Hillside walkways and stairs

Vista, CA

I looked everywhere for images of garden hillside walkways and stairs. I got nowhere. I don't see any books with this kinda stuff in it and I wasn't able to find anything using Google.

So we roughed out a plan. Experimented with a few things. Tried to find the best paths up and down the hills (with the help of 2 hyperactive Border Collies) and this is a partial view of one of first and certainly the favorite of the 7 side-garden walkways and stairs up and down the garden hills surrounding our house. (not very tidy because it is still in the works) (BTW a 20-ft long x 8 ft tall white lattice will hide the fence at the top of this image.


What I need now is the eye of a designer to look at it as say what colors and forms are needed to fill in and where. We can add rocks, bolders within reason...Nothing that needs a crane please!. I am nuts about lizard gnomes, big and colorful.. so far haven't found what I can imagine and I am not a ceramic artist or any other kind of artist, just know what I want!.

Most of the present plants will stay. They are favorites and are well established. soo that bounds things a bit.

edited addition below
btw,
We made the final decision to put these steps here based on 3 facts.

1. It was the most difficult slope to control on which to control water erosion.

2. It is the most acute slope from which to service plants

3. It was a path most often traversed up the hill by the 2 Border Collies.

bob
:>)



This message was edited Oct 3, 2006 4:37 AM

Thumbnail by thistlesifter
Lansing, KS(Zone 5b)

Thistle~ that looks great andwii look even more wonderful when you're done! Keep us posted with the pictures! ;0)

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I have a nice book from Sunset called Hillside Landscaping or something along those lines. But I don't know if you need it anymore...

Here's a thread you may find inspiring--I can't remember if there are hills involved, but there are some good ideas of designing with succulents
http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/605799/

Vista, CA

ecreane,

Thank you for that link to the garden tours that include Calif. Sue's. I had previously taken that DG exotic tour. Certainly one the very best private garden tours. I like the shape and colors of succulents used at just the right places. Overall, the most appealing is the informalty that runs throughout. Then, the whimsical notions that make things interesting. Those are areas where I need a cosultant.

I once thumbed through a Sunset book like the one you mention and most of what I saw there had been subsumed in some of our earlier experiments. 25 years of them.mostly all failures...but then look how many times Edison failed!..lol

bob
:>)





Jim Falls, WI(Zone 4a)

Thistle your picture was nothing like I was imagining before enlarging. It is going to be wonderful! What am I saying it already is. Just needs some filling out. I'm working on my back hill and they are totally different. Mine is rocks and kind of a cottage look which is changing to plants that need less water. My mind has gone blank for the proper term. My hill is hot and dry with lots of sun. Good luck on finding what you want to finish it.

Thornton, IL

Thistle ~ Your plants and setting look lovely, but those steps look like they need some help. There are a number of guidelines for the design of steps. Yours appear to "fit" with the overall design concept, in color and material. But steps also need to have appropriate dimensions. I will paraphrase from my design textbook to illustrate:

Both the tread, the horizontal part of the step on which the foot is placed, and the riser, the vertical part of the step, must have the correct depth and height to be safe and feel comfortable. There are several limitations on minimum and maximum dimensions for risers and treads. Each tread should be at least 12 inches deep, smaller than this is too shallow for the average foot. The height of each riser should be at least 4 inches, but no more than 6-1/2 inches. Below 4 inches, the height is insignificant and easily overlooked in the outdoors. That short also creates the need for too many risers in a set of steps. Above 6-1/2 inches, the height of the riser becomes difficult to negotiate. A commonly used guideline to establish the tread and riser dimensions is the following formula:

Twice the riser height plus the tread depth should equal 26 inches, or 2R + T = 26"

An example will demonstrate how the formula can be applied. If the riser (R) is to be 6 inches high, then the formula is used to determine the proper tread depth (T) as follows:

2(6") + T = 26"
12" + T = 26"
T = 26" - 12"
T = 14"

Or, if each tread (T) is to be 15 inches, the riser height (R) is found as follows:

2R + 15" = 26"
2R = 26" - 15"
2R = 11"
R = 5.5" (divide by 2)

So, the dimensions in a flight of outdoor steps are interdependently related. Once established, they should not be varied. Any variance could catch someone by surprise and cause them to trip and fall.

Also, steps function best when they're oriented 90 degrees or at a right angle to the prime direction of movement. It's easier to walk up a flight of steps "head-on." Walking across a sharp corner is awkward and frequently dangerous. I sincerely hope this helps you rectify anything before problems arise.

Form follows function. Widen those stairs, so that you and your guests can pause to take in the views, without balancing precariously on one foot. That will make it easier for both of you to "see" & appreciate the little personal touches you want to add that make a garden your own. :D

Beachwood, OH

The other option is to add a handrail.

I was not so scientific as D - but I was thinking I would not be entirely comfortable going down those stairs. The rise looks high from your photo.

That aside - what a monumental labor of love. It really is beautiful and when you finish with your plant selection I think its going to be spectacular.

But maybe you should contact Zenpotter about some of her ceramics. See another thread on this forum

Vista, CA

Hi Prarie Girl,.
Thank you for your input.

There are 4 paths to reach the apex of this hill and service the plants around the hill. this first one you commented on is 1 way. For visitors we needed the steps shown below.. done pretty much using the rules that you specified.

I have followed those.rules till I hit this difficult slope. We first tackled the slope using a "switchback" like one experiences in climbing a steep mountain. The switchback works. It can be seen on the next image after the one below. It is accessed by taking a left of the entrance to the hill on the first example, but it is not nearly as quaint as the first image upon which you commented and quite accurately identified its flaws.

Even with its known flaws it is serves the purpose of allowing access to otherwise practically inacessible steep-sloped plants for maintenance. I have fallen many times over the last 21 years working plants on those slopes. I haven't fallen yet on the these steps. I love to use them. But I use them many times every day. They are solid and plenty long for my size 13 shoe to rest on..lol The idea was to make the access path a part of the design for others to ponder more than walk. Certainly the path along the perimeter at the top is fairly flat and safe and accessible with the steps seen in the following image. A most advantagous vantage point can be had by taking a few safe steps down one of the paths available from the top.


bob
:>)


I

Thumbnail by thistlesifter
Vista, CA

These steps ( many with wide landings) come from the same stairwell start as those in the first image. These have a much gentler rise and plenty of landing space whenever there is a change in riser height. These "switch back" 180 degrees and join with the steps shown in the first image to move up or down the a gentler slope up the hill.

I really need some shape and color ideas for filling in here.

bob
:>)

Thumbnail by thistlesifter
Spring Valley, CA(Zone 10a)

Wow! Lot of work.

So Bob, when's the tour?

-Ron-

Thornton, IL

Hi ya Bob. That is really an astounding project. I'm glad you weren't offended by my "lesson" in step construction LOL. Are you looking for plant ideas or what exactly? Two plants that would combine well in that setting are Firewitch dianthus and Vera Jameson sedum. I think you did a fine job, and would love to come to the tour.

Vista, CA

this is another entry to a troublesome slope. Still more work to do here. We will place cemnent and plaster over 'maya' (stucco lath) interspersed with lava stones on the downslope side of these steps. These were inspired by Shelo's steps, but were done by another Chiapan who is primarily a master carpenter.

Still lots a room for 'filling in' with a succulent color and form. We have many aloe species that need to be placed also.

bob
:>)

editorial note
the red here is natural the clouds in the sky were reflecting an early fall 'red' sunset. It cast an almost eerie red to photos taken that evening..

bw

This message was edited Oct 4, 2006 10:50 PM

Thumbnail by thistlesifter
Vista, CA

This is a stairs that decends from front patio down 10 feet screen houses. it gets a lot of utility traffic. we found some ceramic tile in our garage left over from indoor tile floor and integrated it into these steps. We had experimented with a number of steps here. These steps are very big risers (too big). So it has to be used with care.

bob
:>)

Thumbnail by thistlesifter
Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

I love it. I think it would be nice to add some ground cover succulents with reds. I wish I could give some plant advise, but my succulent garden is in zone 4.

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

I think perhaps it's the lighting but the pink mortar on the side of the steps and the pink in the man-made blocks you used to retain soil seem to clash in color. If I were to start from where you are, I would punch some holes in the pink "hills" by the steps and plant trailing ground covers there. I would also place lots of plants by the stairs that would crawl onto the steps...on the ones that just YOU use...and cover the look of so much mortar. I bought a house that had a stone back patio with wide mortar joings....and I punched holes between the stones and planted small groundcovers that could withstand occasional walking...and it looks so much better!

Just my 2 cents worth...I'm not a professional.

Vista, CA

zen,
Thanks, Yep I am trying to figure out some kinda ground cover that wont take over. We have a lot of a blue senicio ...don't recall the name. It comes in several varieties of cultivars and it is getting to be quite popular. so we will be usining quite a lot of that stuff. Do you know any non-invasive reddish trailing ground covers.. I just don't know any. sounds neat.

Connie,

Yes the lighting when the one image was captured was sunsetish bouncing off clouds on a smoky red sunset from a large fire burning up north. Very eerie reddish reflections.

i like your idea about the mortar holes.. we have done some of the holes. I am traveling this week of all weeks, when I get home I will be placing some Sedum morganium (trailing "burro's tails" )in some of the sides of the walkways.

Any other suggestions of specific trailing succulent or xeriphytic plants?

bob
:>)

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

I don't know how it would do in your area, but I used some "pony foot" this summer and it has already grown about 10 inches! It's a whitish color and would be a great contrast to your reds.

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Hey Bob,

Here is the Dichondra that Connie is referring to: http://davesgarden.com/pf/go/76508/index.html

I have some in my front bed and is cascades nicely. Once established, it is a xeriphyte.
http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/growgreen/plantguide/viewdetails.cfm?plant_id=227

I swear I see it around here all year round but these references say deciduous. I only planted mine late last fall and I covered the bed on freezing nights since I planted so late. It was evergreen but I may have had some influence.

David

Vista, CA

Connie and David,

Thanks your for the suggestion and the links. It is quite impressive in its ability to cascade and it seem to be fairly rapid.

Is it invasive? I just removed over 7 tons or so of ice plant from these hills that just took over. It sapped the soil so badly that the collection specimens planted out there were undernourished. This year since removing the ice plant some of the plants that have been there for 20 years have put on 50% new growth with the same amount of water and fertilizer.

Sure don't want to add to the workload so I am looking for non-invasive attractive and fairly maintenance-free xeriphyte. This plant apparently has most of those attributes and is somewhat unique in its color which is an addional plus.


bob
:>)

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Hey Bob,

I would not call it invasive, at least here in Austin. The Grow Green program I linked is particular about what it lists. It is possible to grow out of bounds depending on where you plant it and where you want it. It may require trimming here and there. It does put down roots at nodes, but that would be good for erosion.

As far as zapping other plants' nutrients, I have no idea. I guess it seems that it would be a concern with any plant growing in close proximity to another. I am not aware that the Dichondra is extraordinarily leaching.

Another plant you may like is Dalea greggii. I have three of them. Two are very low

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Hey Bob,

I was reading my last post (I'm bored) and it seems to have been cut off. Here are the links I was going to post about the Dalea greggii: http://ag.arizona.edu/pima/gardening/aridplants/Dalea_greggii.html.

At this link click on the Form pictures to the right, too.
http://aggiehorticulture.tamu.edu/ornamentals/nativeshrubs/daleagregg.htm

This is a low grower, great for filling in space. I think it is beautiful as well. Acalypha radians, or Cardinal's feather. At least it is a euphorbia.

http://www.wildflower2.org/NPIN/Plants/Detail.asp?Symbol=ACRA
http://davesgarden.com/pf/showimage/117667/

I know you want succulents, but you have so much room to cover! And I figure you know way more than me about them. That is why I am recommending xeric plants instead. I have seen pictures of the senicio used as groundcover, maybe at Lotusland? and it was beautiful. Do you have this book?
http://www.amazon.com/Desert-Gardens-Gary-Lyons/dp/0847821870/sr=8-1/qid=1161231711/ref=sr_1_1/104-7137493-8889537?ie=UTF8&s=books

David

Vista, CA

David,
David,
I really appreciate your input. Your have a good handle on what we need and the direction we need to go.

The Gregg dalea, Trailing Dalea, is of interest and definitely worth a try. This is a legume, which may attract gopers, our most severe problem. It doesn't appear to be a sapping invader, although there was no mention of whether it broadcasts volunteer seeds that could become a problem. Another potential downside is the characteristic of need for dry winter. Our winters are our wet season. Last winter we received over 30". Erosion control is one of our objectives with ground cover.

Acalypha radians, Cardinal feather is even more interesting. It is a spurge, and these are not liked by gophers. It has curb appeal, quite attractive. I will definitely look for a source for this plant.

One of the plants we haven't shown in our landscape which has been most useful is a blue spurge that is a perriennial that clumps and has a height of 2 feet. It flowers in Feb. and puts on an early show of yellow flowers, It is the earliest wiedespread flowerer, awakening us for the more bountiful spring flowers. I use it sparingly in certain situations where it as not competing with smaller desert forms.

Thank you for the hints David and the links.

bob
:>)

Novato, CA

Any other suggestions of specific trailing succulent or xeriphytic plants?

Senecio mandraliscae and S. serpens - looks like blue french fries - excellent spreading ground cover . S. serpens grows lower to the ground.

Oscularia deltoides , also has been called Lampranthus - small bright pink flowers on silver compact fleshy low growing wide spreading foliage.

A wide variety of Aloes and Agaves - choose the multi clustering kind such as Aloe dichotoma or mitriformis

Sedums - too many to list that will fill the ticket. Some stay low while other get tall.

On your hillside I would go for large expansive blocks of texture and color rather than one or two of this and that.
Punctuate the massing with a strong architectural specimen plant.

Consider using a variety of kniphofias, phormiums or even some of the low growing grevilleas like lanigera for contrast against the succulents.

Thumbnail by deviant_deziner
Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

d.d. I sure wish you knew zone 4 you come up with such great plants.

Vista, CA

dd
Thank you!

I have great interest in both Senecios and have put both in this Spring (bad time for these... didn't research it there wasn't much spring/summer growth). I didn't ground cover with them but put them in small spots alongside garden walks so they could grow together.. As you probably know, these are Fall/Winter growers. they are forming seed at the moment and I have hundreds of seeds which I will be sowing. I am most interested in S. serpens, the low grower. Border collies, light of our lives, destroyed many of them by "pathing" (not a word, but everybody should know what it means) up and down the hills over them.

Uh...sorry, I have never seen a clustering A. dichotoma. I have a dozen dichotoma trees, one is over 12' tall..but none are clustering

yes...A. mitriformis is a favorite with it's variable 'blue-tinged flowers' and formal gold-edged bluish leaf clustering growth form. link to image of one of our young clones below:
http://davesgarden.com/pf/showimage/124203/

We have begun working in sprigs of various crassula including Sedums, Echeveria, Kalanchoe and Aoeniums and a few Graptopetalums. None of the above other than Senecio serpens would work as a ground cover, but we have resently made mass plantings of smaller Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, and are plannng other larger Aoenium and Echeveria mass plantings.

I am not familiar with the other plants you list. I am studying them and will decide and attempt to locate sources.


bob
:>)

This message was edited Dec 16, 2006 1:49 PM

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

I feel like I'm listenening in on a med school lecture...but it's plants instead of cell parts and diseases!! :) I'm just jealous...

Vista, CA

sokay Connie...lol

don't be jealous. With me its obsession. DD and others are pros! Others are students.

We all have something to offer.this. Curiosity is one of the most important attributes..

Here is the most used model for high rise utility steps in our gardens. These are fun and good exercise !
bob
:>)

Thumbnail by thistlesifter

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images
    BACK TO TOP