Friday, December 14, 2007


Tomorrow is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and I got nothin. I have seen a lone Iberis sempervirens, Evergreen Candytuft with a minuscule flower head blooming in the gravel driveway at the resident gardeners house and of course there is a Blue Aster that must have been frozen in time. Why I just noticed it today is a mystery since it is right by the front steps.

Instead of flowers opening, I have the ground beneath my cabin opening up into the new basement patio. I'm in the far back corner now, the last bit of the slope to get cut before I start on the actual trench digging for the footing for another wall.

I could go scour the mountain and look for some tiny speck of a bloom on something, but I am currently obsessed. With Digging.

For now I will be content with the view from beneath my cabin and continue to study the shape of the land and the change of the seasons. This bare brown really isn't so bad, it has its own charm, but I sure feel exposed when the cars drive by on the highway. A couple of them have driven by very very slowly. I know they are looking.

At my gorgeous new wall and the expanding basement patio.

I can imagine when this space is surrounded by green again. I know I will leave a couple of small planting holes in the patio floor with a few large sculptural boulders. Where just yet I'm not sure. I'm being a bad designer and making it up as I go along.

In the dead of winter though my wall will bloom and be a major element in the garden. Only a couple of months ago it was just in my imagination.

For Charlotte aka Wellspring a thousand words or so.

A dry stacked stone wall three feet eight inches tall and thirty five feet long curves gently. The stones are rough and come in many sizes and different colors. There are white stones, reddish stones, dark brown and white ones with flecks of black. Despite their irregularity, in the stacking they present a flat front and an almost level top. Some fine tuning along the top is still needed.

This stone wall is fifteen feet up from the bottom of a small valley on a much more expansive steep grassy slope. The larger slope makes the wall look much smaller by comparison. One side of the valley wall is grass. The other side of the valley is the leafless deciduous forest in winter. Through this valley runs an open cut in the forest canopy and the tail end of the electric utility lines.

Rising above the dry stacked stone wall and running parallel to it is the beginning construction of a small cabin. The cabin itself measures only fourteen feet wide by twenty seven feet long. The floor structure is built and several sections of wall framing have been built and are laying flat on the floor. The cabin too is perched on the top edge of the expansive steep grassy slope of the utility valley.

Holding the floor of the cabin up on the downhill side of the slope just above the dry stacked stone wall are five round grey cement columns with a stucco texture. These five columns are nine feet back from the stone wall. Behind the columns and under the cabin is a bare hillside of orange colored dirt. A cut creating a flat wall of bare dirt is being made six feet behind the round grey cement columns.

In between the dry stacked stone wall and the flat wall of bare dirt under the cabin is a level floor of soil. This is the patio floor. The five round cement columns run nearly in the center the length of the patio floor. The columns are spaced six feet apart. On one side of the columns the patio is under the cabin. On the other side of the columns the patio is in the open air.

On both sides of the dry stacked stone wall huge boulders have been placed into the grassy hillside to act as steps, landings and transitions back into the natural slope. One day paths will lead into the gardens from these exits off the patio.

Looking again at the cabin, the dry stacked stone wall and the level patio area underneath and between them from the bottom of the sunny utility valley, on the right at the top of the grassy slope is the gravel driveway that comes down the ridgeline to the cabin and a pad that has been flattened out for the building of a future small house. The forest rises directly behind the gravel driveway and surrounds the pad for the future house. On the left of the cabin about ten feet from the stoop for the back door the forest also begins again as the ridge line moves out and away from the utility easement the cuts its swath through the forest.

Sitting on the basement patio I will be looking out and over the open space of the utility valley and what will be my future full sun gardens in a mostly shaded forest setting. It faces south west and will get sun for much of the year depending on the weather. It certainly rains here much more than the desert of leeward Maui and the fog rolls through these mountains and lingers on a regular basis. The basement patio will have sun and shade, open air and a roof and I will learn which spots are best for what conditions and what time of the year.

When I am done working for the day my feet will lead me along the garden paths back to the basement patio where I can relax and look out over the splendors thriving on a hillside that used to be grass.


Frances, said...

Who needs flower pix when you are such an artist with the words you use to describe your work and vision for your little piece of heaven on earth? You have set for yourself such a huge undertaking, but the goal is marvelous. Keep up the good work.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Aaaahhh Christopher, this sounds so idyllic. I hope your shoulder gets the needed rest so you can carry on with your vision.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Hey, I love (& would love to have) a beautiful stone wall! I've got absolutely no flowers for Bloom Day either. At least you're doing something outdoors that is garden related.

Anonymous said...

Pick the aster, insert it into the wall and photograph that. (Or is that against the rules?) I bet everyone will ooh and aah over the wall!!

Great post, and you work like a man possessed!

Deviant Deziner, aka Michelle said...

Hi Christopher,
The rock' n and the roll'n is coming along nicely.
This is a rock wall that any stone mason should feel proud of.

Thanks for the link to the "Bad Designer" thread over on the Gardenweb.
As usual, one can find some great interactive discussion on the Design forum.

I liked how the thread reincarnated and morphed itself into another thread about the need for landscape plans.

I'm surprised the obvious hasn't been mentioned in regards to why scaled plans come in handy.
No one mentioned " SHOW ME THE MONEY".

If I could call on two well known sound bites I would first play the Janet Jackson tune " What have you done for me lately" and insert the words " What have your landscape plans done for you lately ? "
I'd follow that by Cuba what's his name , dancing around shouting " Show Me The Money".

A good set ( or even a not so great set ) of scaled landscape plans will help the DIY or a landscape contractor ESTIMATE THE COST OF THE PROJECT.
And who in their right mind doesn't for a moment think _ Hum, ( scratches their arse, I'ze wunda howz much this here garden is gonna cost me ?.

A set of scaled plans can help you ESTIMATE material cost.
They can also help you in figuring out how much durn dirt to order or how much flagstone you need for your patio or concrete count .... get it ?

There is more that a scaled set of plans is good for than just quantifying materials, they are also good for working out spatial concepts and not to mention they are usually required to obtain your building permit ( minor detail )

As to your question about what kind of wall should be built in the back under the deck - I'd go with stone. In a word : unification.

As to flooring materials - random laid flagstone - dry lay with gaps small and big enough for some patches of greenery to grow through .

Happy holidaze season.


Unknown said...

I admit that I skipped over most of the thousand words, but only because I was so busy admiring that stone wall. Gorgeous work there.

Can you build a similar one at the back of the patio--or if you need something stronger retention-wise, can you face it similarly to that one?

I am a "bad designer" too. I'm actually mostly happy with that, though... gives you flexibility to change your mind, and also sometimes leads to some happy accidents. If you have a plan and feel you need to stick to it, it seems that serendipity mostly passes you by...

Christopher C. NC said...

The basement patio would have to be considered a happy accident. Between the front porch on the cabin, big decks on the future main house, a connecting patio/deck between house and cabin, and a Japanesee Tea House in my mind I just looked under the cabin and saw a storage unit. When the time frame of three to five years for all that and a bit of rain had me under the cabin I went Aha! and a patio was born. Of course I can still put "stuff" under there.

I will have to do me some measuring and cipherin when it comes time to order gravel and flagstone for the patio floor. I had seen flagstone as the floor choice all along. So far I have not had to buy anything for this project except cement for the footing. Had some left over rebar from the cabin footing.

My building contractor thinks we don't need a permit for these walls. I'm going to call today to be sure.