Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Posts Tagged ‘napa basalt’

Magnolia Underplanting

Magnolia with Ipheion in the foreground

One of my goals for the year is to get better photos of some of the gardens we’ve designed. I have lots of photos of our own garden and lots of photos taken immediately after an installation when the plants are just little things surrounded by mulch, but I haven’t been as good about going back and taking garden photos with decent lighting. Last year I was especially bad; this year I’ve been better, though that’s partly because a couple of the gardens are within walking distance of our house, and this one, especially, I often pass by while walking our dog. She’s been surprisingly patient about waiting for me if I stop, partly because she likes to eat the Deer Grass in the parking strip. I took the above photo in March, and then I thought it might be cool to get photos from a similar angle at several different times throughout the year. I’ve stopped several different times so far, and I also want to take a picture next January when the Magnolia is at peak bloom.

Heuchera maxima, Penstemon heterophyllus, Watsonia

So far, I think the first photo is the best. The next two are from early May. I love the bloom color of Penstemon heterophyllus in real life, but it never seems to look quite as good in photos.

Heuchera maxima

The Heuchera maxima looks good and it’s a plant I really like, but it’s hard to get too excited about a photo of Heuchera.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

This is from last week, mid June. I think the Yarrow was already in the garden when we did the planting. I don’t remember if we transplanted it or just left it in place, but I usually don’t plant the pure white yarrow, even though it’s the native one. I saw this morning that the maintenance gardener deadheaded the Heuchera, so I might take another photo with the old bloom stalks gone.

Sisyrinchium, Heuchera, Yarrow, and Calamagrostis

I also might try with the Yarrow pulled out of the frame so that you can see the Sisyrinchium striatum behind it. S. striatum is not a native, but it’s a more interesting plant than the yarrow.

Snow in Summer, Verbena bonariensis, Geum, Coreopsis

I’ve also tried to photograph the planting on the slope beyond the Magnolia. My dog gets a little more restless if I venture down there.

Snow in Summer, Verbena bonariensis, Geum, Coreopsis

Watsonia, Nasturtium, Cal Poppies, Love in a Mist, and a couple of other volunteers have popped up in what was already a rather unrestrained planting.

Nasturium in the Verbena

Snow in Summer, Verbena bonariensis, Geum, Coreopsis


I accidentally clicked this photo with the camera moving and everything blurring into an impressionist painting. Part of me thinks it’s the best image of the bunch.

Mallorcan Dry Stone Walls

mallorcan style wall

mallorcan style wall

Posting about the angled stone wall in this year’s garden show seems like a good excuse to post about the Mallorcan style wall we did with Mariposa Gardening and Design in the show last year. It’s not as eye-catching as the angled stone, but the building style is unique in its own way. Personally, I didn’t lay a single stone on the wall–I was a bit skeptical about building a wall and then taking it apart five days later, part of the reason I like stone is that it is the longest-lasting building material on earth, so instead my contribution to the garden was flagstone steps that I could afterwards re-install in a real garden–but it was a nice wall and it deserves to have some internet presence.  A lot of the stuff in the garden show is just facade work, but the crew built a real wall, thirteen tons worth, pretty cool and pretty crazy.

Mallorcan walls are also sometimes called polygonal walls because they use five-sided stones laid in an arch pattern; traditional walls use four-sided rectangular stones laid in linear courses. One of the sacred rules of traditional walls is to break every joint, but with a polygonal wall the joints zigzag enough that the rule doesn’t apply. Instead, the rule for a polygonal wall is to have every stone touched by five others. Instead of trying to create a flat surface for the next stone, you try to make a cradle for it, and instead of vertical and horizontal lines, you create arches. The idea is that the adjoining stones form an arch around any given stone, so if that stone falls out the other stones will still hold together and the wall won’t fail. In theory, if you pick a stone, you can see a little arch of other stones around it.

mallorcan wall arch detail

mallorcan wall arch detail

The walling style is really effective at making tall, strong, long-lasting walls out of irregular stone. Mallorca is full of walls hundreds of years old, and examples I’ve seen on the internet are often ten or twenty feet tall. To work on the walls, workers pound metal bars between the stones and then put boards across the bars to act as scaffolding. A lot of the walls are pretty rough looking but at the same time really appealing because of their size and strength. The walls get capped with European-style vertical coping stones, which adds a nice touch of style and self-consciousness to the rather rough, naturalistic stonework. Our wall in the garden show was made with Napa basalt, the closest Bay Area equivalent to the limestone they have in Mallorca.

The Stone Foundation has a beautiful Mallorcan wall in their write-up for the 2007 workshop and another in their write-up for the upcoming 2009 one. DryStoneWalling has photos of two walls, one that’s retaining and one that’s freestanding. Below, I put one of my sets of flagstone steps with a section of Mallorcan cheek wall.