Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Posts Tagged ‘connecticut blue’

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 for them, designing the patio as a simple square made up of 24″ x 36″ Connecticut Blue rectangles, an easy material to install which is also quite cost effective because it is so easy to install.

Because they were inexperienced with stone, 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 ones 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 looked almost right, and my friend signed off on it, but it bothered me enough to spend a couple of hours fixing it, spreading the stones to give them the quarter=inch-wide joint that I’d spec’d. No doubt it’s partly just my personal preference, but it looks much better with the joint.

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 helped 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 in that part of San Francisco, but I think they were grown to use the leaves for dolmas.

For now, we only installed the larger plants in the design and sheet mulched around them in an effort to suppress oxalis. The plants are 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.

Connecticut Blue Tumbled

One of the other forms Connecticut Blue takes in the Bay Area is as tumbled stone for edging and very low walls. It comes in a few different widths, but the stone in this garden is 6 inches in width, which is a bit undersized for retaining walls; the stones just don’t have the mass to lock in securely. Also, the tumbling makes the stone kind of low on friction. But, that said, the stone has been in this garden a long time (since before I first saw it five years ago), and it’s really easy to re-stack any sections that shift. It’s probably one of the best stones to use if you don’t have much experience at stacking; you just try to keep the stones level and break your joints. I like it for this type of cottage garden with the plants growing around the stone, hiding it in the summer and revealing it in the winter.

In the last photo, you can sort of see from the wide joints that the stones on this section are slowly migrating down the slope. A rule of dry-stacking is to keep the stones perpendicular to gravity even on a cross-slope, like steps rather than a ramp. The more regular and rectangular the stone, the more important it is, but people don’t seem to follow that rule as much nowadays in this age of mortared stonework. It’s not a big deal with low edging that is so easy to re-stack, but it would be a problem in a larger wall. In this case, though I was spending a few hours re-stacking someone else’s stonework, I considered it more like garden maintenance than a stone repair job, and if I hadn’t been replanting the garden, the owners would have left the stone how it was. A few plant photos are below. (more…)

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.