DryStoneGarden

Plants and Stone for California Gardens

Flower

Cataviña Boulder Gardens

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Death Valley and the ‘super bloom’ was just one stop on the trip, we spent the bulk of our time south of the border in Baja. We revisited Cerro San Ignacio, an amazing spot that deserves an interpretive trail perhaps more than any other site in the world. But we’d been there once before; the botanical highlight of this trip was the Boojums. Boojums! I’d wanted to see the boojum forests for years.

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We did our boojum viewing amongst the boulder gardens around the oasis town Cataviña, a beautiful area with pinkish granular granite reminiscent of the rock at Joshua Tree (there’s apparently good climbing on some of it, too). Some of the boojums had strange curlicues at the top like something out of Dr. Seuss, but my favorites were the graceful upright ones. There’s something illogical about them, as if the plant got confused and put it’s taproot in the air and it’s branches underground.

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The area also has tremendous Cardón cactus trees.

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Elephant trees are another favorite. A little bit like small oaks from a distance, but with striking caudiciform trunks up close.

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As with any great rock garden, in some places the plants were a compliment to the rocks and in other places the rocks were a compliment to the plants.

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There were plenty of showy flowers tucked amongst the rocks and arroyos. A few of my favorites are below. Read the rest of this entry »

A Bit of Super Bloom

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Anita and I have been in Baja for the last month. On our way back we swung through Death Valley to see the ‘super bloom.’ It had waned by the time we got there — apparently a combination of hot weather followed by high winds had finished the thickest patches, and quite a few of the plants had spent flower heads mixed in with the fresh blooms — but there were still some impressive areas.

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Desert Gold was the most prolific. It made bands of color in the distance but up close it was politely spaced so we could wander around without stepping on any flowers. An impressive number of other species were mixed in with it. My personal count came to over 20 different species inside the park, including a number of flowers I’d never seen before.

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The yellow Camissonia was my favorite of the wildflowers. Such a clear, crisp yellow. Gravel Ghost was another favorite, with the white flowers high over a ground-hugging rosette.

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I’ll have some posts about Baja, the main focus of our trip. There is more wildflower photo bling at this Death Valley Wildflower Report.

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

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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.

More Roof Containers

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Along with the Tournesol containers I posted/complained about two months ago, I went back two months later and made some much smaller containers. The idea was to have ice plant growing low among the river stones that cover some sections of the roof. I took shallow flats and surrounded them with a skin of waste stone from the free bin at the stoneyard, using old tiles for the bottom and bluestone strips around the sides. At the moment the stone is just dry laid with the river stones holding the stone in place, but I might use mortar later if the ice plant does well and these become a permanent thing.

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Below are three photos of the Tournesol containers after a couple of months of growth. Read the rest of this entry »

Return to Duck Pass Trail

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While I was on the east side, I went for a hike on one of the trails where I led a crew about five years ago, Duck Pass Trail. I recognized some of our work but I had a hard time remembering exactly which things we had built, which is actually a good thing; it’s often said that good trail work blends into the environment, that it’s not meant to be showy or eye-catching, a good trail is one that let’s hikers ignore the walking surface and focus on the landscape.

I didn’t linger on the trail as much as I might have and I didn’t take any photos of the scenery, which is gorgeous on a clear day. The weather deteriorated soon after I left the parking lot, alternating rain, hail, graupel, sleet, and eventually snow. It was disappointing that I didn’t have better weather, but educational. I’d never hiked one of my trails in such foul conditions, and I was shocked at how much water flowed on the trail, in some places frothing like a creek with little cascades surging over the steps.

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Above is a little wall we built to reroute the section of trail you see in the first photo. The trail used to pass to the right of the tree, but erosion was exposing the roots and forcing hikers to make a high step, so we brought the trail around to the downhill side of the tree. Not bad work for a crew that had never stacked a rock before that day.

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This is a step that I remember my crew building. It was nice to see it looking almost exactly as it did five years ago, despite all of the runners, hikers, horses, and mules that have stepped over it in the last five years. Trail work never really looks like all that much, a clean stretch of dirt instead of a gullied one, but I’ve had a chance to revisit some of the trails I worked on, and it’s always immensely satisfying.