Thursday, March 27, 2008

#18--Stoned Again

A trip to Wicki Stone in Great Meadows today yielded the tumbled flat bluestone for the dry garden as well as stone for another project we're working on. That way we were mixing business with pleasure...

Frank (shown for scale) tagging a 1.5 ton pallet of tumbled patio sized bluestone.
It's not easy to find pieces this size that are tumbled.

These big bad babies will be set in pea gravel to make a random level walking surface.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

#17--Slow Progress with 1 month to go

Projects like showhouses can be of great benefit to everyone involved, but they demand a financial commitment of either hard cash or time. We were supposed to work today getting the vertical stones in place, but paying work has stalled that effort. We still have plenty of time but I don't want to get caught in the last minute rush to finish.

I did order furniture for the dry garden patio.

The top photo shows the table and the bottom the chairs.
Both are from Janus et Cie

I have always loved faux bois furniture and garden elements. Probably not what most would choose, but it's my nod to the Edwardian gardeners who first built the rock garden. I think it will add a softer element the environment while still being rustic. Plants will add to that soft quality. I also ordered some recycled glass boulders to play with.

The solar lighting scheme is inching along with some technical issues that are slowly getting resolved.

Monday, March 17, 2008

#16--Greenhouse crawl

Early this morning I went to one of the local production greenhouses to see what he's got growing for spring. This particular place is $1.00 cheaper per gallon pot than anyone else. He's got some specialties--rosemary, sempervivums and sedums in particular. He's not real big on labeling so you have to kind of know what you're looking at. Things get labeled when they're big, so the plug trays aren't necessarily labeled. It's a wild place where you walk in, pull your own order and if everyone is busy you count it up and leave a check. Not many folks do business like this anymore.

Here's two photos of the hens & chicks...It's a lot of motherships and their satellites! I love this tough old fashioned plant.

Notice not a single label anywhere...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

#15--Creative Angst

I know myself well enough at this point to understand that part way through any project is the most difficult time for me creatively. I begin to question my original decisions and look my work with a harsh critical eye. The project at the Mansion in May is no exception. I am currently agonizing over the remaining rock placements, the path, the dry garden, the furniture choices, the lamp choices and the plants, plants, plants. This is part of my process, I understand that, but it doesn't make is any easier.

I got a boost from the press preview because all of my peers were definitely intrigued by what we had done so far. There weren't many press, but many of the other designers were there.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

#14--Rock Star

The arch was finished today in anticipation of the 'in progress' press junket at the show house tomorrow. Many people were working today trying to get something done for the press to cover. We've been kind of on our own for the past few days and we're the only landscape design group with anything major done. It wasn't really planned, it was just when we could get everyone together to do it.

We also started the secondary stonework but didn't get as far with that.

Here's some photos of our rock stars--the arch and its creator, Dan Lupino.
Adjusting the keystone before dropping it into place
Dan, knocking out the temporary supports as his heart beats faster and faster.
Rock Star!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

#13-- Rock On

Dan Lupino started building the boulder arch today with Frank Scheppe's crew. It's a big statement and we wanted it done before the first press junket on Friday. Here's some photos...more as things progress.
Dan setting the first support stone--this was ultimately switched out for another

Setting temporary supports for the arch as it's built

The original support stone becomes the actual second stone

The arch by afternoon

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

#12-- Shout Out

This is a shout out to my friend and mentor, Michelle, whose blog descriptions of getting her show garden ready for the SF Flower show inspired this one. The show opens tommorrow, check out her blog Garden Porn

Michelle has been an inspiration for me for many years and has influenced my career's trajectory more than she knows.

Thanks, Michelle.

#11 Sites & soil

This morning, on another project, they started digging for a pool. Before development 30-40 years ago the area was a known for its rose growing industry so when the excavator dug his first hole we found a layer of ash (from wood burning greenhouse heaters) and wonderful clean soil. It's a problem for the pool, but wonderful for filling in deep interior areas that will be augmented with a custom planting mix and will ultimately become the planting pockets in the rockery. Off I went with a full dump of this brown gold, 10 miles away to the Mansion in May site. This saved the soil from being dumped in some land fill and my pockets from having to buy and truck soil in later.

Notice how grey the soil is--its the ash from the greenhouse stoves.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Okay, I was in a hurry, talking on the phone and obviously not paying close attention when I went to the hardware store on Saturday to buy the marking paint. The law states the area must be marked in white for the utilities mark out if you can't give the dimensions from the street or the house. As I already said, the paint didn't work too well in the pouring rain.

I went to mark out the space today--still no good. Why? It was CLEAR MARKING PAINT. Isn't that kind of like girlie man?

Saturday, March 8, 2008


The day started out grey and by mid morning became one of the worst rainstorms I've seen in a while. Pouring, pouring, pouring. Dan Lupino and I had an appointment to tag stone for the arch and figure out just how we're going to build it and of course it started storming about 15 minutes before.

I stopped to pick up some carpenter's crayons thinking they'd be waterproof and damned myself for leaving the brolly at home. The gravel drive to the mansion was a washed out mess and Dan, the stone man, was already there when I arrived. When I signed in the operations staff referred to us as the Druids, which I thought was a hoot. I promised to light a bonfire and dance around the garden naked on the night of the opening gala.

We attempted to mark the site boundary for utilities mark outs but the paint was useless in the rain. I'll have to go back when it's a bit dryer. We did discover the beginnings of a sinkhole about 20' from our area and will have to deal with that next week--you could hear underground water rushing through it. Retreating to the car for a dry meeting of minds, we fleshed out some of the details for building the first stone pile. It won't really be a pile because the arch has to be seated soundly. Dry stone construction relies on a solid base, so the area cannot settle or the arch will ultimately fail. So we figured that one out and hopefully arch construction will begin on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

#8--Start Up

The weather has been iffy so hopefully, if all goes according to plan, I'll meet the crew and the excavator at the mansion today. The main goals will be to tag boulders for specific use, identify inhabited burrows and move the inhabitants, and generally mark everything out so we can begin getting it together. Weeds may or may not be removed depending on how thawed the ground is or isn't.

We start so far in advance because it's a volunteer effort and this work gets mostly done in between the paying work. It's supposed to rain again tomorrow so we have to get started asap.

Later that day...
Moving the granite medallion to a safe place
The 1/2 weird granite thing isn't a planter at all--I don't know what it is

Beginning deconstruction

Further Deconstruction--some of the boulders are massive

Today's drama included the fact that someone had moved boulders before we got there (the property owner) to remove tree stumps and I freaked out and the stakes marking the proposed placement of the gala tent--in the middle of where my pool will be, and one of the excavator operators almost tipped the thing over moving a boulder.

The day's goal was to sort boulders and to try begin to see what is going to go where. Tomorrow we'll mark out the basic shape of things and start placement.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

#7--Ready, Set, Go...Rain

We were ready to deliver the excavator earlier this week and get rocking (pun intended) and the rains came. All of us were scrambling to get other (read paying) work done outside so that the forced time inside could be productive (read billable).

I've been having multiple conversations with Mike Deo the designer from NatureScape Lighting over how to best use the lighting that we're powering up with a solar panel. He ordered some cool bulbs from Taiwan to test and I'm hopeful they'll do the trick. We're trying to decide on some path lights that will work with those same bulbs as the more traditional path lights won't do the trick. I've been looking at some of the stone path lights from Earthstone Studio that might work. I don't want things to look to jumbled up so I'm trying to limit the materials. I'm not 100% sold yet.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

#6--Detour--The Girl Who Can't Say NO!

One thing about volunteer projects for a cause...your skill set quickly is evaluated and put to additional good use.

Last Thursday an estate gardener who sometimes plants for me called to say he'd been asked to plant the entry to the showhouse and that the plants were going to be donated. Could I design it for him? This guy has done me many favors in the past so I was delighted to help. He sent over some pictures of the area and I told him I would go and measure it next week. I put the matter aside for a while.

On Friday, as I was getting ready to leave town for an APLD meeting, the landscape chairwoman emails me to ask if I can do an illustration for the journal of the area. She needed it quickly because it was past the actual deadline. So of course, I said yes. The two main features of this area are a stone wall with two driveway pillars, a semi-boarded up carriage house and a HUGE Japanese stone lantern. So, without a plan, here's a photo of the raw space from a slightly different view from the sketch (directly below)...I just can't say no.