Need an opinion on this...

rlv4(7)December 2, 2011

I would like to hear some opinions on the cut rock bank in the background of this design. The owner wants to try to cover it with plants, but I am trying to convince them that it can look good without a total cover-up. I'd like to clean it up to remove the rubble and then use up-lighting to give a great night time effect. Whatdayathink?

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I note the date, has there been much erosion in the year, this could be a problem. Otherwise I think you might be onto something. The foreground is really nice and it would be a shame if the rest was not up to the same standard. I just had another look at the dates??

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 6:18PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

That's a lovely wall, rlv4. I'm afraid, though, that I can sympathize with the homeowner who isn't enthusiastic about having a view of the cut bank above the stone wall.

What is the horizontal distance between the rock wall and the cut bank? How steep is the bank?

Where in zone 7 are you? What's the annual rainfall?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 8:08PM
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Ink...yeah, I did this plan a year ago and the owner is just now acting on it (hopefully). The only erosion visible is right along the top where the rock ends and the topsoil begins. The rest of the rock is solid.

Missingtheobvious...the distance from the cut bank to the wall is about 40'and the cut is nearly vertical. We are in north central AZ elevation about 5200'. Rainfall average 15 in/yr.

My plan was to clean as much loose debris from the cracks and crevices of the bank as possible. Thinking this would give it a more aged look vs. the fresh dug look. I know it is not ideal, but we have to make the best of it now. I just don't think it needs to be covered with vegetation. By covered I mean using taller shrubs and trees in the foreground. Vines planted at the base would not work in this situation.

I would use up-lights to wash the bank on both sides of the evergreen. Then uplight the evergreen, and up-light the lower boulder outcropping from both sides with lights tucked behind the grasses.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 8:48PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

It's very reassuring to know it's a dry climate and the cut bank isn't right on top of the wall.

Vines planted at the base would not work in this situation.

How about vines planted at the top of the cut bank and hanging down? They wouldn't have to cover the entire bank, just some of it ... break up the expanse a bit. Unfortunately I know nothing about what grows in your area; nor do I know the rate at which vines would grow in this situation.

I would also add more than just the single tree shown in the mock-up in front of the bank. I would aim at narrow shapes and, if possible, use some of the natives that are growing atop the bank. Rather than (metaphorically) throw a curtain over the entire bank in an attempt to pretend the bank isn't there, try to blur the dividing line: make it look as if the bank is a continuation of the wild area above it. [Left alone, that's what will happen anyway; you're simply hurrying Nature a bit.]

I agree with you that cleaning up the loose debris would improve the look of the bank. While you're doing that you might keep a look out for any pockets on the bank itself where you might successfully encourage something to grow (some of these could be additional down-hanging vines). Even a few more bits of green would make a difference.

Disclaimer: I am neither a landscaping professional nor an engineer.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 9:53PM
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You made your case and the client still does not want to follow your desire. I think that was the right thing to do on your part, but now the right thing to do as their designer is to move toward the direction that they want to take.
It is good to be a facilitator, but not good to be a dictator. You either need to sharpen your skills as a facilitator so that they will better understand what you see that they don't, or you are going to have to soften your desire to design for yourself instead of the client.

Right now you are trying to convince people that don't matter to agree with you as if the client will have to go with your idea because you got more votes. This is, however, a good exercise if you are trying to hone your communication skills to develop your ability to facilitate.

Your (and my) ability to have it your way is limited by your ability to get your client to both understand your vision and agree with it. We can't always have it our way and knowing when and how to move on is very important.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 6:58PM
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Would your clients consider doing a bit of searching/thinking on the subject of Arizona petroglyphs and the possibility of creating such a wall "look" on that rock cut? As I did a quick search I noted that some drawings were inscribed into the rock and some painted, some outlined with rock. With the help of a mason to smooth out rock sections for the application of fairly large petroglyphs and careful lighting this eyesore could become a strong element of the landscape as it weathers. It looks like a tough spot in your dry climate to establish a planted rock wall.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 9:55PM
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laag...true, and well put.

nandina, petroglyphs? Hadn't thought of that, but staining the rock with alternating shades to accentuate the natural layering/veins had crossed my mind. Not sure how that would look, but if it was in my yard I'd give it a try. Anybody have experience with soil stain?

missingtheobvious, vines might work on the top, but nothing will grow in the crevices or pockets except maybe cacti. The slope faces west, and we have both hot extremes in the summer and cold extremes in the winter.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 11:26PM
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To my untrained eye, that bank is rather ugly. I'd like to block it from sight altogether with an attractive fence behind your wall if that's possible.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 9:55AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Is the foreground photoshopped or really planted?

I think if you are trying to sell the client on the clean rock, then you should show them clean rock. Looks like cut dirt in this photo. They sound like they have less imagination, or perhaps less experience... or perhaps they know what they want.

I could see it functioning the same way a blank wall does in a foundation planting - as a plain canvas to be painted on (or planted in front of). Fabulous opportunity for a specialty conifer/evergreen planting.

Karin L

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 7:52PM
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Assuming that the cut is stable and not likely to erode further, I would be tempted to explore what xeriscape alpine plants and dwarf spreading junipers are suitable in your area to plant into pockets which you carve (by jack hammer if need be) in that rather unattractive dirt bank. The foreground planting that you've illustrated could still be used if desired.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 1:58AM
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skin and upholstery is pretty. blood, guts, springs and stuffing, ugly. the cut bank looks like innards... especially relative to stone wall below. I vote for covering in whatever way possible and reasonable and second laag's comments.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 8:28AM
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Riv I don't know if you have a stone quarry near by but that might be a source for what your rock bank might look like further down the road. I have a worry about the direction of the strata of the rock in you bank: Theorists suggest that flat (horizontal) strata creates a comfortable feeling whereas leaning or vertical strata looks insecure and therefore creates discomfort. This can be expanded to be one of the reasons for having two thirds of a rock beneath the surface when building a rock garden. As the strata in the bank goes all over the place I think some will find it disturbing: compare the feeling instilled by your built wall with the bank.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 12:16PM
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So I went back and presented the customers with some pics of cut banks found along roadways. I showed them some recent cuts vs. aged cuts that had some "patina" to them and I think we're headed in the right direction. Turns out they don't mind the look of the rock face necessarily but are bothered by the loose crumbling look.
We are going to try every trick in the book to make this wall look more weathered. In addition to picking it clean with rakes and water, we are going to experiment with some soil stains to give it a sunburnt look. I am in communication with a guy that has a soy product that may work (is there anything they can't do with soy?)
Also, as Karin and missingtheobvious suggested, I introduced a couple more evergreens, which helps I think.

The only negative...during the last meeting the word "budget" came up way more than previously. The husband mentioned that he could probably handle a lot of the work himself. I fear he may be overconfident in his abilities. We'll see...

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 10:49AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

I've worked on cuts like these before. Each one comes with some sort of solution based on the rock, the clients desire and the climate.
The last one I worked on was a good receptacle for lithophytes and epiphytes.
In randomly placed areas across the rock we wired in and or glued bromeliads to the rock face.
It's stll pretty young but we are hoping for success.
I'll try to dig up some photos later. got to run off to a planting job.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 11:53AM
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