexpensive and easy to install; the hardest part is sorting through the scrap pile figuring out which pieces to use.

EdgingAfter2

The garden has some other interesting elements, including a variety of mosaics made by the client. The wall piece is quite nice.

wallpiece

mosaictile1

My mom recently made one of these mosaic balls, so it was interesting to see that someone else had made one too. I guess I’ve seen them before, but I didn’t realize they were an established thing.

mosaictile2

dogwood

There’s a cone shaped one at the base of this dogwood. I like the look of the limbed-up dogwood; the trunk is almost like a manzanita.

stonelithograph

The client’s father had been a stone lithographer. The press is now an element in the garden along with several of the old stones.

stonetablet

NeviusiacliftoniiFlower

I was glad I got to see the garden this week, because a number of plants were in bloom, including Neviusia cliftonii, Shasta Snow Wreath, a rare deciduous shrub that was only discovered in the 90’s. I’d seen it at plant sales, but never established in a garden. It’s not the showiest plant I’ve ever seen — it’s easy to understand how it went unnoticed for such a long time, especially if it tends to grow intermixed with poison oak — but fun to see in a garden.

NeviusiacliftoniiShastaSnowWreath

Styraxoficinalis

I was also glad to see the California Snowdrop, Syrax oficinalis, in full bloom. These take patience to establish, but have such an elegant flower and fragrance.

PCHIris

Buckwheat

Buckwheats, Foothills Penstemon, and California Poppies were also blooming, with other plants like Coyote Mint getting ready to follow. And photographs of course don’t show the bird calls and all of the bird activity around the natives. A lovely little garden.

Marble Quarrying

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.

Wurrungwuri Sculpture

The Making of Wurrungwuri – Short Documentary from Brain in Hand Productions on Vimeo.

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.

Goldsworthy Arch in Grand Rapids

Arches- Andy Goldsworthy (Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park) from Dog & Pony Communications on Vimeo.

Almost fifteen years after Rivers and Tides, I wouldn’t mind seeing someone other than Andy Goldsworthy starring in a video about a dry-stone project. But it’s a tribute to his work and his uniquely charismatic persona that if you see footage of interesting stonework, there’s a good chance it will feature him.

This video has some good footage of the construction of a large dry-stone arch constructed for a sculpture park in Michigan. Dry-stone arches are always compelling and this one is the biggest I’ve ever seen.

There’s video of another of his arch projects, built for a sculpture farm in New Zealand, here.

Drystack-Look Seatwall

It’s been a while since I last posted due to an unofficial blogging break to watch the world cup. I’m a big world cup fan; I kept working, but I made sure to fit my schedule around the important games. What’s the point of being your own boss if you’re not going organize your schedule around the world’s biggest sporting event? Despite watching a lot of soccer, I finished a few projects, including a new path, patio, and seat wall for this Berkeley backyard.

Before

The garden is intended to be an eclectic Berkeley-style garden. The owner has lived here for a couple of years and he had already created a lovely little planting in the front yard, but his backyard needed large-scale changes. The previous owner had left behind a few interesting plants, but the layout of the space — with a pink concrete patio, narrow concrete paths, cramped planting beds, and a weird turquoise trellis structure cutting the space in half — was severely limiting. The garden improved as soon as we took out the concrete and moved the existing plants around, even before adding the flagstone and the seatwall.

After

The paths and patios are built with a sandstone called Mahogany Red. The seatwall is a slate-y stone called Cabernet. I’ve built with it a number of times, but this batch turned out to be trickier than usual, with few right angles and a lot of cracked pieces. Only one stoneyard in the Bay Area carries it, so I had to just do the best with what I could find. The client didn’t want a conventional capstone or a visible mortar joint. Personally, I don’t have anything against a visible mortar joint, but our clients never seem to want one. He took it as a compliment when a neighbor asked if the wall was dry-stacked.

The View towards the House Before

The View towards the House After

Before

After

The owner is doing all of the plantings himself. He’s very enthusiastic, with an eclectic taste in plants, and he started adding things before I even finished the stonework. I’d never heard of a couple of the plants he bought and I liked all the ones I did know, so it’s going to be fun to go back to see how it all fills in.

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