Looking down upon a garden

bahia(SF Bay Area)November 4, 2012

Sometimes on a steeply sloping hillside lot, the garden area almost seems so far away, that the most enjoyment comes from looking down upon it, rather than being in it. With this garden, it was important to have it look good from both the third story balcony level off the kitchen where this photo was taken, as well as the mid level terrace off the family room that wrapped around an existing old Coast Live Oak tree. I wanted the hard scape to read well from this height, so things were overscaled for the small depth of the garden. Lots of massed plantings to help it read from a distance, and a jacuzzi at the bottom of the stairs to give one motivation to climb down all those stairs...

Here is a link that might be useful: Looking down from 3 stories up

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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Ooh - I love that pairing of the silver palm and the white vine (clematis?)!

It's such an alien place down there :-) The tiled terraces you use are unimaginable here! I could never live anywhere with so many stairs, but all your small-garden pictures make me want to have a small, densely planted garden too... One of the things I've come to realize over the years is the importance of plants with big leaves and/or a lot of presence, especially in a smaller garden. A lady that used to work with my husband asked me early this year to help her make changes in her small garden. When we looked at it, all her current plantings were sort of wimpy things, none of which stood out in any way. So adding things with some presence was one of the things we focussed on. It'll be interesting to see how it develops.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 9:09AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

I love ( and miss ) this jewel box garden.
I've never really noticed that clematis before ( C. avalanche ? ) due to the center stage of the Bhahea a. Clara.

Is that concrete stepping pad down at the bottom of the stairs about 5 x 5 ?

We're in the process of pouring the retaining walls for a steep hillside swimming pool/ pool house and I spec'ed 5x5 concrete pads with a 6 inch planting space in between. Looks like you you may have 8 inches of planting space in between your pads ??

Just trying to get a visual. Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 1:50PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Michelle, that pad may even have been 6 by 6, I don't remember. The gaps were definitely 8 inches, to allow for the vigorous Sedum palmeri ground cover. I designed a plan, but we made adjustments in the field as we were getting ready to form for the pour. I also miss that garden, but c'est la vie.

Woody, California is not doubt widely different, I am equally mystified by all things north and northeastern. Absolutely right that large textured plants have a place at the table in small garden design. Massing and reduction of variety also have an impact beyond themselves.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 10:40PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

thanks for the feed back David.
enjoy our warm weather.
... and thanks for the visual treat. love your gardens.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 1:44PM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

Love that pebble inlay. It has the crisp look of a gravel border, but no weeds. I'll have to put that idea on my list of things to try. Thanks for sharing the informative photos!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 10:40AM
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I'd like to know more about the pebble inlay installation. Seems it would be very time intensive, but with such a visual impact. Any info you can share will be appreciated.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 6:19AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

First off, it is important to remember the technique I use here in California won't work in parts of the country that freeze. In which case you would have to have a concrete base slab and wet mortar the stones in place.

Here, I mix up a sand/mortar mix matrix that is 2 inches thick and laid dry. The pebbles are selected by hand to be the oblong and skinny shape that works best here when laid on edge tightly packed together. These are laid out directly over the sand/mortar mix, and when all are properly set, the pebbles are misted by spraying from a hose sufficient to wet and set the dry sand/mortar mix matrix. No traffic or direct weight for the first 48 hours until they are fully set. This technique works best for small confined areas surrounded on at least two sides by hard edges such as concrete or metal edging. For larger areas, it probably makes more sense to set a section at a time using wet mortar over a concrete subslab. The Portuguese method of laying differently colored stone for sidewalks uses more octagonal shaped stones set close over a sub-base of gravel or concrete, and may or may not have mortar worked into the joints, but this technique used in Brazil and Portugal requires more skill to fit the stones together and make sure they are well compacted and set level. Small strips such as the one in the photo are easily done as a DIY project by homeowners, but are still somewhat labor intensive. I usually use mason's or playground sand to dry mortar mix at the ratio of 2:1. If you feel it necessary to sprinkle mortar mix on top of the stones after placement, you should sponge off the slurry after a few hours, and can also later wash down with water and diluted muriatic acid to remove the mortar stains, brushing vigorously.

I most often use black Mexican river pebbles, but the stones in this photo are distinctively blue, and imported from Indonesia.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 7:31PM
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Thanks so much for this comprehensive explanation, David. I've seen many pictures of projects like this. Now I'll look at them with new respect. The end results are stunning.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 4:49AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

A landscape architect friend of mine from Portland, Oregon, Jeffrey Bale, does some incredible work with inlay pebbles, and has a blog about it, you should be able to find it if you google search for his name. His work is not typically this plain as mine is, and he also has some wonderful photo/descriptive travelogs of his trips to South America, Europe, northern Africa, Asia, highlighting landscape pavement treatments in particular. If you like the topic, you should look at his blog...

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 12:58PM
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