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Design help request.

Started by Akitakoi, July 22, 2009, 02:05:50 PM

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I have been posting in the welcome section, thought I would post here for some possible design help/advice.

I'm building a large Japanese style garden on my 5 acre lot, once it was a limestone quarry.

Design problem: The entrance to the garden is at the top of a very steep hill. It is also the area I view the lower/pond area from.
I was thinking a dry garden, mass plantings and natural steps and stepping stones.  I have included some pictures, I did not include my idea's as I would like to see what you all come up with.

Thanks in advance,


Another picture of the area.


Scott, do you have an aerial view or a plot plan that gives the overall layout and topography?


July 22, 2009, 09:53:03 PM #3 Last Edit: July 22, 2009, 09:55:57 PM by Akitakoi
This is the best I can do at the moment, a satellite view. It's the area directly in back of the home, see car for front of home.



At the limited glance provided, here's a few rough thoughts.

-create a level space for your garden (probably need to remove some trees and add retaining walls to rear, install drainage)  Take time to evaluate best garden floor elevation in relation to rear veranda (read about engawa proportions)
-increase size of engawa and eave
-link engawa to path through left side of garden to unseen staircase to quarry, well sunk into grade of slope (quality of stones in path is very important to appearance.)
-enclose garden with wall/fence and layered evergreen plantings, keeping forground clean
-if there's budget left, create stroll garden around quarry



first determine the Atmosphere desired = descriptive words..
determine the Atmosphere there is, which is 'water' + ?? (you have several dichotomy's in evidence that obviate a single clear thought)

then the solution would be to create a 'hide and reveal' water garden that brings the plane of the water to the deck height.. make it seem that the water is actually at the step height = done by revealing and duplicating certain attributes that are in the main water surface.
in other words, the steps cause the water level - dry or wet, your proposed pond level to be too low, or the pond area you have dug/flattened is too close in toward the house...
the angle of visual incidence needs be comfortable and between 10 to 15 degrees down from horizontal.

regardless of details employed wishes or wants, what atmosphere would you like? what are the buzz words the place will induce you to feel.. then you can get around to figuring out what kind of garden that leads to. Then you can choose what 'likes' fit the categories you have selected and work with only those.


July 24, 2009, 08:28:53 AM #6 Last Edit: July 24, 2009, 08:36:46 AM by Akitakoi
James & Edzard,

I took both your thoughts into careful consideration and still "digesting" them.
This afternoon I am going to a couple stone suppliers about 90 miles away to look for stepping stones and step material and also boulders.

I'll post early next week hopefully with a little progress in the design.

Thank you,


P.S. Can anyone Identify this garden?


Scott I have not had much time but wanted to find a photo that would show you what I had in mind.  Yours does in a way.  I would not have a path leading down to the pond directly off your deck.  The view from the deck would not reveal mans foot print on the land.  The path would lead through the wooded area off the left of your deck and perhaps wind across and through your open viewing area at a lower level that you may not see from the deck.  A rest area with bench for a closer or highlighted view of the water.  I would also have a larger deck so I could use that area more and create a living out door area to dine and entertain.  Perhaps room for a Hot Tub so I could enjoy the view in winter.  These ideas would fill my use for the area not particularly yours.  I will continue to look for a photo that represents what I envision for the space, which may or may not be what you have in mind.  What ever the outcome your land is very special.



July 27, 2009, 08:52:08 AM #8 Last Edit: July 27, 2009, 08:56:34 AM by Akitakoi
Hi June,
There are already steps to the pond, but they are partially if not mostly obscured from view.
I have a concrete pad that's not in the picture/s for a hot tub at some point.

Bring on the pictures :)

I have included a picture of the type of stone I picked out.
They have more color then I was looking for but they have the worn/old feel and believe they will weather nicely.


Scott... nice stone.. hopefully you are leaving the pointed ones with the tape around the points behind...                               edzard


July 27, 2009, 10:25:16 AM #10 Last Edit: July 27, 2009, 10:31:44 AM by Akitakoi
The ones marked are a few of the pallets I picked out, not necessarily for the stones on the top. The angle showing in the picture amplifies the points a bit.


too pointy for my taste unless in a specific application..:
it is more difficult to strike in a one stone width pattern and the longer ones, longer than wider, if there are many, require a smaller cobble set beside them so that they can run long rather than wide. (horizontal ground)
Depends on your application.. if horizontal then needs cobbles beside and inset; or in a few cases good for going down terraces in a turn, though still need pivotal inset higher stone within the arc to provide the comfort railing.

how will you be using them?             edzard


July 27, 2009, 01:21:19 PM #12 Last Edit: July 27, 2009, 01:23:41 PM by Akitakoi
Most of them do not have a pointed corner, just a few of them. Remember there are, I believe 15 more stones not pictured.
They are going to be used as steps and stepping stones across a gravel area. Similar to the picture below.


Also this picture, they will be spaced a little closer to make it easier to navigate.


in your precursors, there are no pointy stones, and depending on the stone shape, we leave many in the quarry or supplier. Or, separate them so that they are not used for the incorrect uses - determined by the pathway atmosphere we are trying to achieve.

all I wished to suggest was that the shape of a stone indicates what type of setting the stone would be used in. Stones with points, any points are not in the pathways you have indicated...  stone: pointy stone/angled stone/one straight line on the stone, these appear as signposts, and a pathway should be readable such as -> <--- or / or | or a \ or 0 or 0.. all are lines of force or pressure that indicate what the walker should do on a subconscious basis, so that they only 'respond'.

the worst examples I see of walkway step stones are long stones going sideways across the path for 'ease of walking' or something akin to that notion... when it really means stopstopstop...

think of the highway and a passing lane. we understand solid line to mean do not pass, and the dotted line to mean 'passing at high speed'.
Now compare the 'safety crosswalk' with lines across the walkway ->||||||||||||| -> 
and - firstly this is a dotted line saying 'go fast and pass here' to traffic in line with the 'line of force' and to the pedestrian this means !STOP! !STOP! !STOP! at every line encountered.
we tell people- kids to not step over the line figuratively and in reality, at trains, in banks, in 'line-ups', at sidewalks.... crossing the line is having gone to far.. then why create 'lines to cross'... this is fundamental in why gardens work or do not work.

a pathway, as I'm sure you know and mentioned here and above for the conversational insight, is a narrative, such that a pathway to the beach is really a pathway that leads from the sea, the sailor coming ashore -> onto the land, and the staggered placement is really the sailor getting his 'land-legs', or another description given when I foolishly asked, "what kind of path?", was '(shrug) make it like a drunken sailor'.
[while I was still a lippy lad, I muttered " drunk to the sea or from the sea????? "- he heard the mutter and commented quite smugly... "now you to use head.. how stone using.."][ps.. he had me take it apart 4 times and i rebuilt it 5 times and the last time was the same as the second time.. shall we say the exercise was not lost on me.]

(:. Enough lip from me, I leave selection and striking of stone to your good taste...)