DryStoneGarden

Plants and Stone for California Gardens

Flower

Cerritos Beach, Baja

Happy New Year. I took a bit of a blogging break there. I’ve been busy with projects and a vacation down to Baja. I should probably comment on this crazy drought we’re having or this evenings blessed rain, but my head is still in vacation mode.

These watercolors are all from Cerritos Beach on the Pacific coast north of Cabo San Lucas. I was staying in a palapa on the beach, but there’s an upscale hotel, Hacienda Cerritos, on the bluff overlooking it. I’m not usually interested in resort architecture, but this one is done really well, with beautiful detailing, including hand-carved doors, carved stonework, colorful tiles, custom wrought-ironwork, a diaper pattern in the brick dome, and lots of other grand touches. I would describe it as tastefully ostentatious, if that makes sense. There’s a video tour if you click thru to their website, though I recommend first hitting mute because there’s an audio track that cheapens it. While I was painting in the courtyard I heard a few different groups of people go through, and everyone gave out some form of ‘wow.’

James Turrell Skyspace

Happy Solstice everyone. This seems somewhat solstice appropriate. While I was working on my friend’s project in San Francisco, I went by the James Turrell skyspace at the De Young several times. Titled Three Gems, it’s a little dome with a hole in the roof for viewing the sky. The acoustics are very cool and, after you sit for a while, the blue sky showing through the aperture seems just as much a physical thing as the concrete roof.

The feeling of the space, staring up at the sky, reminds me of the giant Cor-ten double-moebius by Richard Serra that I posted a couple of years ago. There’s a nice photo on the De Young site that shows the aperture, the circle of cast light, the doorway, and the stone circle in the center of the space all together in a single photo without too much lens distortion, but I also like just the simple flattened image of the aperture which feels somewhat abstract and flattened in person, too, after you stare at it for a while.

Healthy Joints

Sort of an interesting before and after on this patio. I did a design for the backyard of a rental property a friend of mine owns, one of those San Francisco backyards that you can only access by walking through the building. A general contractor, or rather the guys he delegates everything to, did the installation. I tried to keep everything really simple, designing the patio as a simple square made up of 24″ x 36″ Connecticut Blue rectangles, which in the Bay Area cost just $7/sq.ft., making it it one of the most cost effective materials after you factor in the simplified installation.

The contractor’s crew butted the stones up against each other as if they were pavers. You can do that with some stones, but these are a little too irregular. I’m not sure how bad it looks in the photos, but in person it didn’t quite look right. It almost looked right, and my friend signed off on it, but it bothered me enough to spend a couple of hours with a helper spreading the stones to give them the quarter inch decomposed granite joint that I’d spec’d. No doubt it’s partly just my personal preference, but it looks much better with the joint. The joint also lets the patio drain better and allowed us do a better job with the DG bed underneath the stones.

With the stones butted together, your eye is drawn to the places where the stones don’t match up perfectly. With the joint absorbing the irregularity, your eye lands on the stones themselves.

Giving the patio a DG joint also made it match better with the stepping stone path leading to the patio.

A couple of before photos. The garden used to have a lot of roses and fruit trees before the owner passed away and everything fell into neglect. There were several grape vines, which confused me at first because there was little chance of them fruiting, but I think they were grown for the leaves.

For now, we only installed the larger plants in the design and everything is sheet mulched in an effort to suppress oxalis. The plants are all nice but fairly common — a fernleaf Japanese Maple, a Lemon tree, a Star Magnolia, a Variegated Buckthorn hedge, Spiraea, some groundcovers — but if a gardener moves in and embellishes the plantings it could be a sweet space.

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.

John Greenlee Interview at Land8

Greenlee/Mariposa Display Garden from the 2013 SF Garden Show

‘Most true meadow ecologies are where you want to live… light-filled openings near trees and water. If it is too wet, it is a swamp; too many trees, it is dark and dank… For me, the draw of the meadow has to do with how meadows capture light and movement. No other group of plants can do what grasses and grass ecologies do.’ John Greenlee

Land8 has a great interview with grass guru John Greenlee, who I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog. He collaborated on my favorite display gardens from the last two SF garden shows, but, more significantly, he’s the author of The American Meadow Garden, one of the handful of books that I consider essential for designing gardens in California. I recommend the interview, as well as the book, for anyone interested in meadows, grasses, or general plant design. Check it out.

Carlson Grasses

Mid April 2012

Last year in April I posted a few photos of the median strip on Carlson Avenue near my house. The city had regraded the street and put in a median strip planted with native and non-native annual wildflowers. It looked great, but after a couple weeks of it blooming, there was a car wreck because a driver couldn’t see over the flowers. The city immediately mowed the wildflowers.

Late April 2012

A year and a half later, October 2013

After a few months the city put in the more permanent planting. This being Richmond, a significant number of plants were promptly stolen. It was kind of sad, a few new empty holes appeared every morning as if plundered by urban gophers. But eventually the thieves had enough plants for their gardens and everything was allowed to grow in. A year later, it’s looking great.

Bulbine

Muhlenbergia capillaris, Pink Muhly

I like most of the plants used: Rubus pentalobus “Green Carpet’ at the ends of the median so no one can complain about trouble seeing over the plants, Hesperaloe, Lavender, Chondropetalum, Leucadendron ‘Jester,’ and Bulbine, a plant I recently started using. Two grasses are the stars right now. The Pink Muhly looks kind of scruffy when you’re a pedestrian and absolutely terrific when you drive past at thirty five miles an hour, blurring into the most vivid pink mass anyone could wish for. My favorite, though, is the Sesleria autumnalis, Autumn Moor grass. Green and gold, and nicely complementing the pink muhly. Maybe not quite as flashy as the native wildflowers of last spring, but just about the next best thing.

Sesleria autumnalis, Autumn Moor Grass