Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Posts Tagged ‘cabernet’

Connecticut Blue Flagstone and Concrete

Last week I helped a family member prep his house for sale (update 8/10 — it’s now sold). I had done some stonework there a few years ago, so to prep it now we just added some sod and mulch. The house is in Albany with one of those tiny East Bay backyards, really easy to work in; I think family members should all be encouraged to have really small yards.

The flagstone here is Connecticut Blue, a sandstone which is not always from Connecticut and only sometimes looks bluish. It gets sold in a lot of different shapes and thicknesses out here, popular for creating that East Coast bluestone look. We tend to use it when we want to blend in with existing concrete and not put that concrete to shame. In this case, we wanted to make the massive former hot tub slab look like an integrated part of the yard, rather than just a massive former hot tub slab. We also wanted to make the massive wall of ivy into something other than a massive wall of ivy, but that phase never happened, a project for the future owners, I guess.

When you factor in the embedded energy and the $500/ton price tag, I’m not sure Connecticut Blue is all that much better than just using recycled concrete/urbanite for a patio, but there’s no question the stacked flagstone makes a much nicer step.

I like the Connecticut Blue in the hellstrip with the gold path fines. We used blue path fines for the joints of the patio, and in retrospect it would have been better with the gold. The blue has a tendency to leave little gravelly bits on the stones, not nice for bare feet.

All of the stone is leftover from a much larger job; instead of throwing it away or selling it on Craigslist, I used it here. Some of the stone in the raised bed was too thin to dry-stack, so I mortared it with a hidden joint so it would look dry-stacked but still be solid. Other parts of the wall, using the larger stones, are actually dry-stacked, but no one can tell the difference.

Leptospermum Dark Shadows

Leptospermum Dark Shadows

All the stonework and most of the plants went in three years ago, so the main thing we did to get the yard ready was to add sod. I spend a lot more of my time taking out lawns instead of putting them in, but lawns do have their merits and sometimes you gotta just throw down some sod. The Leptospermum ‘Dark Shadows’ were planted as 1 gallons three years ago. Pretty fast.

And just to compare with the Connecticut Blue in path fines, a photo of recycled concrete/urbanite in path fines from a different project, the closest comparison I have.

Cabernet Stone Terracing

cabernet stone corner

Cabernet Stone Corner

It seems like whenever clients call us about terracing a slope on their property, the slope is actually too steep to terrace with dry stone. The slope usually turns out to be steeper than 1:1, one foot of vertical for every foot of horizontal (a quick way I estimate is to stand on the slope and measure or eyeball the distance straight out from my shoulder, my shoulder is five feet high, so if the distance to the slope is five feet then the ratio would be 1:1, ten feet would be 1:2, fifteen feet would be 1:3, and so on; if the distance to my shoulder is less than five feet the slope is too steep), and that math just doesn’t lend itself well to dry stone retaining walls, which rely on their thickness and weight to hold back the weigh of the slopes they retain. For instance, a two foot high wall needs to be a foot thick at the top, so if your wall rises two feet on a 1:1 slope, it only creates two horizontal feet and one of those feet will be taken up by the wall; your net gain is only one foot of flat planting space. It’s rarely worth the money or effort, so we usually end up building a wall at the base of the slope and then planting the rest of it with plants that thrive on slopes.

This little planting in San Francisco is the first time we’ve actually terraced a slope, though, in reality, it barely qualifies as terracing; it’s more like one wall split into two shorter walls. We could have built it as a single two and half foot high wall. But because the whole planting is at eye level on top of a thick concrete retaining wall, we didn’t want to be adding another giant wall to further loom over people. So we split the wall into two separate walls and then further softened the impact of the stone by setting the lower wall back from the concrete to create space for plants.

For the plants, we chose ones that are soft textured, drought-tolerant and mostly native to coastal California. A few of them are considered rock garden plants, a somewhat subjective term, but typically rock garden plants like sandy or gravelly soil, tolerate or enjoy reflected heat from stone, have a smaller size, and are best appreciated up close and at eye level, all elements of this planting. And then a few of the plants like the Myrica and the Phormium are standard landscaping plants for San Francisco. A photo of the whole little planting and the plantlist is below. (more…)