I have the chance to work with Jon Smith of Rockers on another project this year. We did not get started until well into October and are just now finishing. The project entailed creating a two-tiered terrace for an addition to a nearby home and in the process changing the orientation of how the family uses and accesses the terraces and front yard space. Also, we cleared and leveled a shaded area that will become a children’s play area. So a series of before and after shots:
And now for the backstory of how we got to the end result (Well, not quite the end as the grass has to grow in, a few more plantings will come in the Spring, and the giant grill set into a stone surround will go on the lower terrace level.
The first order of business was stripping up the stepping stone walkway leading from a driveway no longer receiving regular use. Along with this, we dug up the boulders and plantings that were obscuring the formal terrace entrance. Many of the plants we have replanted, though some don’t transplant terribly well and others had strange growth patterns that wouldn’t make them good candidates for the new design. The ones that we planned to re-use I heeled in back at the Hedgerow nursery until we were ready to plant later.
Then there was the new walkway and steps. We started the new path at the end of an existing granite block wall. A lot goes into getting the stones to fit just so and to prepare the foundation with stone so they don’t heave in the frost. I particularly like how Jon was able to get the cleft in the boulder at the left to line up with the slope of the wall. I’d given him a concept sketch of the plan, but he used his eye and ingenuity to fit the rocks and boulders into place. Some of these boulders are like icebergs, with quite a bit buried.
In short order — well, not so short as setting the stones and leveling them is tedious work — Jon reused the stepping stones from the original walkway to make a generous, gently curving path to the front of the house. All of these stones are set in about six inches of inch-minus gravel. Jon also had to run a conduit under the walkway to tie in to electricity for the light that would be going on a post at the top of the steps. (From here an electrician will have to take over to make all of the connections.)
The next phase was to figure out the grade for the upper terrace level coming of the house steps. We needed to have this pinned down to set the steps at the end of the walkway. This area became particularly delicate to work around as we found where the gas line came in. No problems there, just an added degree of attentiveness and restriction. As soon as Jon was through with this area I was able to turn toward moving some of the existing plantings on this corner and adding to this bed to try to make it a more dynamic area. I like how the low juniper starts to look sprayed up against the rocks, picking up on the blue-green of the lichen.
Once all the boulders, steps and terrace levels were in place, Jon turned toward building the cut granite walls that would connect to the original wall. The idea of the whole plan was to create ledge that looked as if it had always been there and then use the style of wall already in place to create the terrace areas. There are many ledge outcroppings on the property already, so this would simply reflect the larger landscape. And in the process we would create a number of sitting areas, both on rocks and on the terraces, for outdoor summer living. (Note: definitely for summer living as In November the west wind in this spot is fierce!)
A major part of this project was to open up a shaded area just off the terraces and raise and level the grade to create a play area for the children of the family. It’s amazing how much loam you need to fill in even the mildest of dips. But in time this should be a lovely play area, close enough to the house for parental eyes, out of the harsh sun, with a slight hint of the adventure of being in the woods. That black mound to the left in the photo is the hay we had to cover the grass seed. We had to wait for a calm day to sow the seed and spread the hay, which meant the hay sat covered for a couple of weeks. Last Saturday was the day.
And that’s what we have been up to this month. There is one more piece: the lamp post, and Jon got it in place yesterday.
One Response to What we’ve been up to this month
On this thanksgiving, I would like to thank you for your postings. They bring to mind open spaces and the beauty of Maine to this fellow who is confined to the suburbs of New York.