Plants and Stone for California Gardens


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Meadowfoam Path


Springtime is Meadowfoam time in our garden. It has been blooming since we got back from Baja. I love this plant. It is such a cheerful yellow to greet me when I get home. This path, leading from the top of our steps to the potting area, is the most convenient place to stash leftover materials from our jobs so it tends to get covered up, but when the Meadowfoam is blooming I make a point of keeping it clear.


I made the path with leftover stone from several projects. There are four different types of stone; a few pieces are flagstone, but much of it is wall stone and extends quite deep into the ground. The path was dirt, then mulch, then halfway paved for about a year, and finally completed last winter.


There is beach and woodland strawberry growing with the Meadowfoam, but this is the thickest the Meadowfoam has grown in, and I am curious to see how the other plants have held up beneath it.



The Meadowfoam is blooming well around our birdbath also, but not as full or as dramatic as in the front. It gets less sun here and has less space to spread and the plants look a little more leggy, a little more messy, as a result. Judith Larner Lowry at Larner Seeds, where I originally bought the seed, recommends giving it a space at least three feet wide for best effect. The plants are getting pushed out of the raised gray water bed by the Scarlet Monkeyflower and the Juncus, and I think it will only come back at ground level next year unless I actively make space and resow it in the raised bed.


The rest of that planting has filled in pretty well and I don’t think it will need the Meadowfoam next year. These plants are one of my goto combinations, I think of it as ‘green native mix’ or ‘native woodland mix’ and use it fairly often. Iris, Mahonia, Sidalcea, Tellima, Asarum, a few other plants such as Heuchera come and go with essentially the same effect.

I have more photos of the Meadowfoam below. (more…)

Chaco Canyon Stonework

Last February Anita visited Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Beautiful place, the photos fascinate me. I love seeing the different eras of the stonework as the masons became more skilled and ambitious, and it’s wonderful how the ruins display the cross-sections of the walls. A place I need to some day see in person.

Stonework Symposium in San Francisco


I’ve mentioned the Stone Foundation a few times over the years. It’s an organization whose mission is to honor stone and stonework. Once a year it organizes a symposium, and this year, in January, the event will be in San Francisco and Gualala. I haven’t been to one of the symposiums before, but I’m of course going to go this year. The Stone Foundation website has details about the event as well as reports from past symposiums.

Noguchi Museum Miscellany


These are some of the other works that caught my eye at the Noguchi Museum. He worked in an impressive variety of styles and stone, with interesting variations within each style, and it was great seeing them together in one museum, seeing the continuity and the juxtapositions. In the last post, I showed some of the large basalts which were mostly concentrated in the first room of the museum. These other ground floor rooms hold work from a broader selection of time periods, styles, and types of stone. There’s also a room upstairs with works that are generally smaller in scale and feel more domestic.


These polished marble works use a tensioned cable on the inside to hold them together. If you click on the photo above, you can faintly see that the weird, striped, bone-shaped sculpture has a stone plug filling the access hole for the cable.


The floor pieces are some of my favorites. I love the one below, Another Land. A similar one titled This Place is also in this style.


More photos are below. (more…)

Basalt at the Noguchi Museum

The highlight of my trip to New York was a visit to the Isamu Noguchi museum. I’m a big fan of Noguchi. I don’t love every single thing he made, but all of it is interesting and some of it is awesome. And I loved the museum. As they say in the video, it’s quite unique, a museum founded, designed, and curated by the artist.


I was there at the perfect time to see the cherry tree in the museum’s garden, but, unfortunately, workers were renovating the perimeter wall around the garden and the sculptures were hidden under plywood boxes, my one regret about the visit. Two of the works I most wanted to see, The Well (Variation on a Tsukubai) and Core (Cored Sculpture), were under the plywood. Photographer Tibo has beautiful photos of the garden as well as wide-angled shots inside the museum, worth checking out, they’re much better than my efforts with my phone camera. I’ll have to go back some day when the trees are in leaf and with a proper camera. It looks like a great garden space.



Most of these photos are from the first main room of the museum. The room is somewhat open to the elements, with an open light well in one corner and openings along the top of the walls like unfinished clerestory windows. These sculptures are from later in Noguchi’s career when we was working with monoliths of Japanese basalt. The natural patina of the stone is an important element of all of these works, so it’s a nice touch letting the weather into the room so the stone can continue to age.





The world’s largest pestle, titled The Stone Within. Such a beautiful contrast between the patina’d surface, the worked surface, and the polished surface.



There are several in which he more or less drew on the surface with his chisel.


A few of the stones were claimed from Japanese masons who were splitting them with plug and feathers. I love how he turned this one into something like a moai.


In this one, from the same time period but set in one of the rooms with more varied work, he carved and polished around the masons’ plug-and-feather holes. He titled it To Bring to Life, which is possibly a little grandiose but also shows the value he saw in the efforts of masons and sculptors.



A series of sculptures with similar form shows what led him towards working with basalt. Looking at the first of them, a white marble titled The Roar from 1966, the form shows perhaps a neck and a head tilted back, shouting to the sky; the drill marks might be hair or action lines, though of course I could be reading it wrong. In any case, it has a range of finish textures — rough, chiseled, drill-scarred, polished — but they don’t have the same impact as they would in a more interesting stone such as basalt.


Next to it is an obsidian piece, Heart of Darkness from 1974, that adapts the same form to a stone with real character. The pale skin is the natural patina, the dark edges show the color of the breaks, and then the polished surface is a beautiful shiny black. It’s smaller than the marble, but probably the biggest piece of obsidian I’ve ever seen, and the contrast between the textures makes it much more powerful than the white marble. It’s one of my favorites in the museum.


Give and Take from 1984, has a similar form again and the same range of finishes, but in basalt. To me it looks unfinished, but I can also guess how beautiful he found the natural surface.


I took other photos which I’ll post fairly soon, but this seems enough for now. The basalts and the obsidian are some of my favorites, though I also like his floor pieces in granite and marble, his upright slate assemblages, his water table and various other things he made. Like I said, I’m a fan.

Teardrop Park


The day after seeing Four Freedoms Park, I walked along the Hudson River from Battery Park up to the High Line. There are a number of interesting bits of stonework along that stretch of Manhattan including the fort walls at Castle Clinton, the anachronistic Irish Hunger Memorial, and the carefully detailed 911 memorial. I also walked the High Line but its famous plantings were cut back and leafless. It’s a nice site, though, and I enjoyed it even if it wasn’t at it’s horticultural peak. But my favorite spot along the river front was Teardrop Park, a small park with a stone wall about eighteen feet high. Technically the wall is veneer, but it’s built with oversized blocks that make it much cooler than any typical veneer.


To my surprise, the posted park rules didn’t say anything about prohibiting climbing, so I went up it a few times. It would be too easy with climbing shoes, but in street shoes it was pretty fun.


The park won an ASLA award a few years ago. The project description called the stone ‘Alcove Blue Stone'; in the Bay Area, the stone’s trade name is Cabernet.


The diagonal courses of stone are meant to recall geological striations.


Other areas of the park use the striated stone as well.





I would have loved this park as a kid, and I heard several different kids cry when they were told it was time to leave.


A big slide with rocks to climb to reach the top, you can’t get much better than that. A great little park.

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